Like finding a good man, you sometimes need to meet the right book at the right time. In retrospect and due to a misunderstanding with my good friend Mrs P, I found this book at the wrong time. The House We Grew Up In isn’t really the kind of book that you read when you are flying home to visit your aging mother and when your head is full of worry about her well-being in general. Mrs P had actually recommended Then She Was Gone, but the cover was pretty similar and sometimes, more often perhaps than I care to admit, I’m a muppet. My trust in the recommendations of Mrs P is such that, on what I knew was going to be a busy trip, I flew with only one book and so, honestly, I just had to suck it up. The thing about Lisa Jewell novels is that they’re really, really good and so, although somewhat taken aback that a book that was in large part about hoarding had been recommended by a friend who lives a largely minimalist lifestyle, I dived in.
Lorelei Bird is the mother of four, very different, children. A woman who loves the Easter holiday like no other and who moves through life attempting to preserve each and every memory. Simply put, Lorelei is a hoarder. One Easter something so terrible happens that it drives an enormous rift in the Bird family and sends each member spinning away from Lorelei. For the ensuing twenty years, this is a family decimated by grief, with each child struggling to move forward. Lorelei’s death brings a catalyst for change, but when her children return home they find a house almost lost to the keeping of memories.
There is no escaping that this is a book about family life and whilst this isn’t my favorite of Lisa Jewell’s novels, it is still a great read and I believe, the first novel that I have ever read that tackles mental illness in this particular way. There’s no way to reveal the central action of the book without spoiling the story but it emotionally impacts the reader and leaves you considering the importance of communication within families. What we are able to forgive and speak about and what we aren’t.
It’s a great book but, unlike me, be careful when you choose to read it, for as with all books by this writer, you are going to be left thinking. O