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In The History of Us, the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me, three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children. Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives devastating news. Her si In The History of Us, the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me, three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children. Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives devastating news. Her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident, and Eloise must return home to Cincinnati to take her sister’s three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire, out of the hands of her own incapable mother. She moves back into her mother’s ancient house and, after her mother leaves, pours her own money into its upkeep. Nearly two decades later, Eloise is still in that house, still thinking about what she left behind. With Claire leaving for New York City for a promising ballet career, Eloise has plans to finally embark on a life that’s hers alone. But when her mother makes a competition out of who inherits the house, and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, their makeshift family begins to fall apart. A “perceptive writer with a keen grasp of contemporary culture and domestic life” (Booklist), Leah Stewart creates a deeply moving story of love, loss, sibling relationships, and the paths not taken.


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In The History of Us, the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me, three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children. Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives devastating news. Her si In The History of Us, the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me, three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children. Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives devastating news. Her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident, and Eloise must return home to Cincinnati to take her sister’s three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire, out of the hands of her own incapable mother. She moves back into her mother’s ancient house and, after her mother leaves, pours her own money into its upkeep. Nearly two decades later, Eloise is still in that house, still thinking about what she left behind. With Claire leaving for New York City for a promising ballet career, Eloise has plans to finally embark on a life that’s hers alone. But when her mother makes a competition out of who inherits the house, and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, their makeshift family begins to fall apart. A “perceptive writer with a keen grasp of contemporary culture and domestic life” (Booklist), Leah Stewart creates a deeply moving story of love, loss, sibling relationships, and the paths not taken.

30 review for The History of Us

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    It's prob more of a 3.5 stars books- I'm torn between "I liked it" to "I really liked it". Hard read at times- sometimes the self-destructive ways of these characters could be annoying, but when ppl are dealing with what these characters are dealing with- perhaps pefectly acceptable. Life's a series of choices, except occassionally a "choice" happens that's not exactly a choice. Can you give up the life you've been working hard for to deal with 3 lives falling apart? Sacrafice. Struggle. When do It's prob more of a 3.5 stars books- I'm torn between "I liked it" to "I really liked it". Hard read at times- sometimes the self-destructive ways of these characters could be annoying, but when ppl are dealing with what these characters are dealing with- perhaps pefectly acceptable. Life's a series of choices, except occassionally a "choice" happens that's not exactly a choice. Can you give up the life you've been working hard for to deal with 3 lives falling apart? Sacrafice. Struggle. When do you stop being responsible for children? When they are adults? Maybe never? And can you ever go back to the life you gave up- not willingly, but because you had to? Or does the choice and life you took over become the one that you have to live? Great choice for book clubs- something for everyone to identify with & discuss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hufford

    It pains me to give this 2 stars... I loved Stewart's first book, THE MYTH OF YOU AND ME (if you haven't read this, please do so - it's wonderful!). And I was really looking forward to THE HISTORY OF US. I couldn't get into it. I didn't find the siblings terribly engaging as characters and their in-fighting was tiresome. It wasn't really clear where the angst came from. I also felt a lot of anger toward the three siblings who, though adults, were immature and bratty, especially when they turned It pains me to give this 2 stars... I loved Stewart's first book, THE MYTH OF YOU AND ME (if you haven't read this, please do so - it's wonderful!). And I was really looking forward to THE HISTORY OF US. I couldn't get into it. I didn't find the siblings terribly engaging as characters and their in-fighting was tiresome. It wasn't really clear where the angst came from. I also felt a lot of anger toward the three siblings who, though adults, were immature and bratty, especially when they turned on Aunt Eloise, who raised them after their parents were killed. In the end, the story never really went anywhere. The descriptions of Cincinnati were tiresome and the book read largely like a travel guide to the city. I expected more from this talented author.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Mulholland

    I had to stop reading this book. I loved the premise, but it was frankly boring. Knowing how busy we all are, I couldn't make time for 10-15 minutes of catch up on this family. I didn't care. I love a book that makes you want to read, curled up on the couch, to the point you forget to make dinner. This is not it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    The book begins with Eloise Hempel reveling in her life as a successfully published, Harvard Professor. She can hardly believe that she has achieved this dream. Her life is shattered with one phone call from her niece - her sister and brother in law have died on vacation and Eloise's mother is, well a useless piece of blubber unable to care for her three grandchildren. When Eloise arrives her mother, Francine basically decamps saying she can't handle things and leaves Eloise with the children. T The book begins with Eloise Hempel reveling in her life as a successfully published, Harvard Professor. She can hardly believe that she has achieved this dream. Her life is shattered with one phone call from her niece - her sister and brother in law have died on vacation and Eloise's mother is, well a useless piece of blubber unable to care for her three grandchildren. When Eloise arrives her mother, Francine basically decamps saying she can't handle things and leaves Eloise with the children. The eldest, Theo is afraid of leaving her grandmother's house so Eloise gives up everything she worked for to rear the children in her mother's monstrosity of a house in Cincinnati. The book then jumps in time to the children's adulthood. They have all received excellent educations and each one has a talent that Eloise has let fly. The children themselves though (if you ask me) are a bunch of entitled, whining, spoiled brats. Eloise is far from perfect but she never set out to be a mother and these kids are all about me, me, me. I had serious problems on a number of levels with this book the biggest one being there not being one likable character. It's hard to invest in a book when you really don't care about anyone in it. But the book did evoke strong emotions in that I wanted to scream at these kids because they didn't realize how good they had it; yes their parents died but they had someone who took rather good care of them and they weren't cold, starving or lacking for anything. *sigh* Books about this generation about drive me batty. Can you tell? I guess that perhaps I am just too old and I'll leave it at that. The writing is good which is the only reason I finished the book. I don't know if the author was intentionally keeping her characters stupid or blind to what was going on around them or the reader was just supposed to ignore that a woman studying for her post graduate degree (Theo, the eldest) had no concept of what it cost to run a big house in the city or to educate three children. Or that any of the kids understood the money involved in their upbringing. Or that none of them could figure out the romantic status of their aunt. Seriously - are they THAT self involved? If this is truly how this generation is being raised I'm glad I'm old. OK - I suppose I should rant in a book review.... The characters ARE very well developed and there is a strong plot. This just was not a book for me. Rating: 2.5

