“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.
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.” ~ Goodreads
Captivating is one word for this latest contemporary from Lisa Jewell. The House We Grew Up In (August 12) spans thirty years and alternates chapters between past and present. There are even some email chapters, written in letter form, that help get into one of the main character’s head. This dysfunctional family has their fair share of heartache dealing with suicide, mental illness, adultery, abandonment and (I felt) incestual behavior.
What was once exciting and fun as children, namely the Easter Egg hunts, become more annoying and over-the-top as teenagers. Understandably. But there was something other than out-growing these rituals and traditions. Something more serious and disturbing within the Bird household, brewing. And then a tragedy strikes and instead of coming together for support and consolation, the family falls apart with each member running in a different direction.
What I found interesting with this story was how realistic it is to look back as an adult into your childhood and realize some things were not idyllic or as normal as you once thought. When you become older, maybe go to college or simply move out, get married, have your own children and meet many different people, you compare. How did my childhood measure up? How will I make my own children’s childhood different and special and normal? What traditions do I carry on? And also what you go through as child shapes your choices and behaviors as an adult. Yes, we all know that, but it is ever more apparent in this story. It’s interesting to see how each character reacts to “the tragedy” and to their parents’ behavior.
This is a high drama, compelling, character driven story. Speaking of characters, don’t expect to like any of them. And that’s fine. Their choices were just some of the worst I have seen all within one family. No thought for how they might hurt each other. The only one who really tries to help Lorelei and keep the peace was Meg and it was annoying to see her try so hard and express her concerns to her siblings and father and they all basically ignored her. I must say I was emotionally exhausted reading this story that I had to skim some parts. I wasn’t expecting warm and fuzzy but at times I was like ‘Come on already. Someone turn the corner!” But that’s real life, isn’t it?
“This is the real world. We are real people. This is real life. And things sometimes happen that don’t fit in with how we think the story should go, but we just have to take a deep breath and get on with it, not sit there in the corner sulking because it’s not what we were hoping for.”
There is so much to discuss in this story and I don’t want to give anything away. This would be a great book club pick, as I can just see the heated debates. And not just from what these fictional characters do but how it stirs something within, forcing the reader to revisit their own childhood and remove the veil of what could have been thought of as a happy childhood.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster/Atria Books for the advance, uncorrected reader’s proof. I was not compensated nor required to post a review. Quotes may have been changed in the final copy.