Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seven Days of Us, by Francesca Hornak

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451488756, October 2017

The Birch family is going to spend Christmas all together for the first time in several years. Older daughter Olivia, a doctor, is coming home from Liberia after working on relief for the Haag epidemic. Haag sounds a great deal like Ebola, except that being fictional, it has an incubation period of just seven days, making it more convenient for a a contained family drama.

The Birch family will have to share Olivia's quarantine, starting December 23, and ending December 30. Emma, mother of Olivia and her younger sister, Phoebe, is thrilled that they will all be together. Quite determinedly thrilled.

Emma gave up her intended catering career when the second baby, Phoebe, was born. With two children, she pushed husband Andrew to give up his war correspondent career. He's now a restaurant critic. He's always doted on Phoebe, who is bright, cheerful, goes with him to restaurants he's reviewing, and pursuing a tv career. Phoebe and Emma are close in other ways, but perhaps not as close as Phoebe and Andrew.

Olivia seems distant to all of them. This is the first time in years she's come home for Christmas.

Andrew and Emma each conceal the fact of their resentment of the loss of their preferred careers--directed at each other, not at the girls.

They're all going to spend seven days locked up in Weyfield, Emma's inherited family home in Norfolk, rather than the family flat in London. Emma is the only one who really likes the big, drafty, unmodernized house.

Phoebe has just gotten engaged to George, her boyfriend since university. That she has told everyone makes her a bit unusual in this family. Emma has found a lump under her arm, and has just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She hs told her friend Nicola, but not her family. Olivia has been secretly having a romance with a fellow doctor while in Liberia. That it has progressed beyond mere words is against the Haag containment rules, and neither she nor Sean has told anyone.

What Andrew hasn't told anyone is that eighteen months ago, he got a letter from Leila Deeba, a woman he had a one-night-stand with in Lebanon in 1980. In the letter she has told him that she had a son from that one-night-stand, and had him adopted. He's never contacted her, but she's dying now, and if her son ever tracks her down, or Andrew, she wants Andrew to know, and be prepared.

And just a few weeks ago, he got an email from that son, Jesse, who has grown up in America. He didn't find his birth mother until after she died, but he's found Andrew now, and wants to meet him.

Sean collapses at Heathrow Airport, just after he's parted from Olivia.

George crashes the quarantine the day after Christmas.

Jesse crashes it a day later, having gotten no response from Andrew.

I had my doubts at first, but this turns into a fascinating look at a complicated family, whose members are each interesting in their own ways, and who make an interesting whole.

Well worth some of your reading time.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.