Friday, July 26, 2013

The History of Us

Title:  The History of Us
Author:  Leah Steward
Publication Information:  Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2013. 367 pages.

Book Source:  I picked up this book while browsing the new fiction section at my local library.

Favorite Quote:  "The house was a map of her memories...In truth she could barely remember what had happened in what room...She didn't know. There was no one she could ask such a question. She had only the house to help her remember. If she lost it she'd be exiled from her history."

The History of Us is the book about "the life you make in the path not taken." The book begins as Eloise Hempel is a young professor at Harvard - at the start of what promises to be a successful career. She has left her hometown of Cincinnati and carved out a life for herself in Boston.

Devastating news of her sister's death brings her right back to Cincinnati. Her sister and her husband perish in an accident, leaving behind three young children. Eloise's mother is incapable of dealing with the tragedy and leaves Eloise in charge of the children and her house. Eloise makes the very difficult decision walk away from her life in Boston and raise the three children - Theodora, Josh, and Claire.

Fast forward, 20 years. The children are grown. Eloise still lives in her mother's house and looks forward to reclaiming her life as the Theo, Josh, and Claire venture forward to determine their own lives. She hopes to sell the house and create a nest egg on which to restart her life. Unfortunately, her mother still owns the house, and because the children disagree on selling it, creates a competition to see who gets the house.

Theo, the oldest of the children, has built her life around the security of Cincinnati and the house. Josh, a musician, has left a promising music career and moved back home. Claire, the youngest, seems to be on her way to successful ballet career in New York City.

However, all is not as it seems. Old losses, expectations, forgotten dreams, resentments, destructive relationships, secrets, regrets, and ultimately, family love all play a part in how this story goes. Some parts of the story do get a little long and start to drag. However, overall a good read.

What I really like about this book was its ring of reality. I don't always agree with the choices the characters make, but I understand the motivations and the emotions. The emotions and decisions are mixed up, as is true in real life. Life is not a neat package. As Eloise thinks, "She could have made different choices, but all that mattered were the ones she'd made."

The ending too is not a neat package, which appeals to me. It goes along with the rest of the book that choices will be made, and different futures are possible based on those choices.

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