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The History of Us by Leah Stewart
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The History of Us (edition 2013)

by Leah Stewart

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908134,128 (3.12)None
Member:JulieC0802
Title:The History of Us
Authors:Leah Stewart
Info:Touchstone (2013), Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Read in 2013

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The History of Us by Leah Stewart

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I received this book free as part of a Goodreads first-reads giveaway. That said, this was the first book I've read from this author and I only moderately liked it. It is about a somewhat self-centered woman who regrettably inherits her sister's three children (after she dies in a tragic accident), and is ill-equipped for the challenges that being a responsible guardian brings. I kept trying to really get into this book but I just couldn't, and consequently it will probably not be remembered for long. The story never really reached a crescendo to me. It was just about people struggling within their dysfunctional environment...trying to deal with relationship drama, as well as their own feelings about each other. I was never really pulled in and I didn't feel intensely about anyone in the story. The writing was good, and I found myself laughing out loud at times, but the story just didn't thrill me. Also, the author used too many "F" words unnecessarily, and that was becoming a bother to me as I don't feel that a truly great story needs a lot of profanity for it to be a success. It is for these reasons that I rate the book 3 stars. ( )
  Lauigl | Nov 29, 2013 |
Absolutely loved the development of this group of characters and their interactions---it seemed just as if I was there listening to each of them think and talk to each other. I grew to like all of them and their problems---really beautifully written and read in the audio version by Cassandra Campbell. ( )
  nyiper | Aug 11, 2013 |
Review first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-history-of-us.html

The History of Us is the book about "the life you make in the path not taken." The book begins as Eloise Hempel is a young professor at Harvard - at the start of what promises to be a successful career. She has left her hometown of Cincinnati and carved out a life for herself in Boston.

Devastating news of her sister's death brings her right back to Cincinnati. Her sister and her husband perish in an accident, leaving behind three young children. Eloise's mother is incapable of dealing with the tragedy and leaves Eloise in charge of the children and her house. Eloise makes the very difficult decision walk away from her life in Boston and raise the three children - Theodora, Josh, and Claire.

Fast forward, 20 years. The children are grown. Eloise still lives in her mother's house and looks forward to reclaiming her life as the Theo, Josh, and Claire venture forward to determine their own lives. She hopes to sell the house and create a nest egg on which to restart her life. Unfortunately, her mother still owns the house, and because the children disagree on selling it, creates a competition to see who gets the house.

Theo, the oldest of the children, has built her life around the security of Cincinnati and the house. Josh, a musician, has left a promising music career and moved back home. Claire, the youngest, seems to be on her way to successful ballet career in New York City.

However, all is not as it seems. Old losses, expectations, forgotten dreams, resentments, destructive relationships, secrets, regrets, and ultimately, family love all play a part in how this story goes. Some parts of the story do get a little long and start to drag. However, overall a good read.

What I really like about this book was its ring of reality. I don't always agree with the choices the characters make, but I understand the motivations and the emotions. The emotions and decisions are mixed up, as is true in real life. Life is not a neat package. As Eloise thinks, "She could have made different choices, but all that mattered were the ones she'd made."

The ending too is not a neat package, which appeals to me. It goes along with the rest of the book that choices will be made, and different futures are possible based on those choices. ( )
  njmom3 | Jul 26, 2013 |
hmmm...this novel had some interesting moments but it was a bit chick-lit-y and light for my tastes. most of the time, i wanted to tell these characters to smarten the f*ck up. they all seem stunted and not a lot of growth happened during the arc of the story. there were some great moments of humour and stewart nailed some great commentary on human nature, but overall it wasn't enough to make this a better read for me. i think this is one that falls into the 'missed potential' files. which is too bad. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 5, 2013 |
There’s that saying that you can’t pick your family. You know the one and have probably marveled at its truthfulness at one family event or another over the years. That’s sort of the point of The History of Us. It’s all about family, and all the great and annoying qualities you wouldn’t trade for the world mostly because those defining moments in life become great blog fodder. Yes, that.

Eloise Hemple is a newly minted college professor when she receives a call informing her that her sister and brother-in-law have died in an accident. She rushes home and somehow never leaves; staying to raise children that aren’t hers but children she can’t live without --- the only part of her sister she has left. Life veers into the unfamiliar and instead of writing well-received research papers on her topic of choice, she’s struggling to pay the heating bills, ballet lessons, and save for college for three children that were not part of the future she imaged, and so carefully planned, for herself.

I wanted to feel sorry for Eloise but I couldn’t because she wouldn’t let you. She knew from the moment she took that call that her life would never be what she thought, and hoped, it would be. Her three children (and they are her children), Theo, Josh, and Claire, are a different story though. Her niece Theo is a self-righteous, annoying person who thinks she’s been slighted her whole life. Yes, she lost parents but Eloise went out of her way to ensure she never lacked for anything giving up any hope of a life she might have had for Theo’s sake. When Eloise finally starts to want a life of her own after raising the three siblings, Theo balks and does everything she can to blame her for any bit of unhappiness she feels or has ever felt. Josh, well, he copes like he always does. Claire throws every plan on its head with a decision no one saw coming. All in all, life in most families.

There are the ones you feel sad for, the ones you get annoyed by, and the ones you just like no matter what. Stewart manages all the personalities well and doesn’t let you like or dislike anyone of these characters too much. It’s a heartwarming story and if you happen to like family drama, I’d give this one a try. You’ll be annoyed, you’ll possibly want to yell at a character or two, then you’ll finish the book, grab a glass of wine and head back in that room with your family knowing it will all work out somehow. Or at the very least, you’ll come out of it with a story to tell. ( )
  justabookreader | Jan 27, 2013 |
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Epigraph
The city is, indeed, justly styled the fair Queen of the West: distinguished for order, enterprise, public spirit, and liberality, she stands the wonder of an admiring world.  --B. Cooke, in the Inquisitor and Cincinnati Advertiser, May 4, 1819
"Why has he not done more?" said Dorothea, interested now in all who had slipped below their own intention.  --George Eliot, Middlemarch
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For Eliza and Simon
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Eloise Hempel was running late.
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She could have made different choices, but all that mattered were the ones she'd made.
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Two decades after the tragic accident that killed their father, Theodora, Josh, and Claire return to their childhood home to confront painful realities about their incapable mother and the devoted aunt who raised them.

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