The House We Grew Up In

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The House we grew up in

The House we grew up in

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.

Having said that, I’m glad my tour of ‘The House We Grew Up In”, is over. And I journey onwards, in search of better books.

8 thoughts on “The House We Grew Up In

  1. Anupam Patra

    There were parts of ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ that gave me a hugely negative feeling. It was about adultery, war crimes, suffering in the most deplorable conditions of human existence, decline of respect for human life and those sorts of things, But the book had a heart to it. In the midst of all that darkness it told a story of love, hope and home to tell. The book will always remain one of the most unforgettable works of fiction I’ve read.

    About the ‘The House We Grew Up In’, well, the very use of ‘House’ instead of ‘Home’ throws all hopes in air. I would keep your cautions in mind and pick this one up for reading. Something about human failings always pulls me. It’s a personal choice. Let me read it and find out if there is truly nothing worthy of taking back from its pages.

    Let me sign off with a humble appreciation of your article. Very nicely put.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Anupam, thank you so much for reading and a special thank you for leaving such a detailed comment. It’s comments like these that make blogging worth the effort 🙂

      What an interesting observation that the author has used “house’ instead of home. I had not thought of it like that. But there might be a reason to that. I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but the mother’s hoarding makes living in the house unbearable to her kids as they grow up. So the author probably looked at it from their perspective while naming the book.
      It’s a good book plot-wise. But see, like ‘Narrow Road..”, I didn’t feel anything towards the characters. I just didn’t care what happened to them. And that is where this book fails. Or maybe it’s just me. Let me know what you think of it.
      P.S. thanks also for the book recommendation! I’ll look for ‘The Narrow Road’.

      Reply
  2. Marcy

    That sounds like a tough book to get through. I usually like reading about dysfunction, but piling so much on in a work of fiction and then tacking on a happy ending sounds like it wouldn’t work at all.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      It’s actually a good plot. The beginning of the book was really well written, but as it progressed, I didn’t care for the characters. Something about them wasn’t believable.

      Reply
  3. ellenbehm

    This sounds exactly like the kind of fiction I would be drawn to, i.e., the dysfunctional family story. Perhaps because I can relate. Anyway, there is no shortage of these kinds of novels, and I will keep your review in mind before I choose this one. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thanks, Ellen! I like these kinds of stories too. But I only wish the author hadn’t piled so much dysfunction in one book, and then resolved everything in a hurry. I’d love to know what you think of the book.

      Reply

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