From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone…
OUR HOUSE. OUR FAMILY. OUR SECRETS.
Meet the picture-perfect Bird family: pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and towheaded twins Rory and Rhys, one an adventurous troublemaker, the other his slighter, more sensitive counterpart. Their father is a sweet, gangly man, but it’s their beautiful, free-spirited mother Lorelei who spins at the center. In those early years, Lorelei tries to freeze time by filling their simple brick house with precious mementos. Easter egg foils are her favorite. Craft supplies, too. She hangs all of the children’s art, to her husband’s chagrin.
Then one Easter weekend, a tragedy so devastating occurs that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass and the children have become adults, while Lorelei has become the county’s worst hoarder. She has alienated her husband and children and has been living as a recluse. But then something happens that beckons the Bird family back to the house they grew up in—to finally understand the events of that long-ago Easter weekend and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.
This reading group guide forThe House We Grew Up Inincludes discussion questions for your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Jim and Lorelei meet on the internet and form a close relationship. Do you think that the internet is a helpful social tool for people who find themselves isolated or do you think it can make them more vulnerable?
2. Lorelei and Vicky’s relationship comes as a shock to the family. How would you describe the dynamic between them? Do you think they are both in the relationship for the same reasons?
3. Rory travels to Spain and then to Thailand. Do you think he is traveling to try to escape his problems? Why do you think he finds it so hard to face up to what happened?
4. Beth travels to Australia and starts a new life. In what ways do you think this decision to move abroad is similar to Rory’s? What do you think triggers her subsequent breakdown?
5. Molly is quite open-minded and accepting of Colin and Kayleigh’s relationship. Do you think she demonstrates a more modern outlook of a younger generation? How would you feel about it? Do you think Colin or Kayleigh are at fault?
6. Beth and Bill’s affair puts at risk a lot of the relationships in the family. Why do you think Beth embarks on a relationship with Bill? Do you think the motivation for the relationship is the same for both Beth and Bill?
7. Beth describes her room in Sydney as “a stage set . . . where I lived when I was pretending to be a person.” What do you think she means by that? Do you think it was important for her to live independently away from her family before returning home?
8. Why do you think Colin and Lorelei’s marriage breaks down? How much do you think Rhys’s death plays a part? And Lorelei’s illness? Do you think the problems lie deeper than that?
9. All of the Bird family feel guilt to some extent about Rhys’s death. Do you think this guilt is the main factor behind the gradual breakup of the family? What other factors do you think are involved?
10. Colin and Rory discuss Lorelei and her tendency to live in denial. Why do you think she refuses to accept she is unhappy?
11. Lorelei’s hoarding problem becomes worse and worse over time. Why do you think some people begin hoarding? Do you think only a certain type of person is susceptible or could anyone become a hoarder?
12. Colin, Vicky, Meg and Beth all have different approaches when confronting Lorelei about her hoarding. When Colin and Vicky try to help Lorelei clear out some of her house she reacts very angrily. Why do you think she reacts so strongly? How do you think you would try and help Lorelei? What do you think would be the best way to deal with it?
13. The members of the Bird family are affected in different ways by Lorelei’s hoarding. What repercussions do you think hoarding can have on the person’s family and friends?
14. Lorelei collects old sweet wrappers and old wrapping paper. Why do you think hoarding often focuses on collecting items others would see as worthless?
15. Eventually Lorelei can no longer sleep in her bed or cook in her kitchen because of the severity of her hoarding. As a compulsive disorder, do you think it has anything in common with other addictions, such as alcoholism? Do you think it would affect family members in a similar way?
16. Did reading this book make you reconsider your relationship with your family? In what ways did the love relationships each family member had mirror their relationship with Rhys?
17. What scene in The House We Grew Up In had the biggest impact on you? Why?
To find out more about Compulsive Hoarding Disorder, read:
Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee
Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found You, The Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.
“Clever, intelligent, and believable on a subject few of us really understand. Lorrie is one of the most vivid—and complex—characters I've read in years. Wonderful.”
– Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You
“You'll be desperate to find out what messed this family up so badly.”
– Sophie Kinsella, author of Shopaholic to the Stars
“A dramatic look at siblings, parents, and hoarding.”
“...prose so beautiful that it glitters on the page. Lisa Jewell lays down piece after piece of mosaic, revealing the heart of the Bird family, filled in equal measure with love and loss. Unforgettable.”
– Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon’s Oak, Finding Casey, and Owen’s Daughter
“Lisa Jewell’s quixotic Bird family functions like an operatic ensemble—each voice distinct, each singing its heart out, seemingly oblivious to the others. Yet somehow by the end of this engrossing, beautifully crafted novel, their separate stories will draw them back together, reminding us that, however hard we struggle against them, family ties are not easily undone.”
– Judith Ryan Hendricks, author of Bread Alone
“This richly rendered family saga is populated with such compelling characters and told in such luscious, insightful prose, that a singular tragedy is made universally relatable. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it long after the book is over.”
– Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret
“A gorgeous, powerful, affecting tale of a family both ordinary and extraordinary. Lisa Jewell is a wonderful storyteller, and The House We Grew Up In grips you from the first page to the last. I'm afraid to say it made me neglect both my children and my husband. The Bird family might be dysfunctional, but I was strangely sorry to leave it.”
– Anna Maxted, author of Getting Over It and Running In Heels
“Jewell cleverly frames the destruction of the Bird family ….an absolute page-turner.”