Book review: The Making of Us

Having enjoyed a few of Lisa Jewell’s recent novels (The Family Upstairs, The House We Grew Up In, I Found You), I went back to some of her earlier work and chose The Making of Us (2012). It isn’t a thriller or mystery; rather, it’s an unsuspecting family drama.

The story centers around four people: Lydia is a wealthy, successful single woman who plagued by loneliness. Dean is suddenly a single dad who’s definitely not ready for the responsibility. Robyn is young and vibrant, on track to attend medical school and start a fabulous life, but… She too isn’t completely happy. The fourth person is the one who binds them all together.

Though the story wasn’t a full mystery (you find out soon enough who the fourth person is along with the secret he’s keeping), I enjoyed the steady unfolding of details as the three main characters grappled with their lives. I ended up rooting for them, hoping they’d weave together and make all the right choices. The title – The Making of Us – gives it away on some level. The “Us” is a work-in-progress, and it’s the reader who gets to watch it all pull together.

I will say that this story has more characters than what’s necessary. I wound up expecting more from a couple of them because they seemed more prominent than they actually were. In the end, I felt like a couple of storylines seemed pointless, like they could’ve been omitted and the story wouldn’t have been any better or worse.

The bottom line is that I enjoy Lisa Jewell’s writing style enough that I’m happy to play along and go where the story leads. The Making of Us doesn’t hold a candle to The Family Upstairs or The House We Grew Up In, but it was still a good read and left me with some brewing thoughts about what makes a family.

Book Review: The House We Grew Up In

I was already a fan of Lisa Jewell’s work, specifically of The Family Upstairs, and I devoured her latest book with the same fervor. 

The Birds live in a picturesque Cotswolds village. There are six of them: married couple Lorelei and Colin and their four children – Meg, Beth, and twins Rory and Rhys. Everything about the kids’ childhood feels perfect. Lorelei goes out of her way to make every day extra special, especially on holidays. She loves her family and lives in the moment at all times. 

Yet, it’s on an Easter weekend when tragedy hits the Birds, and everything upends. What unfolds is a family drama about how each person manages him or herself amid devastation. Coping skills aren’t cookie-cutter. Everyone hurts and loves in a different way. 

This isn’t a thriller in the traditional sense, but The House We Grew Up In has the pacing required for a steady pageturner. I listened to the audiobook version and finished it in a matter of days. Admittedly, some of the bigger plot points hit very close to home, so I was drawn to the story even more than I thought I’d be. 

Beautifully written, perfectly paced, with a satisfying end. Highly recommend. 

Book Review: The Family Upstairs

Libby Jones is a young London woman who knows she’s adopted. She’s fine with this, though she’s always been curious about her origins and biological family. When an inheritance for a large home in Chelsea falls in her lap upon her 25th birthday, the details of her birth family begin to unfurl. She has no idea what to do with the things she learns.

The story is told from three perspectives, the first and most obvious being Libby’s. The two other voices are a homeless street performer (with her two children) who plays the fiddle for coins on the Côte d’Azur, and a man who tells his story in the first person as if he’s writing a letter.

We knew these three people are connected, but we need to reach the length of the book to put all the pieces together.

And wow. What a story – suspense at every turn, an ever-growing list of nagging questions, and the sort of chapter endings that do not allow you to stop reading, or in my case, stop listening. I finished it in three days because I had to know who Libby really was and how this man and woman were connected to her.

The Family Upstairs is as much of a family saga as it is a mystery. There is death and intrigue, lost love and relational turmoil. The story is full of twists and turns, and even when the three main characters finally collide, there are still truths to unearth.

This was my first introduction to Lisa Jewell’s work, and I’m already into Then She Was Gone. I listened to The Family Upstairs on Audible, and I’m glad I did because I’ll surely listen to it again.

Book review: I Found You

I’m not sure if double or triple timelines is a trend that authors are choosing independently or if literary agents and editors are pushing for it. Either way, I keep choosing these books. I don’t mind necessarily, but it’s a format that I’ll soon need a break from.

I Found You takes place primarily in a seaside town in England called Ridinghouse Bay. Cynical single mom Alice wakes up one morning to find a man sitting on the beach outside her house. She approaches him only to find out he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing on the beach. Instead of leaving him there, she welcomes him back to her house for a shower, a hot meal, and eventually, a short-term place to stay until his memory returns.

A second part of the book takes place in London and focuses on Lily, a newlywed whose husband would normally go to work and come home like clockwork. When he doesn’t come home one day and cannot be reached on his cell phone, Lily calls the police and thus begins a missing person search. Matters aren’t helped when Lily realizes she knows little to nothing about the man she met and married in a whirlwind romance.

A third narrative takes place as well, but this time it’s in the past (1993) and follows Gray and Kirsty Ross, a brother and sister on summer vacation with their parents in Ridinghouse Bay. All was well and good until a charming young man, Mark, starts paying too much attention to Kirsty, and Gray doesn’t trust a single thing the local boy says.

I Found You is a true mystery in that the first overarching question readers have is if the man on the beach is Lily’s missing husband. The second question is how Gray and Mark from 1993 fit into the future narrative. The answers come at the beginning of the third act (last third of the book), and then the question becomes, “How will this all turn out?”

I wasn’t blown away by I Found You in the way I was with Sometimes I Lie, which remains one of my favorites, but it was still a good read and one that kept my interest until the end. It reminded me of a Liane Moriarity book, so if that’s your type of fiction, give it a go.