Book Review: The House We Grew Up In

18764826Meet 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.

 

ashley | For the first time in writing these reviews, I’m struggling to find the right words to accurately describe exactly how much I loved Lisa Jewell’s The House We Grew Up In.

It’s a tragic story about a perfect family torn apart by a series of events after one heart-rending incident. The Birds, they live in a cookie cutter house in a picture-perfect village; they eat dinner together every night and visit with their extended family and friends often, have many family traditions and new memories to make in their own personal paradise. They’re the epitome of what you would think is the perfect family.

But they are all so incredibly different and so incredibly flawed. Lorelai Bird, mother to four, wife and obvious free spirit has the world at her fingertips and longs to grab hold of it all and stuff it in her pockets. Literally. She’s a bit of a hoarder, always holding on to everything, loving every bit and piece of the world around her, which is somewhat ironic given how she seems to only exist in that one exact moment.

Meg, the eldest daughter, is straddling the line between being too old to put up with her mother’s childishness. She’s closest with her younger sister Beth and worried about her troubled twin brothers Rory & Rhys.  Meg’s the only one who seems to be looking at her family head on, truly seeing things for what they are.

The House We Grew Up In flips back and forth quickly between the present at the past, unravelling the two simultaneously, which I love. Every chapter, no matter what year it takes place in, tends to be around Easter Weekend, a huge Bird family tradition. This worked well for the story and the back and forth concept also gives a really good side by side comparison of how the children were when they were young to how they are when they’re older, making it easy to examine how they developed over the years, what they picked up from their mother, what they developed as a result of trying not to be like their mother, etc.

Along the way, we see each person reach their own personal breaking points and how that has an effect on the house they grew up in. There is a lot of family drama and secrets and history, some of which is slightly disturbing, and we’re basically just looking back as witnesses on these events while all the estranged children come to be together again in the present.

But this family, this family really got to me. And this book, it really spoke to me about the loyalties, betrayals and complications in families that have somehow become somewhat normal in this day and age.

When I first starting reading this, all I could think was that to write a whole book about the life of one family, that takes place pretty much in one house, on the same day over a period of years, well it better be one very interesting family. And the Bird family is a family unlike any other. Charming, flawed, not normal, but perfect in ever imperfect way.

veronica | I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The House We Grew Up In centres on the Bird family, and as with all families, they are broken in their own beautiful, tragic way. Lorelei, the mum is a hoarder, unable to deal with her own tragedies from her childhood, a once sweet woman consumed with acquiring things who is unable to let rubbish go. Colin, the dad, is a demure man who easily settles into the background until he does something even his children can’t accept. Then there are their children; Megan is the polar opposite of Lorelei, Bethan is a rather empty vessel and the twins Rory and Rhys.

Their lives are forever changed one Easter morning. Not surprisingly, this novel by Lisa Jewell hooked early in and despite not having much free time, I read through it rather quickly. The plot was superb and somewhat realistic and raw. It laid everything bare, all the emotions, the sicknesses, all the unpleasantness of not just family, but life, is written in such an honest way that at times it felt more like a biography than a story of fiction.

The insight into the Bird family and their struggle with mental illness, betrayal, scandal, acceptance and finally forgiveness, begs the question, “What is normal?”

I can honestly recommend The House We Grew Up In to anyone looking for more than just a fluff Summer read.

The House We Grew Up In is out August 12, 2014. This is definitely one you’re going to want to pick up.

4CityGirlScapesRatingamazon goodreads Atria Books

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