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The House We Grew Up In

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Meet 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.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family's desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

434 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 18, 2013

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About the author

Lisa Jewell

50 books55.9k followers
LISA JEWELL was born in London in 1968.

Her first novel, Ralph's Party, was the best- selling debut novel of 1999. Since then she has written another twenty novels, most recently a number of dark psychological thrillers, including The Girls, Then She Was Gone, The Family Upstairs and The Night She Disappeared.

Lisa is a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestselling author who has been published worldwide in over twenty-five languages. She lives in north London with her husband, two teenage daughters and the best dog in the world.

Lisa's Facebook page:

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5 stars
17,801 (23%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,583 reviews
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
745 reviews1,791 followers
February 2, 2020
I have to confess... I almost put this novel down when I began sensing that it was going to be dealing with hoarding. I am a major type A personality and the idea of mountains of crap everywhere just makes me feel panicky. So imagine my surprise when by chapter three I could NOT put it down! I loved this novel on so many levels... the characters, the format and just the overall rawness of the story. The subject of hoarding is a very difficult disease for people to understand, but LJ did it in a realistic yet sensitive way. This novel deserves every one of its 5 star rating and I will recommend everyone to read it.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,047 reviews196 followers
September 7, 2013
What a fabulous,fabulous read. I honestly LOVED this book and I could not put it down.
This story is about the Bird family. Lorelei is married to Colin and they have four children, Megan, Bethan, and twins, Rory and Rhys.
One Easter weekend tragedy strikes the Bird family which in time starts to tear the family apart. As time passes the children grow up and start to go their separate ways.
It seems that things will never be the same for this family since that day and even Colin falls out of with Lorelei.

This story covers many topics such as love, secrets, mental illness, relationships, family and hoarding. I really thought this was a fantastic read and I just kept on wanting to know what was going to happen next. A real page turner that's for sure. This was the first book I've read by Lisa Jewell and it certainly won't be my last.
I highly recommend this book you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,322 followers
April 23, 2022
5 stars!

A much heavier story than expected.

There is a lot to unpack and process while reading this multi-layered family drama. I will be thinking of this book and characters for a long time. I know I’ll never forget it. It’s one of those stories that sticks with you, with it’s heart-heavy, tragic tone. The family issues keep unfolding and festering causing endless ripples and waves throughout this family dynamic. The overall impression is dark, heavy and depressing, but presented in an undeniably engrossing way that I simply couldn’t turn away from. I was completely gripped and consumed by this family and all that happened to them from the first word to the last one. Tragedies unfold starting one Easter Sunday morning. The devastating event spirals into lifelong consequences for all family members who each process it in their own quiet way, never quite accepting the full depth of the situation.

Told in several timelines, the writing was terrific, as I’ve come to expect from this prolific author. Letters from the family matriarch are interspersed throughout the plot bringing the reader to the last days of her life which I enjoyed as a way of breaking up the storylines.

Overall, a fantastic novel that I highly recommend but do caution that is it extremely heavy and somber.

Audio rating: 5+ stars! The audio narrator was outstanding and definitely enhanced my overall experience. Loved all that she added to this story! Thank you to my lovely local library for the audio loan.

Warnings: hoarding, isolation, suicide, neglect, childhood trauma, infidelity, divorce, death of a child/sibling, death of a spouse/partner.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,156 reviews601 followers
June 5, 2016
I had the indulgent experience of reading this Jewell of a book in one day. A rainy Saturday with no commitments. Well none I wanted to face, put it that way!

This story really delved into every level of one family's relationships. Layer upon layer upon layer. A family to love and root for, too, but on the other hand, also to grab by the shoulders and shake violently some sense into!

I'd been eyeing this book for a couple of years at my library, always looking on the shelf and always being in the wrong branch at the wrong time. This is how I picked up The Third Wife, which I loved as well.

I've been reading lately a couple of memoirs regarding alcohol addiction, and this book covered the myriad of problems associated with hoarding. I see that both forms of addiction spring fourth many many issues. This book is very worthwhile, intriguing and edge of your seat reading. Glad I spent the day reading some fabulous writing by such a talented author!
Profile Image for Farrah.
221 reviews606 followers
May 21, 2020
I rate this book 5 out of 5 ⭐ dysfunctional family members⭐

This is the story of the Bird family and each one of them is more messed up then the next.

Lisa Jewel is an amazing writer. This book is so smooth and natural that I felt like I almost knew the characters. None of them are stereotypes, just people with traumatic childhoods trying (mostly failing) to be well- balanced adults.

Luckily the book ended somewhat pleasantly so I was saved from ugly crying but I really don't believe any of the Bird's are stable AT ALL 😏
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews540 followers
September 4, 2015

'You can paint it all the colors your want, as long as it is black' - Henry Ford.

I concluded this read, admittedly skipping four predictable, dreary chapters somewhere in the middle. The summarizing chapters at the end caught me up with the tedious events I have anyway skipped in an effort to save my own sanity.

Having read so many depressing, 'soul-intoxicating' books lately, I simply could not endure another one as hard as I tried. This one was the extreme mother of them all! For now at least.

This book is all about compassion, endearment, forgiveness and healing.

1)- Emotional arrest, due to severe child abuse, and
2) - self-therapy through friends and circumstances, can be regarded as the main themes of the book.

Each character brings their own version of color (or should it be regarded as hues of black) and insight to the table, while a series of emails of the mother to an online friend, brings insight into the mother's conduct and memories.

The Bird House. That was the name of the home of the Bird family. A mother, father and four children. A prophetic name for a house.

All the characters had traumatic experiences which hampered their development into becoming well-balanced, normal members of society. The tale is grim, shocking and often revolting, enhanced by a sweetness of child memories spread like a consolation all over the destructive mind games of an abusive mother. Yes, love can be abuse in disguise! The deceiving sweetness is suppose to heal and save their souls. The well-presented prose is suppose to do the same to the reader and the same subtle abuse is applied to the unsuspecting reader! Love is the name of the game and we're all players.

This book is also like a parade of maladies, with a brass band leading the cavalcade, dumping emotional shocks the size of ant hills, like horse manure on the streets. More! More! the desperate crowd are shouting, hungry for their daily fix. And when the noise finally dies away, only the stink remains, and an surprisingly apathetic, stupendous dullness.

