The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell, published August 12, 2014; Atria Books. Genre: contemporary novel, women's fiction.
The damp heat came as a shock after the chill of the air conditioning that had cooled the care for the last two hours. Meg slammed the door behind her, pushed up the sleeves of her cotton top, pulled down her sunglasses and stared at the house.
Important themes: extreme hoarding syndrome, personality disorder, dysfunctional family relationships, and infidelity.
Molly joined her on the pavement, and gawped from behind lime-green Ray-Bans. "Oh, my God."
Lorelei made sure her husband Bill and her children Megan, Beth, and the twin bosy Rory and Rhys had an idyllic childhood, She upheld rituals, one being the Easter ritual of Easter eggs hunts, lamb dinner, wine for the adults. Thing were perfect but as the children grew older, Lorelei began to show the cracks in the seams of their perfect life.
She became more and more of a pack rat, a hoarder who insisted on all the Easter egg shiny wrappers kept year after year, for instance, who shopped regularly for dozens of unwanted goods that were never used, and who later even began to fill the house with newspapers and books. Nothing was ever thrown away, not even when they became soiled or were falling apart.
The lives of the children and her husband were also affected. And the house held a secret under all the trash that was only uncovered at the end of the book, after Lorelei's death. A secret that had affected Lorelei's life and impacted the rest of her family.
I was fascinated by this story of the gradual decay of a house and a woman who succumbed to her psychological hoarding disorder, who hid her secrets and only revealed them to an unknown email friend towards the end of her life. The characters learned acceptance of their own feelings and lives and were able to live with each other's secrets and lives in the end.
I thought that the novel could have been a bit shorter as I was impatient for the story to wind down and the situations be resolved somewhat sooner. I admit I flipped through some of the final pages to get to the end. Overall, an interesting read that handles difficult subjects extremely well.
Objective rating: 4.5/5.
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.