Whether we care to admit it or not the house you grew up in plays a large part in the person we become as an adult. Not just your family, but the actual home that housed your family. On the outside the Bird family looked normal. Meg is the oldest and the most "together" of the siblings, next is Beth. She is the free-spirit, a dreamer. The twins round out the family. Rhys and Rory. Their parents, Lorelei and Colin have an unremarkable marriage. They live a normal, if not cluttered existence. Until one Easter Sunday when one tragic act will change their world and their house forever. Everyone deals with the tragedy in their own way, and Lorelei deals with it by collecting stuff. Like egg carton shells and tea towels, she collects so much stuff that the family is drowning in it. Lorelei shocks her family with her excessive collecting, but she shocks them even more when she declares that she is in love with her next door neighbor and is now a lesbian. The splintered Bird family is now shattered. The remaining Bird children scatter across the globe leaving Lorelei to collect with her new partner. Will Lorelei ever be able to get out from under the weight of her memories or her stuff? Will her children ever forgive her for her collections and come home to see her? Will the Bird children ever be able to forgive themselves when they don't come back to see her?
The House We Grew Up In starts in present day and through a series of flashbacks the reader starts to put together the pieces of the Bird family puzzle. Through births and deaths and all kinds of relationships this book watches how the Bird family handles everything. The amount of loss that takes place in this book will take your breath away. With every piece of junk that Lorelei brings into the house they all lose something. Space, trust, dignity. Each of the Bird children have their strengths and their weaknesses, all that stem back to what happened that Easter day so long ago. Meg went to the extreme opposite of her mother, controlled and organized to a fault. Beth buries her feelings about everything the way Lorelei is burying the house and Rory is letting the guilt eat him from the inside out. Watching the siblings interact (or not depending on the case) is a fascinating study in sibling relationships and just how they ebb and flow through the decades . But no matter where the kids are, who they became is all because of the house they grew up in.
Bottom line, The House We Grew Up In takes a popular reality television show topic, hoarding, and humanize it in a way that will break your heart. Hoarding is not a solitary disease, it infects entire families. The House We Grew Up In is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.