Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


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I have a feeling of deja vu or maybe it's more like What the heck happened to one of my favorite authors? Last month it was Saving Grace by Jane Green (who up until recently was an auto-buy author for me). And now Lisa Jewell, as well? What happened to the charm from Thirtynothing and Vince & Joy and 31 Dream Street? Even The Making of Us and The Truth About Melody Browne, while dealing with dealing with more serious subject matter, retained the same warm, likability factor that I have always enjoyed from Jewell. Sadly, it was nowhere to be found here.

The House We Grew Up In is the story of the Bird family. Or, more accurately, the utter breakdown and dissolution of the Bird family. The book spans more than 20 years with a shifting timeline as details and truths are ever so slowly revealed. Layer upon layer is pulled away as the reader learns more about the past while also seeing the destruction of the character's present-day lives. For me, there was no connection with any of these sad and damaged people. The aftermath of a tragic event had ripple effects that continued to lap at their lives for years and years. Each had their own way of coping or, more accurately, not coping and it was this that took the family further and further apart from one another until the gulfs between them all seemed too wide to ever cross.

Not only did I not have any connection to any of the characters, but none were particularly likeable. I have no problem with unlikeable characters but it's difficult to truly invest in the story when you cannot elicit any true empathy for anyone. Each of them made horrible choices and bad decision after bad decision which made much of their drama feel self-created.

The House We Grew Up In deals with themes of grief and guilt and forgiveness and acceptance. A family saga that shows that family ties do not always bind but sometimes fray and fall apart. While this was an interesting look at family dynamics, ultimately it was just too dark for me and I found myself wishing for Jewell's lighter, less heavy handed tone that I have loved in the past.



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