Thursday, January 1, 2015

House Broken, by Sonja Yoerg

NAL Trade, ISBN 9780451472137, January 2015

Geneva Novak is happy in her career as a veterinarian, and reasonably happy in her marriage, too. There are some stresses, as in any life: her kids are teenagers now, and she and husband Tom have different and sometimes conflicting views on discipline and rules. But that's life, and they work at it.

Then her brother Dublin calls to say their mother, Helen, has crashed her car while driving drunk and is in the hospital in Los Angeles. With a busted knee and a busted shoulder, even after she can be released from the hospital, it's going to be weeks before Helen is able to return to her own apartment. Dublin's house is too small, and Helen doesn't cope well with his autistic son. Their sister Florence lives in New York, and their sister Paris is somewhere in Africa--and has been for almost thirty years.

So the only real option is Geneva and Tom's house near San Francisco. Geneva will be forced to confront her issues with her mother.

I had my reservations about this book when I started it, and Yoerg quite successfully swept them away. We see the unfolding of this family drama through the eyes of three generations of women--Geneva, her mother Helen, and her daughter Ella. As Geneva struggles with her conflicted feelings about her mother and her fears that she may become estranged from Ella as Helen did from oldest daughter Paris, she recalls her childhood and some of the more confusing events of those years. Helen is drinking to forget, and for a while Geneva succeeds in cutting off her supply of vodka. She, too, finds herself recalling events she'd prefer to forget--including events and details that Geneva was never aware of.

As for Ella, she's struggling with both her own conflicts in school and with her mother, and her knowledge of exactly what trouble younger brother Charlie is involved in--which she would like to stop, but which she is reluctant to reveal to their parents.

Yoerg very convincingly builds this slowly to an explosion of dangerous family secrets.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the Penguin First to Read program.