I felt like falling into an overflowing dumpster, a cesspool of human weaknesses for which an inhumane effort is demanded to get out of it. I got out of it - furious, and feeling abused myself in the process. I came out a survivor, not a victim, though.

The reader is expected to develop compassion and understanding for a hoarding mother, who destroys everyone's life coming in contact with her. She is the anti-heroine. She controls them all with her excessive cooking, feeding them sweetened carrots to the puking stage on Easter Sundays. Nobody liked it, they prefered the potatoes, yet she ignored their wishes and continued, even adding more beautiful orange carrots to the lamb dish every year and less and less potatoes. They allowed her to isolate them physically, mentally, emotionally. She refused to confront the past or address the future,; she demanded to live in the moment - all done in the name of (a narcissistic) love. Life was all about color to her.

She watched them tripping over life as a result and intensified her hoarding and control. Love is addictive. They fed off her behaviour like leeches. She hoarded them around her, cutting off their wings, preventing them to fly. She locked them up mentally, like all the trash and compulsive shopping she stacked all over their living space - preventing them freedom of movement on every possible level of the mind, body and soul. She slowly lured friends into her trap as well. All in the name of love.

It took a tragedy to break up this demonic love and force the family into the real world with challenges they could not meet. Those who escaped survived, those who stayed ...

How the hell did she get away with this? Through character analysis, the god-awful toxic lives of everyone is exposed through their own experiences which hampered their reaction to this onslaught. There is a much deeper dimension built into each character than the eye meets. One of them, acting as the sum total of their arrested selves, becomes a sacrificial lamb for them to reach the ultimate bottom line: their collective mirror image they all chose to avoid at all costs. However, to avoid it did not mean it went away . They were just chased off, scattering into different directions in trying to distance themselves and did not succeed. The final conclusion was still waiting for them all ...

If we could write the ending for this book it would be totally different, and predictable as sliced bread. Tough-love should be an essential ingredient in mother's milk. To add a little sadistic joy to my thoughts, I had a fleeting gratification thinking how the tv-program 'Wife Swap' could have brought an instant ending to this cuckoo's nest of collective madness. A reality check does not harm anyone. She should have been confronted by a family intervention, a psychologist, a social worker, a court order, by ripping up her credit cards, by saving her from herself. Her children should have been removed. She should have been forced to acknowledge the impact that her own suppression of her past had on her family. The damage it has done.

However, in the real ending of the book, nobody had the mental strength, neither the emotional guts to do so. There were too many skeletons in their own closets to begin with, and she made very sure their wings were compromised. Truth is, she lost her wings as a child as well and nobody realized it until it was too late. They were all broken little birds in their own little Bird House.

In order to bring closure and create hope they had to forgive themselves first and foremost, to be able to forgive their mother. It was a painful journey (and for the reader as well, although being two very different kinds of pain).

My sensitivities felt violated after closing this book in the sense that too many social and mental issues was used in the narrative as shock value, and to establish the dark undercurrent of dysfunction. It was as though as many characters as possible was created so that these different elements could be used and collectively act as emotional and mental rape of the reader. It stretched out the narrative and slowed down the suspense considerably. It was as though there was only one chance to address social and mental issues, so let's use them all in one book. It was also the reason why the narrative lost me somewhere in the middle. It became too obvious and, well, boring. I became apathetic instead of sympathetic. The impact overstayed its welcome, sort of. Overkill. A condensed soapie drama.

Some readers can actually be underestimated. I don't want to list the vile issues used in the book. There should still remain an element of discovery for those readers who want to read this book. This is my subjective opinion after all.

Sometimes we just have to be more selective of the poison we want to feed ourselves. I should have skipped this book in its entirety. But I felt like betraying the children if I did ! So yes, talk about a willing victim, right?

However, it is well written, well presented, well concluded - hence the third star in the rating. A profound and introspective read. But I still need a bath. A desperate cleansing of the mind and soul. And then I need time to forgive myself for reading this sordid book in which I allowed someone I don't even know to violate me! We all need to reconsider the choices we make in life. Imperfect choices by imperfect human beings. Reading this book was one of them.

It does not matter how many colors can be found in a rainbow. If they are thrown together, they become the color black. Preventing them from mixing, can be a choice. So without further delay, beam me up, Scottie! Let's save the rainbows of our souls before it is too late! There are enough other books to do just that.

Consider reading this book. Read other reviews. Make your own choices. That's the most important bottom line. This was just me.
Profile Image for Lucie.
100 reviews30 followers
July 22, 2020
Ugh. This was just dysfunctional and sad.

I love Lisa Jewell's writing style and was hoping to love this book as well, especially since I enjoyed "The Girls in the Garden" and "Then She Was Gone" so much, but this one didn't work for me. It just made me sad from beginning to end.

Every member of the Bird Family has some sort of emotional trauma and disorder they are struggling with, and frankly, I felt like there were just too many disorders. The story was incredibly emotionally draining from the first page to the last.

If this had been a true story, like 'The Glass Castle' for example, then I would have felt like, "Okay, wow, thanks for sharing your story." But this one's fiction. I kinda wish I hadn't put these people into my brain. I finished the book in the same sad mood it put me in at the beginning. Not for me, but others have loved this one.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,049 reviews2,104 followers
December 31, 2019
EXCERPT: Molly stared at the house through her Ray-Bans. 'So weird,' she said. 'Just to think, you lived there, all of you, you were all just, like, normal kids, going to school and stuff, having friends and then, one by one you all left her and she died, you know, completely alone in, like, the Worst House in Britain, or whatever.' She shook her head solemnly. 'Weird,' she said again. 'I mean, can you imagine that happening to us? Like, seriously? All four of us just leaving you there and all falling out with each other and Dad going off with some crazy woman and you just going completely mental and not letting anyone in and building, like, tunnels, out of, like, newspapers. Think of our house. Our lovely house, with all its lovely things in it and yeah, okay, it's a bit too tidy for my liking but, you know, it's a really nice house, and we all live there and we're so happy and everything. And when I'm an adult I want to see my brothers all the time, you know, I want to go to their houses and stuff and have my kids play with their kids. I mean, you haven't seen your brother and sister for, like, five years. Your actual brother and sister. Who you used to live with. And see every day. I mean, I just don't get it. How can things go, like-' she turned to stare at Meg with wide blue eyes so wrong?'

