Book Club: The Family Upstairs

It’s book club day! It’s one of my favorite days of the month because reading is one of my favorite things in the world to do.  For January I chose a psychological thriller entitled The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewel.  I have kind of a mixed review for this book.  I liked it in some ways and in other ways I didn’t like it. I hope that I am able to clearly explain why.  I would certainly love to hear your thoughts if you read along with me. 

This story opens with Libby Jones on her 25th birthday.  She had just received a notification in the mail that stated that as the heir to the trust of Henry and Martina Lamb she was now the owner of their large mansion in London’s Chelsea neighborhood on Cheyne Walk.  The only thing Libby knew about the house was that her parents died there along with one other man in an apparent suicide pact. In Libby’s desire to find out what really happened in the house on Cheyne Way, she came to discover a tale that was so bizarre that it was barely believable.  What unfolds is the story of 4 children (Henry, Lucy, Clemency, and Phin) who through various circumstances ended up living in the house on Cheyne Walk with their parents and other adults in what had become almost a cult-like environment. Libby was born in that environment and left alone there as a baby following the suicides.  Her search for the truth led her to those four children, now grown adults, and a family that she didn’t know existed. 

My main issues with the book were at the beginning and at the end.  It was the middle of the book that I really liked and that kept me hooked.  Right off the bat, I had a hard time getting into the book.  This story is told from three different perspectives and it flashes back and forth between the present and the past, so it was confusing at first. It focused on 3 main characters and their stories.   Lucy and Libby’s stories were told in the third person and focused mainly on the events of the present, while Henry’s story was told in the first person and focused on the events of the past.  Lucy’s story was of her journey as an adult back to the house on Cheyne Walk that took so much from her as a child and led her down a troubled path.  Libby’s story was her journey to find the truth of what happened in that house all those years ago.  Henry’s story was a bizarre tale of the events that led up to that day when his parents died and “the baby” (Libby) was left all alone.  With Lucy and Libby’s names being so similar, I often found myself confused in the beginning by which one was which.  It forced me to go back and reread to figure it out several times. The similar names and the constant switch between past, present, and point of view made it hard to really get invested in the characters at first.  There were also a lot of other characters in the book some that had been living in the house back with tragedy struck and some that were connected to characters of the present. It was a lot to keep up with. Once I got into the story and could remember all of the characters, I was finally captivated.  I found myself constantly thinking and trying to figure out what was coming next and rarely was I right.  Up until the very end, I was hooked and totally taken by surprise with some of the twists and turns.  However, I feel like the ending left me wanting more. I feel like I say that about a lot of books, and maybe it is just me not ever wanting them to end. I don’t know. I just felt like this one sort of ended abruptly and that the ending wasn’t fully developed.  I just didn’t feel a sense of closure when I was done I mean I guess there was closure somewhat, but it was so abrupt to me that I felt like it needed more closure It is really hard to explain without giving away the ending, so I don’t know if that makes sense. Anyway, if I were to rate this book, I think I would give it a 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it but I didn’t at the same time. 

My pick for February is a newly released novel and New York Times Bestseller.  This month I am reading Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.   It is the fictional story of a young boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash and chronicles his life following the terrible tragedy. Here is what Apple Books has to say about this novel.

“Tragedy casts a long shadow on a boy’s life in Anne Napolitano’s emotionally powerful novel. Twelve-year old Edward Adler is moving across country to California with his family when their plane crashes, leaving him the only survivor. As he struggles to start a new life with his aunt and uncle, Edward wrestles with grief, guilt, unwanted notoriety, and the public’s expectations of how the “Miracle Boy” should live. Napolitano’s characters feel realistic and her insightful writing brings warmth, compassion, and wit to even the darkest moments of Edward’s life. Although it begins with unfathomable tragedy, Dear Edward is a hopeful tale about resilience and friendship.”

Will you come along and read with me?


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