My reaction after finishing this book was “Oh dear God, what did I just read?” And not in a good way. This book surprisingly, has many glowing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t see why. Family dysfunction is the central theme of this book. And you get dysfunction in heaps, but sadly there’s no other dimension to it. It’s a crooked, twisted mess of a plot.
The Bird family lives in an idyllic village in the Cotswolds. Lorelei and Colin have four darling kids, who turn into not-so-darling adults. The book starts with Lorelei’s death. Meg, the oldest and the most pragmatic one of them, returns to the Bird home to sort things out. From there, we go forward and backward in time.
We’re given a glimpse of their picture perfect childhood first. The entire family celebrating Easter, kids go on egg hunts while the adults sit around talking. Lorelei is always very particular, to the point of obsession, that the kids save their colorful egg foils. That’s when we get a first glimpse of the monster that lurks underneath that perfect family picture.
Lorelei is a compulsive hoarder. Her hoarding only becomes worse with time, until she becomes a fraction of herself and so does her house. Then tragedy befalls. The family is thrown askew. And of course, every family member reacts differently.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling the problems these characters and so many real people face. It’s only that the author, in the name of dysfunction, has crammed every family problem in existence into 400 pages. There’s hoarding, incest,bigamy, alcoholism, teenage suicide, give or take a few more. There are families that deal with these problems, but everything piled onto one family? That’s a little hard to believe. Or maybe it’s just me.
Lorelei Bird is probably one of the most annoying, bordering on creepy characters I’ve read. The other peeve I had with the plot was how easily Meg forgives her husband and sister for having an affair. Everything is forgiven in one page. Really? A little more dimension to these characters would have probably made them likable. I didn’t feel sympathetic towards any of them.
I kept reading anyway because I wanted to see how it all ended. I was disappointed once again. It’s a clichéd, tra-la-la happy ending as if to give us a soothing balm after that crazy ride. It certainly didn’t work for me.
The upside is the writing style. I thought it was evocative and the imagery was brilliant. I particularly enjoyed reading Lorelei’s e-mails to Jim. I loved seeing how their relationship blossoms, from being online acquaintances to lovers who understand each other despite not having met in person.