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This book could have been dismissed as a huge joke if it wasn’t so well written. I was hooked almost from the start and by the time I was about a third of the way in, I found it hard to put down.
I loved the story of this impossibly dysfunctional family, and the characters were surprisingly so believable even after one over-the-top-preposterous-plot-twist after another!
I can’t possibly describe this story in any way that does not make it sound crazy and ridiculous so I won’t – just trust me; it was great!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Oh how I loved this story! I purchased the book as a Kindle/Audible Audio version but to be completely honest I didn't read a page. The narrator (Karina Fernandez) was so spectacular that I wanted nothing more than to listen to her weave the story with each character's individual personality and voice and had trouble pulling myself away when I had to get anything else done. That isn't to say the story itself isn't as wonderful as the narration. This was a perfect combination of an excellent story and the right narrator able to pull off the complicated emotions and circumstances it presented.
The story weaves back and forth in time, from Meg, the oldest Bird child, her daughter and, eventually, her father, sister and brother Rory, cleaning out their mother Lorelei's home back to various Easter weekends over the course of their lives. When we first meet Meg in 2011 we discover that Lorelei was a hoarder (think of the worst possible episode of Hoarders and you'll have a good idea of how badly she lived). As we go back in time we see her sickness evolve from a sort of whimsical, free spirited quirkiness into a brutal, sometimes aggressive need to keep everything until there is literally walls of junk and only one chair she can sit in. She pushes everyone away and refuses to bend or compromise with anyone. This sickness, along with the tragic incident that happened one Easter, pushes each member of the Bird family in opposite directions and effects how each of them develops as a person. We get to see each character battle with their guilt and lack of control and the author really does an astonishing job of presenting the heartache and damage done to them (and that they do to each other) by the circumstances of their lives. We get to see first hand the vicious cycle of mental and, in some cases, physical damage that can cause generations to pass on this sort of problem even as they swear they will be different.
The story also incorporates the email correspondence between Lorelei and an online romantic interest and it is within this correspondence that we get to peek inside Lorelei's scarred heart and mind and see how her life imploded from her own point of view. We learn what really happened that one horrible Easter and her attempts to try and fight her mental illness as much as she can. These parts really broke my heart! The narrator does such a great job of inflecting a false happiness into Lorelei's words as the listener can hear the pain and sadness crack through. Even though Lorelei had hurt those she said she loved most, quite badly at times, I couldn't help wanting to give this fictional character a hug and try to help her. Even being done with the story I still can't get her out of my head!
While I know this sounds just horribly sad it isn't all bad. We do get a sense that things could be different in the future for some of the Birds, if they are willing to get help and help each other heal and move on. Regardless of where these characters might have gone after the story technically ended, the time spent with each of them was quite the journey. I'm always amazed when an author can make me truly feel for their fictional characters and Lisa Jewell definitely did that. I am so excited to see what else she has to offer!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This is a tapestry of a family who love each other but cant deal with their feelings when tragedy strikes. Each member of the family loses their way, distancing themselves from those who want to help them.
The whole story centres around the mother, Lorelei who starts off bohemian and then descends into eccentricity. Each of her children deal with this in their own ways but never very well, even her husband is lost to her.
The story moves fast, is well read and although it covers sad and poignant moments it is actually quite humourous in parts. The characters are distinct and sympathetic.
An enjoyable listen.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Where does The House We Grew Up In rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
A beautifully written story that is very high in the list of audio books I have listened to. In one respect it is about the ups and downs of family life. However, it has a darker side linked to the impact of a family tragedy on all members of the family. It is an example of a book that helps the reader to understand many aspects of life. Each member of the Bird family lives with the feeling that they are responsible for the death of a family member and this impacts on their behaviour and personal happiness. I found the story gave me an insight into why people hoard everything they have reason to value - this was very enlightening. The somewhat Bohemian mother, Lorelie, allows possessions to take over her life. Her friends and family find this so hard to cope with that she eventually dies alone. We learn about her through her internet letters to Jim who she has never met. The relationship they establish is very moving and is like a meeting of two kindred spirits.
What does Karina Fernandez bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
The book is exceptionally well read and as such brings the characters to life. This is very helpful in unpicking the feelings and emotions of Lorelie in her letters to Jim.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
A very emotional book, full of situations and feelings with which one can easily empathise.
The events are very believable and it is impossible to listen to the narration without being moved. As such there are amusing events and descriptions as well as the tragic and the ugly.
Any additional comments?
This book has made a very strong impact on me. I enjoyed it as a piece of literature but also as a social statement.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I really enjoyed it, it was a bit different. The narrator was excellent, really enjoyed it.
What other book might you compare The House We Grew Up In to, and why?
None that I can think of
Have you listened to any of Karina Fernandez’s other performances? How does this one compare?
No haven't listened to anyone
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
my first audio booked and I loved it. couldn't 'put it down'.
awesome way to cook dinner.