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Meet the Bird Family

All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture-book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.

But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.

The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it's almost as though they've never been a family at all.

But not quite.

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in - and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.

MY THOUGHTS: I read The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell overnight. I could not put it down. I wanted it to never end. When it did, I felt bereft.

Jewell's impeccable combination of characters and plot does that to me. I become totally immersed in her writing. Her characters are very 'real', they love and hate with passion, they are sensible, but do irrational things, they squabble and row, hold grudges and storm off in huffs, then turn around and support one another through tough times. They could be me, or you, our neighbours, our friends.

I, unusually for me, have not picked up another book since I finished this in the early hours of this morning. I need to gently disentangle myself from this family with whom I have laughed and cried, whose pain and joys I have shared. I don't want to say goodbye to them. I want to see where Rory's life goes, how Beth will cope.

But this book is definitely on my favourites list, to be revisited when I want a comfort read.


Quote from The House We Grew Up In: The human memory is such a cruel, frustrating thing, the way it just discards things without asking permission, precious things.

THE AUTHOR: Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The House I Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell and published by Random House from the Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...
Profile Image for Patrice Hoffman.
554 reviews265 followers
August 16, 2014
Where to start, is the question of the day. I haven't quite decided so this review might be a little all over the place. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell follows the Bird family through the years, alluding to why they are all so estranged then climaxing to the devastating day that caused such a huge rift in each of their lives. That is the basic plot. I don't want to give too much away because it really is a wonderful, insightful journey to take with the family your own. So I'll try not to spoil too much.

The story follows Lorelei and Megan Bird the most. Lorelei, in her children's eyes, was full of love, surprises, and fun. And Jewell wastes no time to provide readers with a few red flags early on. It begins with her wanting to keep every single piece of art her four children brought home from school to keeping random objects that are broken or useless. But soon her collections become piles of stuff, and more stuff, until the house they grew up in is no longer the gem it once was. Somewhere its hidden under the piles of junk, similarly to their personalities.

I don't think there was one family member who was not without flaws. There's Megan who tries to be the exact opposite of her mom. She isn't whimsical, manic, or a hoarder. She loves for her home to be spotless without any clutter or mess. She is probably the least whacked out of their brains in the Bird family.

Beth, the middle, often invisible daughter, is so far off the hinges there are no words. On a constant journey to find herself... she's probably my least favorite character. And poor Rory with his guilt. This family is just whacked. I won't say more.

The House We Grew Up In is really a character study in how tragedy affects everyone differently and can cause ripple effects that takes years to recover from. Although Lorelei's flaws were most visible, the Bird's were all being buried under guilt, shame, lies, betrayals, and secrets.

Enough about the book, let's talk about the writing. This novel flows so well. Usually I find it exhausting when novels jump from one decade to another so much. But the present chapters are explained well in the chapters from different years in the past, as well as the personal emails from Lorelei to a man named Jim. It's actually quite shocking that Lisa Jewell was able to pack so much into such a small package. The novel isn't long but there is so much going on. She uses every word wisely, and forms characters readers come to know personally.

Ultimately, I loved reading The House We Grew Up In. Lisa Jewell has made me want to read other books by her. This novel is an emotional rollercoaster so just buckle up and enjoy the ride. Try not flying over the cuckoo's nest with the rest of the Birds as you read.

Copy provided by Atria Books via Netgalley
Profile Image for Judith.
457 reviews71 followers
May 24, 2015

The Bird family live in a picturesque Gloucestershire village and apparently all love each other and live a perfectly wonderful life. The four children, Megan, Bethan and twins Rory and Rhys enjoy a happy, somewhat chaotic lifestyle with parents happy-clappy, head-in-the-clouds, chasing rainbows, Lorelei and gentle, but ineffectual, Colin. Every Easter there is an Easter egg hunt to which other members of the family, and neighbours are invited, followed by a traditional lunch, which never varies from year to year – roast lamb, too many carrots, not enough potatoes – how boring. I suppose the author has chosen Easter, rather than Christmas, to be slightly different, but the season doesn’t make a jot of difference as the story could have been set at any time of the year. Anyway, there they are, the Birds, living this perfect life until a totally unexpected tragedy occurs. No-one discusses this – ever - they just move on. Inevitably as the children grow older they leave home to start their new adult lives, and the family disintegrates, as they gradually grow more emotionally distant from each other. And still the elephant in the room is ignored.

Hopping backwards and forwards in time through the 1980s, 90s and 2000s it’s often tricky to follow the storyline. I was going to say “plot”, but there isn’t one to speak of. The characters are disagreeable and unsympathetic. As for Lorelei I could quite cheerfully have shaken her until her teeth not only rattled but fell out, as she comes across as a rather uncaring mother an a self-absorbed, disturbed woman. Her emails to her absent friend, Jim, are so boring I skimmed through most of them, and her ever-present neighbour, Vicky, is totally unbelievable. Here is a family that is not just flawed but totally dysfunctional. The author seems to specialise in this type of family and idyllic setting; this particular one is so completely over the top and so ridiculous I laughed out loud. The ending is particularly schmaltzy and syrup-laden, and, once again, oh so predictable.

Lisa Jewell goes in for certain words and phrases which become cloying with repetition: if I read one more time about “little ones” I shall scream; Vicky constantly “beams”. Some of the writing is clunky – take this for example: “…..she had lost all but five of her teeth, and had been brought in mainly bald”. Mainly bald? Wouldn't “almost bald” or “nearly bald” be better? There is a vague attempt at humour when describing a modem that “appeared to run on Donkey pee”, and speaking of which, who speaks about a modem being temperamental – wouldn't this usually be described as a poor internet connection? The author’s attempt at down-to-earth language just comes across as self-conscious – Oooh, look readers, I can swear - and crass.

