Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

When I was in London this summer, I kept seeing big billboards for this book on the subway and the brief description of the book provided made me want to read it.

This is the story of a family that seemed perfect and normal.  Then tragedy struck and everyone handled it their own, self-destructive way.  The story is told in flashbacks, as the family gathers to death with a member's death and the settling of affairs.

I liked this book, but there were parts of it that may have hit a little too close to home for me, forcing me to face things about my own life that I have tried to ignore.  That might have hindered my full enjoyment of the book because parts of it felt almost painful to read.  One of the main characters in this book is a hoarder.  While I'm not a hoarder, I do need to get rid of some things in my house. There's a line about a bag of items set aside for Oxfam that had been there for years, and it reminded me that I have a bag of items for Goodwill in the guest room - and it's been there for a very long time. Things like that frightened me.  I'm an art teacher, so I save things for projects, cardboard and empty containers.  Reading this book made me want to start throwing everything away.  So maybe that's a good thing.

Clearly, the book evokes some strong emotions.  While the mother and her hoarding is the central part of the story, that isn't the only storyline.  We see the effects of the mother's mental illness on the rest of her family - her husband and three children.

It's a good book, but a very sad book. While there's an attempt at showing some sort of hope at the end, I didn't feel fully convinced, at least not where one particular character was concerned. I don't want to give away what happens, but I couldn't help but feel as if Beth's situation in the end was just as bad as ever. It's described as if she's finally recovered from her past issues, but she's only put herself in a situation that will most likely lead to many more years of twisted family issues.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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