Friday Book Whimsy: The House We Grew Up In

searchThe stars of Lisa Jewell’s highly readable novel The House We Grew Up In are about the most dysfunctional fictional family I have ever come across in a novel. And I read a LOT.

But here’s the thing: Despite their ups and downs, you can’t help but like them all. Well, almost all of them.

Clearly the most interesting thing about this novel, and the thing that at least in part makes the reader unable to turn off the light and stop reading is the hoarding. Reading about hoarding is like having a scab that you can’t leave alone. It’s unpleasant but oh-so-interesting.

And yet there is so much more to the novel, and so much more to the characters.

The Bird family lives in a pleasant cottage in the Cotswolds in England. Lorelei Bird is a lovely, charming mother of four who wants nothing more than to provide a life of joy for her children. She loves pretty, colorful things, and likes to hang on to them like we hang on to memories. Her husband and children find her to be delightful and full of love. Easter is her favorite holiday, and her annual Easter Egg Hunt provides joy each year. Until it doesn’t. Because one year something particularly terrible happens, leading the family to slowly begin to crumble.

I enjoyed the way Jewell told the story, telling the tale from each of the characters’ perspectives, going so far as to use Lorelei’s online love relationship to fill us in even more, via her letters to her online friend.

There is so much more to the novel than hoarding, but as we undoubtedly all have a secret fear that we are hoarders, it is the most compelling part of the novel.  Let me assure you, this novel will put your mind at ease. We may need to send a few things to Goodwill, but most of us can get to our kitchens.

I particularly loved the way this novel ended, despite the distressing facts we learn about some of the characters. Jewell leaves us with the idea that families who love one another can get through unbelievable stress and tribulation and love will rise above it all.

The House We Grew Up In would be a WONDERFUL novel for a reading club. Please consider it. It will be one of my favorite books of 2015.

Now, excuse me while I go clean my basement.

Here is a link to the book.


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