“There’s something worrying about him; not quite scruffy enough to be a drifter, not quite strange enough to be a mental health patient from the day care center in town. He looks too healthy to be a junkie and he hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol. He just looks… Alice searches her mind for the right word and then it comes to her. He looks lost. “
So begins the mystery of the man sitting on the beach outside of single mom Alice’s house. Against the better judgement of someone with children should have, she lets the amnesiac man into her home. Pausing here, I have had about all I could take lately of stories where characters forget their memories, be it to trauma, disease, all an act or what have you but Lisa Jewell’s novel The House We Grew Up In took my breath away with it’s terrible family heartbreak. Admittedly, this novel doesn’t let you down on the drama and… well, trauma. As one young woman, and new bride is distraught when her husband doesn’t return home, she goes off to search for him but who is he and how does he connect to the man on the beach and Alice? A Ukrainian married to Carl, it isn’t easy to get help with the language and cultural barrier. How far she is today from that blushing bride, a woman who has just discovered that her husband doesn’t even exist. How can someone cease to exist? Why has he left her? Who is he? It’s a waking nightmare, new to the country, new to marriage and adrift in a sea of confusion. In and out of the chapters we reach into the past where teenagers Gray and Kirsty (siblings) are on a summer vacation at the seaside with their parents, and as the first blush of love blooms on sweet, innocent Kirsty’s cheeks, her brother isn’t so trusting of this unexpected turn their boring holiday takes. The older guy honing in on Kirsty may be well to do, but something doesn’t sit right with Gray and it’s not just because he is the big protective older brother, truly it’s not… it’s not jealousy or anything of the such! And why are his parents happy about his sister dating an older guy? Is money so spectacular that rules fly away with the seabirds?
Romaine, Kai, Jasmine and mother Alice with their dogs welcome the stranger into their home, even naming him much like a stray dog. Romaine is good at naming things, according to Alice and christens the man-Frank. Into the warm home of the quirky family living at Ridinghouse Bay, Frank may be taking his first steps to regain his memory. Or maybe he won’t. I’m not telling you. Suffice to say there is something about the stranger, aka Frank that Alice knows he can be trusted.
There is frustration, and surprise at how trusting parents can be based on appearances. Appearances get so many of us in trouble, don’t they? Even those of us who pride ourselves on our cleverness, on seeing right through people. Kirsty is the girl all women can relate to, and if you’re a mother, doubly so. We’ve been Kirsty at some point, how we get so stupefied with love and crushes, the excitement and fleeing sense that comes with knowing a guy you fancy is interested in little old you. Easy to remember how a girl’s body starts asking for things they don’t yet understand nor know how to manage anymore than boys do. And mothers, mothers can relate to the reckless, headfirst plunges a girl takes as her heart is singing a boy’s name before she is even sure of him. What about the older guys that swag on in and dazzle a young girl’s heart? Who can say which way the w
How is an abandoned bride, an amnesiac man, and single mother, her children, her dogs and a brother and sister from the past tangled by the seaside in each other’s lives? How indeed? I didn’t expect the ending in quite the way it developed. Lisa Jewell, just how do the cogs in the wheels of your mind turn? Sometimes I think… fiction is bizarre and then I remember, life is too! Yes read it, and check out her other novels too! But you have to wait until April 2017.
Public Release Date: April 25, 2017