Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: "The House We Grew Up In" by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In Lisa Jewell
Published: August 12, 2014
ISBN: 9781476702995
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Highly Recommended for fans of family-based drama

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children's lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they've never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in -- and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

My Thoughts:
Since it becomes quite obvious early on, I don't think it is a spoiler to say that this book is about, among other things, hoarding.  I'm actually rather glad that this wasn't spelled out in the summary because I'm not sure I would have read this book if it was.  There are some borderline-hoarders in my family and, well, this isn't a topic that would appeal to me.

That being said, I am so glad that I read this book.  Jewell has written a masterpiece with this one--we meet the Bird family, centered around the eccentric mother, Lorelei.  Lorelei's children (and husband) are aware of their mother's illness and we see how the ripple effects of that illness show up in her children.

This story is told in sort of a double-flashback.  One one layer, we have the oldest daughter Megan and her daughter (and then other members of the family) in the present day.  Then, we go back a few months in time to Lorelei's email correspondence with an internet suitor.  Finally, we go farther back in time to when the children were growing up and into their adulthood.  This structure shouldn't work....but it does!  It sounds confusing, but Jewell actually does this quite seamlessly.

I really enjoyed seeing how the characters developed.  Each had their own cross to bear and none could escape the effects of Lorelei's illness.  I felt that the characters and their evolution were believable--with one exception.  Colin's story arc was a bit over the edge for me.  It almost felt like Jewell was using him and doing everything in her power to keep a secondary character in the story to catapult part of the greater plot along (if that makes any sense).

Lucikly, Colin's storyline was the only drawback for me and, if it hadn't been for that, I would have given this book 5 stars.  I heartily recommend it!

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

The House We Grew Up in
by Lisa Jewell

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