I began to wonder if LJ was being sponsored by some of our major companies, as she drops product names by the bucket load. It is repetitive, sometimes clunky, banal and too wordy; attention to detail is all very well, but in this book it’s just too much padding, and at 422 pages it is too long by about 100 pages

It was suggested to me, by another Amazon reader, that I give Lisa Jewell another go, as I did not like the first LJ book I read, and maybe I’d like some of her other stuff. I have to say my original opinion has not changed. I want a book to have characters I can relate to, or sympathise with; I want a plot. I do not want to drown in syrup; I want something to make me laugh, or think – this doesn’t do any of those. Another deckchair or wet afternoon read for those who don't need a complicated plot or complex characters to ponder over.

This is a Sunday Times bestseller? Who’d have thought?

This will definitely be the last of her books I read.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
505 reviews1,481 followers
March 7, 2016
This was a great read that reminded me just how dysfunctional most families are. It's just a tipping of the scale to go from one extreme to another. Easter is a precious holiday to Lorelei and her family; until one year, a terrible tragedy strikes which changes each of them. Their reactions vary but at the centre of the story is Lorelei's hoarding issue and how the family comes undone and how they try to deal with it. Secrets are finally unearthed; relationships begin to repair; and the healing starts. The House We Grew Up In gives us a glimpse into relationships and how they unravel when we aren't direct and honest with each other. I give it 4 stars.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,322 reviews2,143 followers
May 7, 2016
Lisa Jewell writes well which made this an easy book to read. It is also a light read because she tries to cover so many social issues in the one story that she is not able to delve deeply into any of them and merely skims over them all. All of the characters are damaged in some way,none of them are especially likable and yet the story is compulsive reading, a bit like watching a car crash. The ending was reasonably realistic and wrapped things up in a fairly optimistic way. I guess I will not actually be running out to get more books by this author but I will not knock them back if I come across them in the future.
Profile Image for Tina.
540 reviews923 followers
August 14, 2017
This was my first Lisa Jewell book. It was my understanding that she is a chicklit author. This book was not a light, chicklit novel. The story revolves around, The Bird family who are highly dysfunctional and live in a charming cottage-like house in the Cotswolds of England. The title is poignant. Their life seems happy but we glimpse problems with matriarch, Lorelei. Colin, the patriarch just goes with the flow. Not wanting to upset Lorelei. The children can all sense a problem. One Easter the family suffers a horrible tragedy that rips them apart. Their story is told over 30 years. This novel was brilliant and fantastically written! I could not put it down. So many emotions while reading this one. I will definitely be reading more Lisa Jewell books.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,262 reviews404 followers
January 14, 2020
2.5 stars. Most of this book was a two star for me, towards the end a three star. I found this book really dreary. A tragedy happens but for what seems like decades after everyone's lives are a mess, I kept thinking that something would go right for someone, but no, and I realise that Lorelei had a hoarding problem but got tired of hearing the lists of things she saved. I felt the big mystery of the book was ridiculous, he was suicidal so wasn't thinking straight. Obviously this will affect the mum enormously and it did. I felt the ending seemed suddenly tied up neatly. A depressing read where nothing seems to go right for the poor characters.
Profile Image for  Li'l Owl.
398 reviews238 followers
March 25, 2019
Oh my! What a gem!
Incredibly moving, delightfully funny, Painfully tragic. 
Beautifully written and exquisitely narrated!

Easter Sunday,  2011.
It's a beautiful day. 
The sun is warm and high in the cloudless blue sky, and the whole Bird family is at home.
It's a perfect day.
Until it isn't. 


I loved this audiobook! The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell & narrated by Karina Fernandez is extradinary!!

It's a fascinating view into the mental affliction of someone who's desperate to hold on to pleasant, delightful memories in an attempt to overshadow the tragedies that happened in her past. Lisa Jewell's writing paints such vivid images of her characters and I felt like I could reach out and touch them, see the emotions on thier faces. 

Narrator Karina Fernandez earns 5 big ★'s! Karina's storytelling had me completely absorbed, reveling in the realism and emotional impact of Lisa's powerful writing. The audiobook allowed me to experience the book on a new, higher level!
I enjoyed it immensely!
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,720 followers
February 22, 2022
I've been a fan of Lisa Jewell books for years. After reading most of her current (last 5 years) ones, I began digging into the earlier books, fulfilling my goal to catch up on everything she's written to date. I chose The House We Grew Up In this week, and while I see several of the author's traditional individual style and other elements, I also noticed a difference in the quality of the plot and scene creation. As the years went by, Jewell has mastered her techniques. But in this earlier one, I found too many repetitions, dull characters, and missing tender moments.

The Bird family is troubled, but they don't know it. Lorelai grew up with several siblings, but we hardly know much about them; yet it was in the opening scenes and then basically disappeared. She married Colin and had two daughters and twin boys. A tragedy happened, triggering Lorelai's need to hoard everything. Midway through her marriage, she falls for the neighbor who moves in with her two young daughters. By the time the non-traditional, mixed family grows up, we've got borderline incest, marital affairs, jail time, mental breakdowns, cancer... a huge amount of emotional events that would rip most families apart.

And that was part of the problem for me with this book. So many things made it get to a place of complacency for me. I was often like... "oh, another problem," and I began caring less about the characters. None were likable. And the story unfolds in a disconnected way. You know what's going on, so the suspense is lost. But it's like there are various scenes from periods of their lives, all of which felt contrived rather than situations that led to them becoming so awful. At the same time, Jewell embeds so much detail, they feel utterly real and alive, and it shows that she has an immense talent that needed to be massaged. In later books, she steps it up a lot. In this one, the elements were all here but somehow didn't come together properly for me.

I found myself skimming a paragraph or two, frowning when certain characters changed POVs, rolling my eyes at scenes that went nowhere. It needed more than editing... I think it lacked a true point. There really wasn't any messaging nor ending to the story. Just moments, and unfortunately, if this had been my first book by the author, I probably wouldn't have picked up anymore. Thankfully I know she's grown tremendously, and perhaps I'll try one more of the older books. If it's similarly mediocre (compared to the rest of her canon), I might stop reading except for any new releases. But give them a chance... as this book might've just been a bad fit for me.
Profile Image for Sheila Beaumont.
1,102 reviews148 followers
August 21, 2019
Wow, what an amazing read this was! I've read and enjoyed several of Lisa Jewell's novels, and this is my favorite of them. In fact, it's one of the very best books I've read this year.

