Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is a thoroughly entertaining and hard to put down family drama dealing with mental illness, secrets, lies, and tragedy within one small family.

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
I'll be honest; although the synopsis sounded okay to me, I chose this book because I needed to take a break from YA Dystopian reads and knock out some of the ARCs I had waiting for me courtesy of Netgalley.  I couldn't have chosen a better novel to ease the transition back to Women's fiction.

Told in the perspective of several characters (each one completely unique and extremely well developed) Lisa Jewell takes us through a journey into the lives of the Bird family, past and present, showing us how they went from happy and content to estranged and in some cases, bitter.

Lorelei, the mother, is a free spirit, a hippie.  She lives in the moment, never dwelling on the past, never even thinking about the past, even when she should.  She copes with her life and the tragedy that befalls it by hoarding.  I'm sure you've seen the reality shows about hoarders, and yes, she is that bad.  Maybe even worse.

The novel opens in present day, with Meg, Lorelei's daughter, arriving in tow with her teenage daughter at her mother's estate, following her death.  The novel weaves back and forth between the present in the past, usually centering around the time of Easter, Lorelei's favorite holiday, and also the day of tragedy in the Bird family -- a tragedy that changes their lives forever.

I am a sucker for a story about a bat-shit crazy mother.  Reading a story about a mother that desperately loves her children, yet still manages to fuck up all of their lives absolutely fascinated me.  My own mother was abusive and cruel.  I found myself wishing Lorelei was my mother early on in the story, and extremely glad she was not by the end.  There is just simply more than one way to destroy your child's life when you're a mother.  The sky is your limit.

I related most with Beth, the daughter of Lorelei's that lived at home until she was about thirty, afraid to leave her mother to her worsening illness, and unsure of what she wants to do with her life throughout the majority of the story.  I myself lived at home until I was around twenty-six, for absolutely no rhyme or reason; my mother was mentally ill, too, in a completely different way.

Beautifully and powerfully told, The House We Grew Up In is a family drama chock full of surprises at every turn, with rich character development and pacing, perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.  Warning:  You might need some tissues handy when reading this one.

Note:  A copy of this novel was given to me for reviewing purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher, Atria Books.

Expected publication: August 12 2014


  1. I have to read this. Have you read Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless? It's another fucked up mother story, so I bet you'd like it!

  2. I have not read (or heard of) Chanel Bonfire, but I already put it on my TBR shelf. It looks right up my alley, thanks!

  3. This sounds really good; thanks for putting it on my radar.


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