Monday, August 30, 2021

Book Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Title: The Family Upstairs
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Atria Books 
Pages: 340
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Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

The can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

After Libby Jones turned twenty-five years old, she went home from work to discover a letter waiting for her. This wasn’t just any letter; it was the letter that would tell her where she came from. As an adoptee, this letter was gold to her. The contents of the letter not only gave her the names of her birth parents, but it also informed her that she was the sole inheritor of the mansion her birth family used to live in. However, Libby wasn’t the only one waiting for her to turn twenty-five. 

Throughout this book, we are given the story of the past and the present through the points of view of Libby, Lucy, and Henry. Both Lucy and Henry grew up in the mansion at 16 Cheyne Walk, where Libby was found in her crib as an infant while three dead bodies lay downstairs. Libby and Lucy’s stories are both told in the present tense and Henry point of view tells us the story of the past.

Libby can’t open the door to her future until she closes the door to her past, so while Henry is telling us the past, Libby is in the present investigating what really happened at 16 Cheyne Walk. Why was she left in her crib happily cooing? What happened with and to the three dead people found on the floor? What happened to the children who reportedly lived in the house? Why didn’t any of the other children claim the house when they turned twenty-five?

This book was a 4-star read for me. The story was amazing and the build up to the ending of the story was a page-turner. However, there were just too many times that I was so confused I had to ask myself, “what the heck did I just read?” This confusion mostly happened when I read Lucy or Henry’s chapters. Also, the book is called “The Family Upstairs,” but there is no family upstairs. I was picturing a Flowers in the Attic type book sans the horripilation my arms suffered from the incest shudders. I was picturing a family being trapped in the attic or something, but no. Instead, there are people who slowly move into the mansion and take over it; they were an invasive species.

Also, the book was filled with family dysfunction and none of the issues it caused in Lucy and Henry was resolved by the end of the book. That was kind of a let down because they had no growth which I always look for at the end of a book, especially one like this.