I might never have found this book if I hadn't come across a reference to it in Ellery Adams' The Whispered Word, where it's recommended by a bookshop owner to a husband and wife who have come into conflict over the husband's hoarding tendencies. Well, if any book would persuade a person to stop accumulating more and more stuff, this cautionary tale of the Bird family would do it!

Lorelei, mother of four, starts out by keeping every piece of art her children bring home from school, then hangs on to everything that will bring back happy memories, and eventually she's accumulating all sorts of stuff, even if it's totally useless.

This is a beautifully written book, a page-turner that's almost impossible to put down. I could not wait to find out what happens next. And even though it jumps around in time, it's never confusing. Highly recommended for everyone!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,392 reviews4,905 followers
November 23, 2022

Lorelei and Colin Bird are raising their four children - Meg, Beth, and twin boys Rory and Rhys - in a charming house in the Cotswalds.

Lorelei's favorite holiday is Easter Sunday, and the Bird house always hosts an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood children.

When the youngsters eat their chocolate eggs, Lorelei collects the foil that covered them, because the colors are so pretty.

The Easter festivities are so important to Lorelei that she cajoles her children to participate even when they get too old for the fun. Thus, over the years, Lorelei has amassed a large collection of colored foil as well as a great many other things.

The fact is that Lorelei can't throw anything away. She's kept all the drawings her children ever made; dozens of worn out kitchen towels; old chipped bric-a brac; and much more. In addition, Lorelei can't resist buying things she doesn't need. Thus the Cotswold house gets more and more cluttered as the years pass, and the only family member bothered by this seems to be Meg.

There are stresses in the Bird home, but things rub along relatively smoothly until an Easter Sunday when Meg is 20, Beth is 18, and the twins Rory and Rhys are 14. Lorelei hosts her usual Easter egg hunt, there's a nice lunch, then a horrible tragedy upends the day. Easter Sunday will never be the same, and neither will the Bird family.

The book meanders back and forth over a 30-year period, from when Meg is 10, and happily hunting Easter eggs; until Meg is 40, and back home to bury her mother and clean out the house. By now the Bird house is so filled with newspapers, books, and Lorelei's treasures as to be almost completely inpenetrable, like the worst homes on the Hoarders television show.

We follow each of the major characters over the 30-year span of the story: Meg, who's the mature one, meets a man named Bill, has four children, and does well financially;

Attractive Beth becomes a personal assistant, lives with her mother until she's thirty, exhibits bad judgement, and suffers the consequences;

Rory runs off to a Spanish commune with an Irish girl, but has trouble accepting responsibility;

Lorelei separates from Colin, has another relationship, and when she's older, acquires an online boyfriend;

and Colin just mosies along until he has a later-life crisis.

Lorelei is the linchpin of the book and its sad to see one child after another pull away from her, largely because of her behavior, which - in addition to the hoarding - is quite selfish. For example, when Colin tries to plan a wonderful holiday for the family, Lorelei squashes the idea because she can't bear to leave her house.

Towards the end of the book we get an explanation for Lorelei's self-centered conduct, and see her regret for the estrangements she's caused, not only between herself and the children, but between the children themselves - who have little contact with one another. Unfortunately, Lorelei ends up lonely and sick and her death is very sad. But it's an opportunity for the family to come together, and perhaps mend some bonds.

I know hoarding is a mental illness, but Lorelei's explanation is almost logical. She says her 'treasures' form a sort of lattice that preserves important times and events in her mind. (Though one has to wonder how forty pot scrubbers, dozens of packages of hair scrunchies, and hundreds of moldy paperback books fit this explanation.)

The book presents a compelling picture of family dynamics, but (for me) the story moved too slowly; the jumping around in time was hard to follow; and some of Meg's emails to her online boyfriend were cringeworthy. Still, the book got many stellar reviews and readers interested in dysfunctional families might want to give a try.

You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Jules.
1,049 reviews198 followers
January 21, 2019
The House We Grew Up In is a family saga with a strong focus on the impact having a family member who is an excessive hoarder has on that person and the rest of the family. This is not a whimsical family tale, but one that at times is rather hard-hitting, shocking and emotional. So many secrets and lies! I loved the characters. If you think your family is messed up. Read this. It’ll make you feel better.

I’m in the process of trying to de-clutter my life in many areas, so the idea of hoarding really resonated with me. I’ve always found clutter really stresses me out, but I’m often too busy or too exhausted to deal with it, making it more and more infuriating the longer I have to look at it or trip over it. I’m determined to have most clutter gone by the end of the year! I don’t even know where it all comes from, as I actually hardly ever buy anything these days. Probably just stuff that has built up over the years. I often find it hard to let go of things because of an emotional link, a memory trigger, or I think I might need to use it once over the next decade. The time has come to be ruthless!

This is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Jewell, but I doubt it’ll be the last after really enjoying this one. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy thought provoking family sagas.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,479 reviews7,774 followers
December 13, 2022
♬♪♬ It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Yeeeeeeaaaaaaar! ♬♪♬

I know, I know, but I’m effing failing miserably when it comes to the Christmas books and I remembered how I never even reviewed this one (I mean, why would I review a 5 Star read in a timely manner, right????) and I also remembered that the timeline bounced from present back to Easters of years gone by and a holiday story is a holiday story (just go with it) and also that I thought the new Lisa Jewell was a flop (but a Covid flop so she gets a pass) and I needed something guaranteed to unslump my slump so I gave this a re-read over the weekend.

To sum this one up in a nutshell . . .

“I love other people’s families. They always make me feel better about my own.”

Boy, ain’t that the truth! Dysfunction junction is absolutely my function and this was the crème de la crème featuring a momma who . . . .

Be still my Buried Alive lovin’ heart!

Meg has returned to her childhood home with her daughter in tow to plan her mother’s funeral and clean out the house – which will prove to be an undertaking of epic proportions. Told via a bit of the wibbly wobbly with the aforementioned flashbacks to Easters past (one of which was particularly tragic), as well as the goings on with the family in the present, everything in between, and some correspondence between the recently deceased matriarch Lorelei and her potential new beau to fill in any blanks.

