Saturday, June 21, 2014

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Author : Lisa Jewell
Series : N/A, Standalone
Genre : Women's Fiction, Contemporary, Chick Lit
Number of Pages : 400
Publication Date : August 12th, 2014 (First published January 1, 2013)
Publisher : Atria Books

Rating :

I received this book as a free copy from NetGalley. These books are given to me as review copies to read and evaluate. I am not obligated to write a review for any of the books I receive, but it is an encouraged practice. I choose which books I review on my blog and on my Goodreads profile. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews. My reviews are always honest...I never lie about books. My opinions are my own and may be positive or negative depending on my feelings about a specific piece. Keep in mind, just because I may like or not like a book may not mean that you will feel the same way.

The Bird family lives in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. One Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. 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.
-Abbreviated Goodreads blurb

I abbreviated the blurb on this one not because it is bad, but because I think you can get away with less. As it is, I'm going to give you a little more info in my review than the blurb does...but don't worry, really no spoilers here. You won't learn anything that you wouldn't learn within the first twenty or so pages anyhow.

I actually liked this book quite a bit, but at first I was a little afraid that I wouldn't be able to hack it. You see, the story is about a hoarder. Historically, I don't do well with that. Anytime I see the show "Hoarders" on television, I get the terribly uncomfortable need to clean obsessively. It makes me itchy. I really wasn't sure what kind of tailspin this book would throw me into. I'm happy to say...I did just fine.

The book was really, really well done. The writing is fantastic. It reads very easily. The biggest unique item about the book is that the timeline shifts back and forth between present day and past. Other than emails from Lorelei to Jim, the past is centered on memories from past Easters. This may not be a super unique tactic, but I felt that it was in the way it was executed. Moving back and forth along a timeline isn't always the most effective narrative choice, but in this case it works very well. She uses the approach fully to her advantage, drawing out little pieces of the family history a bit at a time. She attacks the history from multiple angles, giving you the story from multiple points of view. It's incredibly well done.

Let me make this clear though. This family is a freaking mess. Seriously. They are a thorough disaster. There is just SO much dysfunction packed into this tiny little group. It's written so well though that this doesn't seem over the top; it doesn't feel forced. I was pretty impressed by that fact. It would have been very easy to take such a crazy family and make them feel unrealistic. But as they were, I could identify with pieces of them...well, at least most of them. I could see what made them who they were. I could view them as potential real people. 

In particular, I really enjoyed the counterbalance of Lorelei and Megan. It made sense. To have the oldest daughter be obsessive in a near opposite of her mother is just perfect. In fact, all of her characters felt very real and understandable. Like I have already stated, it's really a pretty impressive feat when you look at everything that takes part in this plot. That being said, I really didn't like the characters of Rory or Kayleigh. They were written well, I just felt a distaste for their personalities. In my notes, I actually wrote that Rory "is kind of a jerk. Stupid holier-than-thou hippie." Yup...not a fan. But the fact that I had such strong feelings about her characters tells me that I was really involved in the story and really wrapped up in viewing these characters as whole, real people. It speaks to the power of her narrative.

Character issues aside, I only had one serious pet peeve about this book. She uses the term "people carrier" instead of car. Multiple times. It seriously drove me up a wall. It seemed terribly pretentious. And yes, in my notes I specifically wrote down that this was an issue for me. It bothered me enough that I stopped reading to write it down.

For as uncomfortable as the story line may be, I really enjoyed this book. There really wasn't much for me to gripe about...just use the word "car", that's all I ask. This one was well worth the read. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


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