Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: "The House We Grew Up In" by Lisa Jewell

The Bird family wasn't always quite so controversial. Once upon a time bohemian mother Lorelei, a free spirit and a loving mother, ran the household in such a way as to encourage her children to live their lives to the fullest. Sure, the house overflowed with "stuff","stuff" that no one was allowed to sort through or throw out, but everyone was happy enough. Daughters Megan and Bethan, twins Rory and Rhys had a childhood filled with brightly coloured Easter eggs, paddling pools, and rainbows.

Fast forward many years and the Bird family is dysfunctional and controversial. Mother Lorelei has died, alone, leaving behind a house filled with years of junk and clutter, a mess to rival the mess that the Birds have made of their once-vibrant family. Eldest daughter Megan has taken the exact opposite path that her mother has and is obsessed with cleanliness and with giving her four rowdy children the most stable childhood possible. Daughter Bethan has moved to a different continent in order to reinvent herself. Son Rory is paying for the sins of his past and father Colin is involved in an unconventional and distasteful- to- others relationship and is living in a commune in Spain. Lorelei's death brings the shambles of the Bird family back together and it is this event that allows all of the Birds to begin to mend fences that were long ago broken.

The House We Grew Up In was captivating and beautifully written. Despite the fact that it deals with several difficult and unconventional topics- death, the disease of hoarding, abandoning your child and instances of infidelity- it was difficult to put this book down. Author Lisa Jewell draws you in to the story and refuses to release you until the final pages. I found myself thinking about the book even when I wasn't reading it! Jewell has certainly done her homework on the topic of hoarding and she describes it in such a way that both sides of the disease are presented. At times I found myself relating to Lorelei and her thought processes, even though I am most definitely not someone who hoards things.

The way that Jewell presented us with this story worked really well for me. She begins telling the story in present day- Lorelei has died and eldest daughter Megan is fully realizing the extent of her mothers' disease in a way that she didn't while her mother was alive. Jewell then goes back in time and tells us the story of the Bird family, alternating between present day and the past. We get the full picture of the Bird family, and the secrets of their past are revealed bit by tantalizing bit.

Despite the often unpleasant subject matter I enjoyed The House We Grew Up In. It consumed me while I was reading it and I couldn't wait to find out the secrets of the Bird family- when I think about a book even when I'm not reading it that is always an indicator for me of when a book crosses a line from "great" to "unbelievable". It was a fascinating story about a very dysfunctional family doing their best to stay afloat and I'm glad that I read it. It will stay with me for quite some time. My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy for review!


  1. I've seen so many positive reviews for this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. This is in my reading queue. I don't think I've seen a negative review yet.

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  4. I am reading this now and really enjoying it - like you said, I find myself continuing to read in order to unravel the family secrets.