Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives devastating news. Her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident, and Eloise must return home to Cincinnati to take her sister's three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire, out of the hands of her own incapable mother. Nearly two decades later, Eloise is still in that house, still thinking about what she left behind.
With Claire leaving for New York City for a promising ballet career, Eloise has plans to finally embark on a life that's hers alone. But when her mother makes a competition out of who inherits the house, and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, their makeshift family begins to fall apart.
©2013 Leah Stewart (P)2013 Dreamscape Media, LLC
"A genuine and heartwarming story about the complicated thing we call family, and what it means to be home. I laughed. I cried. And I was very sorry to turn the last page." (Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters)
"Leah Stewart possesses magic. It is awe-inspiring to see how clearly and sensitively she presents the numerous ways her characters are broken and then finds a way to offer some hope of healing. With the family at the heart of The History of Us, Stewart shows that she is unafraid of difficult characters and that she is equally unafraid of making sure they matter to us." (Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang)
"Leah Stewart plunges deep into questions of home and heart. The History of Us is a lovely novel. Just lovely." (Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle)
When I read the summary of the book, I thought this would be a book about Eloise & the changes required of her life when she suddenly inherits her sister's children. I thought I had somehow skipped part of the book when all of a sudden, the children were in the 20's and the book was all about them, not about Eloise at all. The narrator is OK, not great, and the story is OK to listen to, but definitely not what I was expecting or what I wanted the story to be about.
With the precipitous first scene where Eloise is thrust out of her prestigious job and new comfort zone, into the demands and requirements of instant parenthood for three young children, I expected the novel to stay consistently with Eloise, and offer the children's story lines through her eyes.
Didn't happen. The story is really about the kids-now-20-somethings, and has very little to do with Eloise and her dilemma of being aunt/parent. The kids' seem to be variations of one character and their struggles are so similar I had trouble keeping them distinct. Plus, the story focused more on romantic entanglements than life decisions in context. I liked Josh's (middle child) conflicts with leaving his band and for that reason he stands out, but in spite of all their talents and bright futures, the adventures of kids this age are not really fertile ground for an engaging story arc. They may be very gifted in so many ways, but their stories are really in the future, and so little is known about life that the only issues seem to be how to connect with the opposite sex and how to maintain the connection or break up.
I would have preferred the novel to be more of an exploration of Eloise's issues: becoming an instant parent, her job ventures, her outside-the-box life (at least in the particular city where she lives) with a female life partner. Indeed, what goes on in these later life snapshots has nothing to do with the sudden change of role for Eloise, and the sudden change of mother for the kids - the initial, original accident becomes almost irrelevant and the stories just seem to be about being 20-something.
I would have liked to see it done differently - focusing more on Eloise, as I have said, and zeroing in on the early fragmented family with younger children. Even Eloise's mother, the somewhat distant grandmother, could have had a stronger role.
Anyway, there's good narration and basically good listening, but it all left me only partially engaged, always waiting for segments about Eloise.
This book took a long time to get to the story. I never fell in love or hate of any of the characters. The store is about the relationship between family members with each other and there house. I had a hard time buying the whole scenario.
I decided to use my time being laid up to get smarter! In 18 months I've listened to over 200 books, mostly history, literature & biography.
Occasionally, I throw in some fiction in my long line of history/biographies. I'm never disappointed. Characters are fully developed in this story of a woman who reached her goal of Harvard professor only to give it up to raise her sister's orphaned children. After they're grown, they are all still bound together by the old Cleveland manse that everyone grew up in, but can't let go of.
Tell us about yourself!
This book, in my opinion, is missing the part that would make up the history of the characters. It went from the beginning (when she got the kids) to the end (when they were full grown). I felt it was missing something without everything in the middle- there was NOTHING about her sacrifices and her raising the children.
I thought it would be a funny heartwarming story but it wasn't.
I found it very hard to connect with any of the characters (or even care about them). They all seemed to whine about their lives and none of them could appreciate what they had.
I would not recommend this book...
Fewer times the characters say I'm sorry
The book is a moderately interesting story with interesting characters. However, about 1/2 way through I started counting the number of times the characters say they are sorry for something. It is a good read if you want some basic distraction that does not require too much thought.
I did enjoy the book, and it was time well spent.
I was frustrated with the characters. And I don't think it ever really resolved why none of these adult "children" can grow up and support themselves. They were so "Entitled" and no one ever really faced or confronted them with that. I just wanted them to grow up.
Yes, the narrator did a good job.
Maybe. But I don't think I'd want to watch it - not enough happens.
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