Book Review: The House We Grew up In by Lisa Jewell
After reading Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell I wanted to read more of her books. I picked this one up at my local library and jumped in. Getting a quarter of the way through the book I realized that this has a different feel and flow compared to Then she was Gone- not a s sick and sinister. I was a bit disappointed at first as I loved the perverse impression of Then she was Gone but The House we Grew up in had some other sort of pull for me. I am not sure how her other books go so if anyone has any comments or has read any of her other books please leave a comment below for me!
This story follows a family throughout their growing up and falling aparts. Lorelei is the mother of 2 daughters and twin boys. The story jumps from past to present story lines with the past story line progressively meeting the present. Lorelei is a hoarder which steadily gets worse as time goes on. Throughout the novel we see how her hoarding tendencies affects both her kids, her marriage and her sense of self.
In the past timeline we see that even her kids recognize that her saving every scrap of paper is not right. Lorelei especially likes the shiny foil on the chocolate Easter eggs. We get a glimpse as they are all at Lorelei’s sister’s and she saves a torn pool. The adults all laugh at Lorelei in front of Meg, her daughter. Right then Meg already at ends with her mother’s collecting starts to realize this is not a behaviour of a mentally healthy person. She sees that her mother may need help which only intensifies their relationship as time goes on. We see in her letters to the mysterious Jim Lorelei’s parents died at a young age, she also wet the bed until teens. Do we see a start of a mental disorder?
The initial family presented to us is a picture perfect family. Very early on we see this is not true. The problems are so ‘bad’ that one of Lorelei’s twins Rhys commits suicide. This is the final straw that breaks this family silently apart. Lisa Jewell makes you really wonder what it would be like to grow up in a dysfunctional family headed by a hoarder.
The present day view is of Meg is always the responsible one cleaning out the house they grew up in …lol.. After Lorelei dies. We notice that Meg has changed to be to polar opposite as her mother, maybe even to the extreme. She is a clean freak organization nut. She herself has 4 or 5 kids.
As the story goes on the family breaks apart and scandals hit one after another. Lorelei becomes a lesbian with their new neighbour. Ryan runs away with his no bullshit girlfriend Vicky to live on a hippie farm. Beth ends up sleeping with Meg’s husband. Their dad Colin ends up with Vicky after Ryan leaves Vicky with their daughter. … like I said one after another.
In the end Lorelei’s hoarding is so bad she dies of malnutrition and TB. The family find out how bad this is. They end up all coming back to the house they grew up in… had to lol…. and reconciling. Beth is pregnant so they all come to support the new life coming into their family after losing another life. Family is stronger than any issue or scandal that arise. After they clean out out the house Beth stays there instead of selling it with Ryan. It felt like a brand new house with the wonderful old memories of their childhood.
I can’t help but think the letters to Jim play a role in letting the reader understand why Lorelei is the way she is. The reader learns that Lorelei’s mother was raped and had a stillborn child. Their family did not talk about any of the issues, just buried them deep down. This is how Lorelei learnt to deal with stress and confront issues so she made herself feel better by buying and keeping items. This new information made me as the reader a bit more sensitive to Lorelei as a character. I actually felt bad for they way she died, all alone battling her demons. Before I thought she was mentally ill and refused to get help which made her family suffer. Lorelei dealt with Rhys’s death the only way she knew how and I cannot feel like she abandoned her family.
All in all I really enjoyed this family tale of hardship and coming together. What did you all think? Did this book make you want to go clean up your house or watch the TV show hoarders? Have you read anything else by her? Please leave comments below.