The House We Grew Up In – Lisa Jewell
All families have skeletons in their closets.
All families have secrets.
All families have a black sheep.
All families aren’t perfect.
But this honest, dark and disturbing portrayal of one family in meltdown is not only very powerfully written, it gets the full five-star treatment. Lisa Jewell, having read all of your books this seriously is the jewel in your crown.
I need to start this review by saying that I love Lisa Jewell’s work. She was the first ‘chick lit’ author I stumbled upon, after buying “31 Dream Street” for just 30p, some three years ago now. Since then I simply had to read everything she has written – from 1999′s “Ralph’s Party” to last year’s “Before I Met You“.
In this time I have seen Lisa mature as an author.
Her early work is very much fun and frolics, spliffs and sex. She makes you laugh, she relates to her 20-something audience. But as she has got older, and I guess, as a mum and with kids of her own, her work has taken on more of a sombre, sober quality. Don’t get me wrong, she hasn’t lost her ability to make you relate to her characters and fall in love with them, she’s intensified her stories to blow you away.
“The House We Grew Up In” knocked me sideways, shook me up, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think my batsh*t mental family is nothing, compared to her family – the Birds.
If I could sum this novel up in one sentence it would be this. “Who Do You Think You Are crossed with The Hoarder Next Door mixed with a car crash and a family that tears itself apart.”
That sums it up perfectly.
The Birds are a family which love each other muchly. You have a hippy mum, a meek dad, the eldest daughter Meg, the little sister Beth, and the twins Rory and Rhys.
One Easter, tragedy hits this family when Rhys hangs himself.
And the family goes into meltdown. Serious meltdown.
Adultery, Emigration, Drugs, Prison, Lesbianism, Alcoholism, Mental breakdown. It’s like a bomb which blows up and blows this family apart. As Lisa flicks back and forth from that Easter, and the nuclear fall-0ut, you really get to know each and every character. You learn their flaws. You love them one minute and then hate them the next.
I could go on.
But this book was a serious and very sobre, and sombre portrayal of one mother who gave her all for her family. By the time you get to the end you realise why she became such a hoarder, and why her kids did what they did.
It’s so powerful, so moving and so shocking and so heart-warming, I have to give this 5/5. Regular Book Boy readers will know that my family is pretty crazy, and this book re-affirmed my faith in the human condition. It’s a book which deserves a place on any bookshelf.
The Book Boy Rating – 5/5