As I said, all the Stars. Jewell knows how to do family drama.
67 reviews2 followers
November 1, 2014
The reviews were brilliant on Amazon, it has received 4.5 stars! Everyone was writing positive things about it online. Once I got my hands on a copy, one of the reviews promised that “Lisa is one of the best writers of women’s fiction”. VERY promising indeed.

It was horrible. I was so disappointed. If this is the best of women’s fiction, I don’t know want to know what they consider worse.

From the very beginning I wasn’t completely mesmerized by the plot. But hey, I am not one to judge early. As the book went on though it became painful to read and actually had me enraged. I threw the book on the floor. My boyfriend can act as my witness. I can’t recall the last time I have had this kind of a reaction to a book. Oh wait, I have never done that before.

There was not a single character who I could relate to. The closest person I could sympathize with was Megan I suppose. I can see what the author was trying to accomplish; tracing how a family falls apart due to a tragedy. I think there is a difference between a flawed family and one that is completely unrealistic.

Lisa Jewell is just trying too hard to make the family dysfunctional and tries to tackle an excessive amount of themes which makes the book one huge mess. Hoarding, teenage suicide, eating disorders, incest, incarceration, running away from problems, adultery, alcoholism; you name a problem she’s written it in. She then tries to string them all together at the very end when they just all forgive each other and “grow up”. Woopty-doo.

The climax of my angst was probably when Beth was sleeping with her sister’s partner and continued to do so for about a year, while still maintaining her great relationship with her sister. I feel like the author wants the reader to hate every single one of them. Things continue to get worse for each character as the plot is revealed, and nothing positive is highlighted until the last few chapters.

I wish I had never bought this book or read it. The only positive I can take away from this mess of a book was that the next book doesn’t need much to seem excellent.
Profile Image for Connie Cox.
286 reviews181 followers
September 10, 2015
This was both a disturbing and wonderful read all in one story. I have not read Jewell before but will be on the lookout for more. Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this in exchange for a review.

The reader is introduced to the warm yet somewhat quirky Bird family while celebrating the Easter Holiday. The story then changes tone with a tragedy that changes the dynamics of each family member and contributes to their future lives and choices.We grow up with each of the younger members over the next decades while we watch the matriarch of the family slowly disintegrate before our eyes. This is not a healthy family relationship and each character has flaws and burdens, yet somehow I found myself rooting for each of them no matter how unlikable at times.

Jewell tackles many tough topics and puts a face to them. Hoarding, infidelity, denial, same sex relationships all wind there way through this family history, told from multiple perspectives with both real time and flashbacks. This doesn't always work in a book but it did in this one. She shows us that everyone interprets and reacts differently to the same event, and often over time question if memories are what really occurred. At times the span between a particular character's narration bothered me, as I was left hanging with their story....yet it did keep me turning the page to find the continuation which may have been the authors intent. If one story had been told all at once, there would have been no element of surprise at the ending, of how everything turned out. Instead, you were kept guessing.

The writing was well done and the characters very well crafted. I could feel the tensions between each character as well as the strong bonds that only come from family. The history that ties you together is often stronger than you would like. A sad, but beautiful read. 4.5 stars.

Profile Image for Dana.
440 reviews290 followers
October 23, 2014
Read this book if you think your family is dysfunctional. I guarantee that this book will make your family look positively bland in comparison.I could not put down this obsessive read. It was fascinating to read about a family dealing with the aftermath of a mother with a hording disorder. Like many people, I have watched the popular hoarding reality show "Buried Alive" but I never truly understood how deep the rabbit hole really went for people suffering from this affliction.

When I told my mother about the story she said it sounded like a Jerry Springer episode, and I suppose she has a point. However this novel is so much more than that and I think this is where the cover truly shines. The bird family's destruction really came about like the slow cracks of an egg. It was just one thing after another until it all fell apart.

I loved all of the characters, even the ones I hated! Even though all of this insanely dramatic stuff was happening I still felt that everyone was painfully real.

This novel broke my heart but I still felt very satisfied with the ending. Even if I was still holding grudges with some of the characters, I felt that the ending was so perfect and healing. I feel infinitely lucky to have been able to receive a galley of this book. Many thanks to Lisa and Atria publishing. I would definitely recommend this for a book club read. 6/5

Profile Image for Karla.
1,074 reviews243 followers
November 25, 2022
Story 4 stars**
Audio 4.25**
Narrator Karina Fernandez
Profile Image for Debra.
2,030 reviews234 followers
May 13, 2022
Maybe 2.5 stars

What started off as a promising story of a family dealing with a mentally ill mother who becomes an agoraphobic hoarder, devolved into a soap opera worthy, bat shit crazy tale that was like a checklist of every possible cliche someone can throw into a story.

The part of the story dealing with the relationship with the mother and her life was good and intriguing. I thought the hoarding aspect and the reaction of the family to it was portrayed with a good amount of realism and appropriate reactions and emotions (at least from what I could tell by the many, many, Hoarders episodes I've seen). The rest of it bordered on ridiculous. I also found the "shocking twist" to be less that and more of the sad result of a family just shoving aside someone they didn't know how to deal with. Using one of their child's/sibling's tragedy as a reason to act like crappy people. It left me feeling sad for Lorelei and Rhys and feeling disgusted with the rest of the family.

It was all wrapped up very quickly in a too neat little bow for my liking. There was too much thrown into the story and not enough actual dealing with things.

I'm sure our book club discussion will be interesting.


I just need to start a list of all the crazy so I don't forget anything

Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,081 reviews1,412 followers
August 13, 2014

Four children then three, traditional chocolate-Easter-egg hunts ​where you had to save the foil wrappings, a tidy house and then a very cluttered one.

The Bird family was loving but very eccentric with Lorelei, the mother, being the oddest of all and who kept a secret that made her hold onto things.

Colin her husband re-installed the wall in their once duplex house and lived next door to his wife, Megan turned out to be a neat freak, Beth never left home until she was 30 because she thought her mother needed her, and the twins were total opposites as well as having a tragic incident happen to them.

