Steven Amsterdam

Grade: A “Somehow the novel feels at once magical and very normal, a wishful fantasy about the strength it can take to love one’s family members well.”Entertainment Weekly

International IMPAC Longlist

Encore Award Shortlist

“Okay, tell me which you want, to be able to fly or to be invisible?”

What if, every now and then, the people in your family woke up with a special power?

Over the span of thirty years we are invited into the lives of one very unique family — a mystified teenager, an overtired night nurse, a conflicted exile. The surprising they each find show them how to change—and what the family needs in order to survive.

“What the Family Needed is a wonderful novel: imaginative, intelligent, empathetic. It’s like a cross between The Corrections and The Slap, except without any of the gloom or rage and with the addition of something that may or may not be either a form of magic realism or simply that old staple of the literary art, metaphor.”Sydney Morning Herald

“Amsterdam is consistently playful, witty and light of touch.”Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Ingenious.”Australian Book Review

“Every now and then, a novel arrives that conveys not only wisdom and understanding but also offers a dose of magic. Part fable, part dreamscape, part family drama, What the Family Needed can be read in several ways. Some of the delight is that nothing is lost in choosing one way over another; in fact, each reading contains all other possible readings.”Brisbane Courier Mail

“You should find your way into these lives as soon as possible, as each chapter will give you a new-found respect for Amsterdam’s storytelling power.”Three Guys One Book

“To tell you the narrative concerns a family whose members have superpowers is only to graze the surface of a moving and beautifully realised meditation on what it is to be an ordinary human being.”The Australian

“What the Family Needed transforms the everyday into something truly extraordinary.”Sunday Mail (Brisbane)

“Amsterdam has a gift for switching reality about: in his sharp and engaging fiction, life seems ordinary but radically unsettling. It’s not even clear what species of fiction we are dealing with… Exhilarating.”The Australian

“What the Family Needed is a probing exploration of familial love and forbearance, communication and letting go.” 4.5/5 starsBookseller & Publisher

“Strange and marvellous territory… With such a ferocious intelligence and playful curiosity at work here, all we can hope for is to hang on for the ride.”The Monthly

“… A wonderfully fresh perspective on families, homing in on those transformative moments that shape not merely our futures, but our understanding of the past. This is a novel that pulses with hope… It’s a tantalising novel, one that’s both sharp and touching, and Steven Amsterdam is fast becoming one of our most interesting writers.”Canberra Times

“Unputdownable.”Townsville Bulletin

“There’s something fresh and engaging about Steven Amsterdam’s writing — a lightness of touch with some of life’s more troubling human scenarios sprinkled with a frisson of other worldliness… Like his 2009 debut Things We Didn’t See Coming is packed to the brim with fascinating ideas that play on your mind and characters so vivid they seem to leap from the page… It’s a magical concept…” November’s Great ReadAustralian Women’s Weekly

“Amsterdam seems to my mind to be at the height of his considerable literary powers. A tale of a couple of chalk ’n’ cheese sisters, their respective spouses (ditto), and their teenage siblings – all of them tangled up in what appears to be the ‘wrong version’ of their lives. How those young people in particular make their journey through life, and the means by which they do so, is some of the magic… It’s a book where almost line for line you’ll be unable to wipe the smile off your face; it’s also one where you will marvel at the human sympathy Amsterdam brings to his characters.”Readings

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