Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Book club book #11

I don't often read mysteries or suspenseful novels. I either figure them out too early or get so involved I struggle putting them down. This book leaned more toward the latter, which is a good thing. This is a complex story that prays on perception. You're never really sure who all the villains are and who is just a product of some very crazy circumstances. The one thing you do know is this shit is nuts.

In the present, there is no family upstairs. There's just a 25-year-old, adopted girl who's inheriting an empty house her biological parents willed to her. She knows her parents died when she was a baby and that they had other children who haven't been seen in over 25 years. The house is worth a lot of money, but the mystery is more pressing than the sudden ability to boost her bank account. Teaming up with a journalist, Libby tries to crack the mystery of her family. What feels straightforward isn't, of course, as the missing children begin to reemerge. 

As Libby learns the layers of truth, we catch glimpses into the past. We hear from Henry Jr. as he shares flashes of what life was like when the Thomsen family moved in upstairs, took over his house, and changed everything. We also catch up with Lucy, his sister, who's living in France in poverty. Without giving anything away, the things that happened in this house are scary and cruel. It's a battle of the strong vs the weak, which ends in the deaths of three adults laid out just so on the kitchen floor.

The idea of family in this novel is so interesting and complex. This house holds two biological families, yet they muddy together in a way that blurs devotion to blood. When situations turn to the extreme, is it who's on your side that becomes your family or who you're really related to that matters? There's no clear answer. Power and loyalty are very big themes, but so is desire.

This is a smart book and I would recommend it. The intensity builds just right so you're not left freaking out about the end right after the beginning. It's a good read that goes fast, but it's dark, so be prepared.

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