Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell: The Bird family lives in a lovely home in the Cotswolds in England. The four Bird children live what appears to be a charmed childhood being doted on by their mother, Lorelei,  who is a free spirit and delights in celebrating traditions with her family and creating memories. As is often the case, however, all is not as perfect as it appears. Behind the beautifully choreographed Easter egg hunts in the garden and the lovely dinners, is an inability to face anything uncomfortable. Lorelei copes by collecting things and this collecting soon turns to hoarding which slowly smothers this family. With this dysfunction as its backdrop, the family faces a tragedy and the trajectory of each member's life is changed.

Free-spirited Lorelei embraces being a mother and creates a lovely home for her family. She wants them all around her and enjoy nothing more than being home. She fills the walls in their home with the children's art and collects every memento of the passing years for each child. As the children get a little older, however, they want to spread their wings to a live outside the home; in response, Lorelei clings all the harder to them and adds more things to her "collection" - of course, all this stuff becomes a wedge between her and the family and only drives them further away.

My Thoughts
Hoarding is an uncomfortable topic - it is hard to imagine how someone could let things get so out of control.  Of course, it is not unlike many other addictions and beneath the compulsion is a person who is hurting and trying to fill a void. With this in mind, I felt much sympathy for Lorelei and even found her progression  from collecting to hoarding fascinating.  Thankfully, however, this book was not only about Lorelei and her hoarding.

The real story of the book is the ripple effect of dysfunction through this family. Chapter by chapter, the author reveals a little more about each of the children through the years into adulthood and about each of the parents. Between the impact of growing up in this home that slowly closed in on them and the horrible tragedy they all face one Easter, each family member had their fair share of issues to deal with and you see the effects of all that play out in their adult lives.

This book is compelling and I found myself hungrily reading to see what happens with each character.  Although not everyone has grown up with a hoarder, most face their own versions of family dysfunction in whatever degree. The family drama makes this book relatable while the degree and eccentricity this family faces makes it fascinating.  Highly recommend.


  1. Given the topic I wasn't sure this was a book for me but I ended up liking it and found it difficult to stop reading. I'd definitely read more from Jewell.

  2. I loved this one - and by coincidence posted about it today as well! Cheers from Carole's chatter

  3. I've been drawn to this book because of the cover so I'm glad to see it's compelling.

  4. Hoarding seems to turn into an illness, does it not? I feel for these types! Sounds compelling

  5. Like you, I really enjoyed this book. The hoarding actually horrified me given my own issues with OCD and having to force myself to keep things versus throwing it all away. The family dynamic though was fascinating!

  6. I have had this in my TBR stack forever. I really need to get to it. I haven't seen a negative review yet.