Aug 27, 2014

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Lorelei Bird raised her four children and husband in a happy, picturesque home in the Cotswolds in England. So how is it that she ended her life starving, alone, and surrounded by junk? Jewell cleverly frames the destruction of the Bird family with Lorelei’s last communications, e-mails with a man she met online. As Lorelei opens up about her messy life, her three surviving children narrate their struggles with adulthood. All of their reminiscences eventually come back to Lorelei’s meticulously planned, stringently unchanging Easter Sundays, particularly the one where her youngest son, Rhys, a strange and lonely 16-year-old, hanged himself. He left no note, and as the story of this fractured family unfolds, the truth eventually comes out. Jewell deftly balances present-day funeral planning with revealing, increasingly explosive revelations from the past. Just when you think this family can’t endure anymore, the father is moving onto a Spanish commune with the mother of his granddaughter

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 Lorelei is a strange, but cheerful mother. She loves rainbows, Easter and bright colors and likes to keep things that other people would throw away. Her husband and three of her four children also see her collections as part of her charm. They are all pretty happy in their chaotic house, until one day something awful happens. The youngest son, Rhys committs suicide by hanging himself in his bedroom. Slowly the family starts to fall apart until there's nothing left for Lorelei but a house filled with so much junk she can barely live in it anymore. She's on her own and she dies alone. What happened to this once so close family?
The House We Grew Up In is an intense read. Lorelei's hoarding is a devastating problem and it was described in a beautiful and compassionate way. The family members all make their own mistakes, they're just humans who have a lot of baggage. All of the three remaining children deal with the loss of their brother in their own way. They aren't good for each other and they aren't there for one another at all, but they are family. Which basically means they need to stay in touch at least every once in a while. Slowly Lisa Jewel reveals their stories and secrets. She's written this novel in such a clever way. Lorelei is the center of everything, she's a special, sensitive and eccentric woman who has to miss everything and everyone she loves so much in the end. I admired how everything in this story came together eventually. There were no loose ends and it all had a reason. This book is really impressive and I'm glad I had the chance to read it.

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