There were a lot of strange things about the Birds, but they all loved each other. As the years went on and the children grew into adults​, Lorelei still held onto their childhood toys, clothes, blankets, ​and even drawings as she herself remained an adult​ child and a compulsive shopper and hoarder. The children couldn't believe what was in their childhood home when they visited and how they had to navigate through a small path surrounded with things Lorelei just had to have and couldn't part with.

If you want to read a book that will have you shaking your head but also not wanting to put the book down because of total enjoyment, you will want to read THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN. The storyline and writing were marvelous.

I enjoyed THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN because of the unique, creative storyline with characters that kept you wanting to know how each of their lives would turn out. They all were quite unconventional, but you couldn’t help but love them.

THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN will have you thinking back to your childhood and wonder if what happened in the home you grew up in has actually shaped you into the person you are today.

We definitely can't forget the cover. It is absolutely gorgeous with the egg being the basis of the Bird family's many memories of their Easter egg hunts which kept them all connected.

Along with being a beautifully told story, THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN has a happy ending along with characters you will remember long after you turn the last page.

I don't think there will be any reader no matter what their preferred genre is who won't get caught up in this splendid story.

My rating is going to be a 4/5 simply because I was lost in the beginning pages, but the rest of the book definitely made up for my being lost.

Make THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN a must read for yourself.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maryam Behzi.
121 reviews150 followers
May 13, 2021
کتاب فوق‌العاده‌ای بود. تا جایی که ۶۰ ۷۰ صفحه‌ی آخر رو با چشمای خیس و قلبی اندوهگین خوندم. حتی چند جا دلم می‌خواست کتاب رو ببندم، یه دل سیر گریه کنم و دوباره با دقت بیشتری تا اونجای کتاب رو بخونم. توضیح راجع به این کتاب خیلی سخته. شخصیت پردازی کتاب فوق‌العادست هم از نظر پیشرفت شخصیت کاراکترهای کتاب و هم از نظر یونیک بودن کاراکتر اونها. داستان خانواده‌ی بیرد که مشکلات همه‌ی خانواده‌های معمولی رو دارن ولی هیچ کدومشون آدم‌های معمولی نیستن. شخصیت‌ها گاهی غیر قابل باور میشن ولی میتونید به عنوان یک کاراکتر واقعی قبولشون کنید. همراه تک تک اعضای این خانواده ناراحت میشید. درکشون میکنید. این کتاب در باره عواقب کارهاییه که بهشون فکر نمی‌کنیم. کارهای کوچیکی که هر روز انجامشون میدیم یا حتی تصمیم ‌های بزرگ‌تری که شاید همه‌ی ما به شخصه تجربشون نکرده باشیم ولی می‌دونیم که ممکنه هر لحظه برای ما اتفاق بیافته. چیزی که راجع به این کتاب خیلی دوست داشتم این بود که نویسنده انواع بلاهای مختلف رو سر این خانواده نیاورد تا الکی و مصنوعی خواننده رو متاثر کنه. یک لحظه و یک اتفاق با هنرمندی تمام اتفاق‌های داستان رو مثل یک زنجیر باریک به هم وصل کرد. با همه‌ی اینها احساس می‌کردم خودم تک تک شخصیت‌های اون کتابم. همه رو درک میکردم و احساس شادی یا عذادار بودن رو به جای تک تک شخصیت‌ها تجربه کردم.
این کتابیه که بهتون پیشنهاد میکنم حتما بخونید ولی وقتی شرایط مناسبش رو دارید. احساس می‌کنم خوندن این کتاب برای کسایی که احساس ناامنی نسبت خانواده دارن از لحاظ عاطفی زیادی سنگین باشه. البته شاید چون همزادپنداری زیادی با تمام شخصیت‌ها داشتم اینقدر برام سنگین بود ولی از اونجایی که حس میکنم همه‌ تا حدودی همزادپنداری با شخصیت‌های این کتاب داشته باشن پیشنهاد میکنم اگه نوجونید یا همچین شرایطی رو دارید مدتی برای خوندن این کتاب صبر کنید تا در یک ثبات عاطفی قابل قبول‌تری سراغش برید

پ.ن. راستی گفتم که تقریبا توی یک نشست تمومش کردم؟ از اون کتاب‌هایی بود که نمی‌تونستید ازش بیرون بیاید.
Profile Image for Britany.
991 reviews434 followers
March 5, 2020
3.5 Stars
The Bird family is big and complicated.

Easter is the annual event that draws everyone together and the day that tragedy strikes and forever changes the Bird family as they know it. Lorrie (Lorelei) is the family matriarch and she has four kids- Megan, Bethan, Rhys & Rory. She has a bit of a shopping/keeping things problem that delves into hoarding. Over the years we learn the deep, dark secrets this family is keeping and what leads to the inevitable ending.

I always enjoy Jewell's writing and the characters she creates. Her shock factor always makes me gasp out loud and you never truly expect her to take things so far, yet she manages to do it in a way that isn't completely unrealistic. The main issues with this one is all the switching timeframes and a few too many characters to keep straight. The emails between Jim & Lorelei were a struggle besides just giving her a perspective, I really don't think they added to the narrative. I appreciated the Easter family ritual (don't we all have things we have to do with our families that we love/hate?) and how the house was a sacred place for her. I appreciated the way the children grew and developed over time - that piece completely felt appropriate. Not my very favorite but will continue to pick up this author- she's quickly becoming go-to.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,205 reviews1,329 followers
June 7, 2021
Jewell's novels are always treasured gems (I couldn't resist), they're so easy to become wrapped up in the mystery and even though this focused more on the family drama aspect compared to her other novels, I was still hooked as I wanted to know exactly what tragedy struck the seemingly perfect family over an Easter weekend.

The early 1980's egg hunt in idyllic cottage of the Bird family seems so wonderfully perfect.
The incident in contrast seems so desperately shocking.

Whilst I couldn't quite warm to any of the characters in this dysfunctional family, the way the book was structured with the different time periods during the family's past helped gloss over the unlikeable characters.

