Sunday, 28 September 2014

The House We Grew Up In

Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Modern Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: Sept 2, 2014
First Line: "Tuesday 2nd November 2010 - Hi Jim!"

Book Description from GoodReadsMeet 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.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family's desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: The Bird family lives in a quaint old house nicknamed The Bird House in the Cotswolds where the childhoods of the four Bird children - Megan, Bethan and twins Rory and Rhys - are filled with their annual Easter egg hunts and other childhood memories lead by their eccentric mother Lorelei.  Life is good for the Birds until one fateful day when one instance shatters their idyllic family life and sends them all into a tailspin, each dealing with the devastation in their own way.  Sounds awesome, right?

I adore great character development in a book and The House We Grew Up In was one of the best characterizations of a family in turmoil that I've read in a long time.  The story is told from the viewpoints of Megan, Bethan and their mother Loralei and jumps back and forth to different time frames in the family's life. The members of this family are believably flawed, make poor decisions and their dysfunction quickly begins to show.  

One would think that this focus on their daily lives would get dull quickly but I was absolutely absorbed in the Bird family.  Getting into their inner thoughts helped me to become emotional about their plight.  I experienced feelings of sadness to utter frustration and anger, to incredulity and finally understanding and even sympathy.

When Lorelei's issue was first brought up (I don't want to give it away so I'll keep it vague) I wasn't sure where the author was going with it.  As her behaviour worsened it was very frustrating for me (as well as pragmatic Meg who really connected with) but, at the same time, the author slowly reveals why Lorelei has changed so drastically since her family was torn apart.  It's during this revelation that I began to have a better understanding and even sympathy for the way Lorelei dealt with her pain as well as sympathy for her loved ones who tried desperately to understand and deal with her.

This book admittedly has a lot going on.  From describing how people deal with grief in different ways, looking at mental illness, death and relationship issues between spouses, parents, children and siblings.  It's a veritable melee of relationships and emotion.  But it works and never felt soap opera-ish to me.

This was a wonderful family drama that Jewell tells with insight and sensitivity.  It was absorbing and was hard to put down for any length of time.  Highly recommended.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Other books I have reviewed by Lisa Jewell: Before I Met You

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