Friday, January 18, 2013
The History of Us by Leah Stewart - Book Review
About the Book:
Sometimes home is the hardest place to go.
In the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me(which Claire Messud called “poignant, fierce, and compelling”), three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children. Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives a devastating phone call. Her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident, and Eloise must return home to Cincinnati to take their three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire, out of the hands of her own incapable mother. She moves back into her mother’s century-old house and, after her mother leaves, pours her own money into its upkeep. Nearly two decades later, Eloise is still in that house with now-grown Theo, Josh, and Claire, still thinking about the career and life she left behind, even as she pushes the kids to get a move on. With Claire leaving for New York City for a promising ballet career, Eloise has plans to finally sell the house and start a life that’s hers alone. But when her mother creates a competition for which of them gets the house and Claire turns out to have a life-changing secret, their makeshift family begins to fall apart. The History of Us is a heartrending story of loss, sibling relationships, and the life you make in the path not taken.
About the Author:
Leah Stewart is the author of the novels Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, and Body of a Girl. The recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship, she teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Cincinnati and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. Visit LeahStewart.com.
The book begins with Eloise Hempel reveling in her life as a successfully published, Harvard Professor. She can hardly believe that she has achieved this dream. Her life is shattered with one phone call from her niece - her sister and brother in law have died on vacation and Eloise's mother is, well a useless piece of blubber unable to care for her three grandchildren. When Eloise arrives her mother, Francine basically decamps saying she can't handle things and leaves Eloise with the children. The eldest, Theo is afraid of leaving her grandmother's house so Eloise gives up everything she worked for to rear the children in her mother's monstrosity of a house in Cincinnati.
The book then jumps in time to the children's adulthood. They have all received excellent educations and each one has a talent that Eloise has let fly. The children themselves though (if you ask me) are a bunch of entitled, whining, spoiled brats. Eloise is far from perfect but she never set out to be a mother and these kids are all about me, me, me. I had serious problems on a number of levels with this book the biggest one being there not being one likable character. It's hard to invest in a book when you really don't care about anyone in it. But the book did evoke strong emotions in that I wanted to scream at these kids because they didn't realize how good they had it; yes their parents died but they had someone who took rather good care of them and they weren't cold, starving or lacking for anything.
Books about this generation about drive me batty. Can you tell? I guess that perhaps I am just too old and I'll leave it at that.
The writing is good which is the only reason I finished the book. I don't know if the author was intentionally keeping her characters stupid or blind to what was going on around them or the reader was just supposed to ignore that a woman studying for her post graduate degree (Theo, the eldest) had no concept of what it cost to run a big house in the city or to educate three children. Or that any of the kids understood the money involved in their upbringing. Or that none of them could figure out the romantic status of their aunt. Seriously - are they THAT self involved? If this is truly how this generation is being raised I'm glad I'm old. OK - I suppose I should rant in a book review....
The characters ARE very well developed and there is a strong plot. This just was not a book for me.
You can purchase The History of Us from Amazon.com
Disclosure: I was sent a free copy of The History of Us by the publisher for my honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.