It's mum Lorelei's hording obsession that really stands out, I quickly checked and this book was originally published in 2013 - so definitely in the zeitgeist as them types of shows were always on tele.
Jewell tackles the topic brilliantly, I was given a real sense of what it's like living with that condition.

Overall another addictive read from the always popular author.
Profile Image for Jenn (One of Many, We are Legion).
121 reviews100 followers
September 6, 2014
If I were to sum up in one sentence why I did not like this book, it’s because it started as a sad, serious story about a dysfunctional family dealing with the matriarch’s mental health issues and the fallout of a tragedy, but then, in an attempt to become heartbreaking and meaningful, it quickly descended into campy soap territory.

Unfortunately for you, I have more than just a sentence worth’s to say. I typically write my reviews right away, but I’ve procrastinated on this one for days because it just made me angry, and there’s just go much content crammed into this, it’s impossible to be succinct while also giving a full run-down of why I thought this book failed at what it tried to do. I almost gave it a two, but I noticed that my notes became angrier and more frantic as the book went on. So, on reflection, I can’t justify anything higher than a one.

The Plot: This is one of those books with no true plot. Instead, the story follows the lives of the Bird family over the course of approximately thirty years, so it’s more akin to a slice-of-life novel than anything else. What we learn early on is that the family matriarch, Lorelei, is a hoarder. Her refusal to acknowledge her problem, coupled with a tragedy that strikes during Easter, essentially tears the family (6 total people) apart. This novel tells the story of how and why they are so estranged, leading into present day.

The points of view alternate frequently, so you see the perspective of every family member - six in total - over the course of the book. I didn’t mind the method by which Jewell accomplished this, but I know that it would be annoying for some. Some “chapters” (it all kind of runs together and the chapters are really just dates) are emails the matriarch, Lorelei, wrote in the recent past to a friend in the months preceding her death. Other chapters are present day, as the family comes together following her death to take care of her estate, arrange for a funeral, and, well, clean up the mess she made of her own home. The last chapter sections look to the past, through various family member’s POVs, giving us insight into what happened to this family over the course of 30 years leading them to be so estranged.

The flashback chapters all began around Easter, not because the family was particularly religious, but because Lorelei enjoyed putting on egg hunts for the kids and....I don’t know why else. As a result, every significant event begins around Easter. Maybe Jewell chose Easter because it is associated with resurrection and she was trying to symbolize the family’s resurrection from destruction? I don’t know - I think I’m giving too much credit here. It is what it is.

This sounds like a heartbreaking, realistic contemporary novel, so what’s the problem?

Let me get the minor complaints out of the way first. I wasn’t really a fan of the writing. The dialogue was stilted and unnatural, and many of the conversations felt forced and completely unrealistic. One scene in particular, between the father and one of his sons, was a conversation I cannot imagine a father ever having with their child. Another scene involved a girlfriend calling out the entire family’s flaws, despite that she just met them and all she knows about them is what she has gleaned through conversations had with the boy she is dating - whom she met a week ago.

In addition, the characters were themselves just ugly people - all flaws, few redeeming qualities, and while I love dark, dirty characters, these people aren’t meant to be villains. They are meant to be tragic - people broken by circumstance. Except they come across as sad, head-shakingly terrible people (which makes the attempts at redeeming them utterly, completely false).

I also took issue with the very British lingo. This wouldn’t be a problem if it hadn’t obviously been edited for an American audience (realise became realize, for example), but there were loads of references that an American audience just won’t be as familiar with. For example, “BabyGro” instead of “onesie.” “People carrier” instead of “minivan.” These terms are completely meaningless without context and I had to look many of them up. It was a complete distraction (that would have been fine if other edits to “Americanize” the book had not been made). I was picturing everyone loading into a subway car, not a motor vehicle. By the same token, it increasingly referred to name brand items, like an “Aga” cooker (again something I had to look up) that it felt like there was heavy product placement.

Let’s also talk a moment about word abuse in writing. I think every writer has crutch words that a good editor can pick up on and eliminate. In this book, that word is “tut.” Everyone tuts. They tut about everything, all the time, every day, tutting. 31 times in 281 e-book pages. Fuck you.

And don’t get me started on the use of “darling.” Do the English really use this word so often? Every single character, every other page, someone was “darling-ing” another person. 106 (or maybe 116, I lost count) times in 281 pages. It was like reading a script for Absolutely Fabulous, which only added to the bad camp factor. I admit that my exposure to the British is limited, but not one of the British friends I have has ever used that term, at least not with that kind of frequency.

My real problem, however, is that the subject matter - both the hoarding and the aforementioned tragedy - are dramatic and serious enough on their own, but the author felt a need to add even more drama and plot twists to the novel, causing a quick descent into bad camp territory. Now, I can get on board with some deliciously silly camp (see The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High). I can also dig a melodramatic, soapy drama that walks the line between serious and camp, ala season one of Revenge. The main difference between stories like those, however, and this one, is that the tone and subject matter of the former allow - indeed, they encourage - being over-the-top, unrealistic, and downright silly. That’s what makes those stories so enjoyable, and they aren’t meant to be taken seriously - they are meant to be fun.

By contrast, this book is meant to be serious and profound. It wasn’t trying to be parody or satire. Its tone just doesn’t lend itself to this level of melodrama, so the resulting situations felt completely contrived. As a result of these forced situations, it became full-on, daytime TV, I-am-my-own-grandpa soap, and it completely detracted from the seriousness of the topics actually explored in the book. I felt no emotion, no sympathy, for these characters. It felt like it was trying very hard to be poignant and sweet, but it was just ham-fisted and unrealistic.

I’m aware that I’m being a bit cryptic, but that’s because in order to really illustrate why I hated this, I’m going to have to spoil the entire book for you; this is most certainly a show, don’t tell situation. Therefore, if you have any inclination towards reading this book, any at all, I suggest you do not click the spoiler tag, because I am literally going to spoil the entire book under these tags. Yes, this is necessary. It is also long.

So there you have it. In an effort to show the dysfunctional ugliness of everything being a “shade away from natural,” this book just tossed in everything plus the kitchen sink, straight from the script of the worst soaps you’ve ever seen, and far from being profound, it just made my roll my eyes in anger.

Thank you to Netgalley and Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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