The House We Grew Up In

23782098_10156145202343392_593225045_nThe House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. 

Meet the Bird family. The Bird children had a picturesque childhood that “was all golden shiny times when nothing could go wrong.” They were a very close family who ate dinner together every night, played in the garden all day, and had huge egg hunts every Easter. Their charming mother left sparkles and sunshine wherever she went and made sure they had the best childhood ever.  Then one Easter, tragedy strikes, tearing the family apart, and nothing is ever the same.

Lorelei is the mother of the family. She is a very eccentric woman who began collecting things in order to deal with her unhappy childhood. Her collecting becomes more and more of a problem until social workers tell her that her hoarding is so bad that her life is at risk.

Meg is the oldest child. Since a young age she has suspected her mother is ill and has constantly criticized her hoarding. She despises her mother’s hoarding and is very outspoken about it. She is the only family member that stands up to her mother.

Bethan is two years younger than Meg. She is happy to live in Meg’s shadow. She is shy, quiet, and easy to get along with. She doesn’t really know herself and she struggles with this through adulthood.

Rhys and Rory are twins and couldn’t be more different. Rory is cool and popular, while Rhys is strange and nerdy. Rhys is the odd child of the family. Everyone else is bright and fun, but Rhys is a little weird and likes to be alone.

After the tragedy that occurs, that I really wish I could tell you about, but I don’t want to ruin the book for you, the family drifts further and further apart, blaming each other for the tragedy until they are pretty much estranged. At their mother’s death they are all brought back together again to deal with their troubled past.

“When someone doesn’t want to help themselves, there’s only so much you can do.”

“No family is indestructible, but were pretty resilient.”

“Maybe if there’d been an explanation we could have all moved on, found closure. We blamed each other because we didn’t know who else to blame. And then we just carried on blaming each other for everything.”

A very good read about a dysfunctional family. My favorite thing to read about!

 

 

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without merit

23602342_10156121967253392_1115006092_nWithout Merit is the second book by Colleen Hoover that I have read. She might be working her way onto my favorite author list. Merit Voss is the main character in this book. Her family lives in a remodeled church and they are the epitome of a dysfunctional family. Merit is an angry, quiet teenager who doesn’t like herself very much and likes her family even less. She feels invisible and left out, like she doesn’t matter to anyone. She feels that “without merit” her family would go on as usual and not notice her absence.

Honor is Merit’s identical twin, but on the inside there appears to be nothing identical about these two. They have drifted apart over the years and spent a lot of time arguing with one another. Merit feels that Honor is the beautiful, fun and better liked sister. Honor has her own issues and spends her time falling in love with terminally ill boys.

Merit’s father, Barnaby, turned all their lives upside down when he cheated on their mother. He is married to their mother’s former nurse. Both her mother and stepmother are named Victoria. Her mother lives in the basement and suffers from many mental issues, including agoraphobia, which keeps her locked in the basement with no contact with the outside world. Merit has began to resent her for being absent from her life.

Merit has two other siblings, her brother Utah who she has had a very strained relationship with for the past five years and her four year old stepbrother, Moby (named after Moby Dick) who everyone adores.

As if this family isn’t dysfunctional enough, Victoria’s eccentric and strange brother, Luck, shows up and begins living with the family. Around the same time, Honor’s boyfriend Sagan moves in the other spare room in the house. Merit has very strong romantic feelings for Sagan and is constantly at war with herself trying to bury her feelings.

This family has a lot of baggage, unresolved issues and anger toward one another. When Merit does something very drastic, they finally begin to work through their problems. Merit: “I have so much anger building inside of me, and it has nothing to do with me. It’s anger at almost every single person in this house.” Merit begins to realize that maybe she has been blind and judgmental and wrong about her family all this time.

“I think we all just got to a point where we were waiting for someone else to initiate it, but no one ever did. Maybe that’s the root of a lot of family issues. It isn’t actually the issues people are hung up about for so long. It’s that no has the courage to take the first step in talking about the issues.” “If I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that I don’t know people as well as I think I do.”

“Your whole family suffers from all kinds of things. You shouldn’t feel so special. We’re all a degree of fucked-up.”

““So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white that picket fence is.”

I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. Colleen Hoover is my new guilty pleasure and I will be reading her other books as soon as I can.

little fires everywhere

23476217_10156111023913392_1951815718_nMia Warren and her daughter Pearl, move into the Richardson family’s rental house in Shaker Heights , Cleveland. Mia is an artist who does not liked to be tied down, who frequently moves around from one place to another and takes random part time jobs to earn just enough for her and Pearl to get by.  The Richardson family is upper middle class, well known in the community and have lived in Shaker Heights their whole lives.  As far as Mrs. Richardson could imagine, living in Shaker Heights is the perfect life in the perfect place.  She always lived an orderly and regimented life. She was brought up to follow the rules and always strove for perfection.  Mia, to her, was a different kind of woman, leading a completely different life.  Mia seemed to make her own rules, with no apology.

Pearl and Mia soon develop friendships with the children of the Richardson family and become entangled in their lives. Pearl has never really had friends before because they have moved so much. Pearl becomes quick best friends with Moody. They are both two lonely, naive teenagers with sensitive personalities and bookish wisdom.  Pearl is timid, quiet and unsure of herself.  Moody is a sweet guy, a romantic at heart.  Moody finds that Pearl is another poetic soul like him and he quickly becomes fascinated with her and her mother.

Pearl begins spending all her time at the Richardson’s home and is dazzled by their domestic perfection and confidence.  There is Lexie, with her golden smile, easy laugh and warmness.  There is Tripp, with his handsome looks and charm.  And then there is Izzy, who cares what no one thinks and often does crazy things. Izzy and her mother have a troubled relationship.  Her mother is always harder on Izzy, always criticizing her behavior, always less patient with her mistakes and shortcomings, always demanding more from her than her siblings.  Izzy soon recognizes a kindred spirit in Mia. She hangs on to her every word, and seeks and trusts her opinion on everything.  She becomes Mia’s assistant and starts pretending that Mia is her mother. Mia sees Izzy as a younger version of herself.

There is a side story to the dynamic relationships between these two families. A custody battle between Mia’s friend and Mrs. Richardson’s friend causes a lot of conflict between the two women who already don’t really like each other.  Mrs. Richardson is a reporter and she begins digging into Mia’s past and we learn all about her buried secrets.  “It was so easy, she thought with some disdain, to find out about people.  It was all out there, everything about them.  You just had to look.  You could figure out anything about a person if you just tried hard enough.”

The book explores what makes someone a mother, is it biology or is it love? The ferocious pull of motherhood and its complexities is a huge issue throughout this novel.

At the end of the book, the Richardson home has been burned to the ground and the fireman says there were actually “little fires everywhere,” just like there were little fires everywhere within these characters. Some fires were put out, some exploded and some burnt to the ground. “Like after a prairie fire…It seems like the end of the world. The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning, the soil is richer, and new things can grow….People are like that, too, you know. They start over. They find a way.” Lovely book y’all. Just lovely.