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Hines

    The History of Us is not a memorable book, yet, it still is entertaining and modern. Stewart has a way with words to draw the reader a very vivid picture. Eloise was living her dream until she received a life-changing phone call. So she goes back home - not only for the funerals - but to get her sister's three children. Her mother can't handle the pressure of raising three grandkids, so it falls to Eloise. Then the book jumps about seventeen years. Eloise is on the precipice of another life-chang The History of Us is not a memorable book, yet, it still is entertaining and modern. Stewart has a way with words to draw the reader a very vivid picture. Eloise was living her dream until she received a life-changing phone call. So she goes back home - not only for the funerals - but to get her sister's three children. Her mother can't handle the pressure of raising three grandkids, so it falls to Eloise. Then the book jumps about seventeen years. Eloise is on the precipice of another life-changing decision. The kids are raised and she's ready to get on with her life. At this point, Stewart gives the reader a birds eye view of what is going on in their lives and how things have been. There's a family drama moment when a secret is revealed but it doesn't motivate the story. All in all, a heartwarming story about family. As the first book I've read by this author, I would definitely read another. The History of Us held my attention and I thought the characters were vividly drawn, even if I didn't like all of them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I'm a mother, and have always known that I wanted children, and have always assumed that I would have to make tough sacrifices in order to be the best mother I could. This novel takes an unflinchingly honest look at what it would be like for someone to have to make all those sacrifices for children that were not their own, that they had never asked for or wanted... and Leah Stewart makes Eloise an immensely relatable character, whose reluctance to take on the role that has been thrust upon her i I'm a mother, and have always known that I wanted children, and have always assumed that I would have to make tough sacrifices in order to be the best mother I could. This novel takes an unflinchingly honest look at what it would be like for someone to have to make all those sacrifices for children that were not their own, that they had never asked for or wanted... and Leah Stewart makes Eloise an immensely relatable character, whose reluctance to take on the role that has been thrust upon her is understandable even to someone like me who delights completely in that same role. The secondary characters, as well, are easy to empathize with- even Claire, whose childish mistakes are enough to make anyone shake their head in exasperation (and dread the moment when our own children become teenagers). A lovely read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Catherine McKenzie

    Stewart does it again. She has this brilliant way of creating compelling and individual characters. And I found it so interesting how she switched POV on the book, sometimes in the same chapter, and yet, you were never confused by what was going on. Can't wait to read what she writes next. Highly recommend.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A few years ago, I read The Myth of You and Me, and I immediately was captivated by Leah Stewart's storytelling. She is not a writer who feels it necessary to give us likable characters, nor does she back off from creating people who are deeply, almost painfully flawed. And so it is with The History of Us, which tells the story of three adults and the aunt who raised them. It's been about twenty years since Eloise Hempel received the phone call that changed everything. An ambitious professor at Ha A few years ago, I read The Myth of You and Me, and I immediately was captivated by Leah Stewart's storytelling. She is not a writer who feels it necessary to give us likable characters, nor does she back off from creating people who are deeply, almost painfully flawed. And so it is with The History of Us, which tells the story of three adults and the aunt who raised them. It's been about twenty years since Eloise Hempel received the phone call that changed everything. An ambitious professor at Harvard, Eloise is about to teach a class when she learns that her sister and brother-in-law died in an auto accident. Eloise is the children's guardian, and she must return home to Cincinnati to raise her two nieces and nephew, something that terrifies Eloise. She tries to enlist her mother, absent even from her life, much less the woman's grandchildren, but to no avail. Her mother allows Eloise to move into her home, but as far as parenting her wards, Eloise is on her own. The story largely takes place in the present, with occasional flashbacks to how Eloise adapted to motherhood. Theodora and Josh were old enough to know their parents, but Claire was a toddler at the time of their death. Her memories are hazy, undetermined. She considers Eloise her mother, something that occasionally rankles not just Theodora, but occasionally even Eloise herself. Although Eloise considers herself the children's mother, and although she is wounded thinking that they consider her anything but, there is still part of her that yearns for her pre-motherhood existence. Such ambivalence is one reason why Eloise is so believable - and also why she is so unlikable at times. She wants to get rid of her mother's house, and when Claire moves to New York to pursue a career as a ballerina, Eloise believes she has her chance. Theodora, however, resists. Now, there is a character we alternately love and cringe over. As the one child with the clearest memories of her parents, we understand Theo's need to cling to anything that represents their memory. In many ways, she thinks of herself as her siblings' mother, more so than Eloise. And with reason; she shepherded Eloise through those first few years as a mother figure. Josh is a typical middle child, only son of three children. He's somewhat flighty, having ditched a career as a successful musician. Whereas he could be crafted as a stereotypical screw up and slacker, Leah Stewart instead presents him as far more complex. When he begins a new relationship, we want him to succeed, even if his paralyzing self-doubt makes us want to slap him. And then there is Claire. SHE is the character we want to slap. Claire has a secret, you see, and her secret inadvertently binds the rest of the family together. Well, sort of. Leah Stewart won't take the quick and easy path; instead, she continues to give us complexity. Like her aunt and siblings, Claire is not so easy to categorize. This family will fascinate you, and you will find yourself wondering if it's possible for any of them to be happy. Stewart pulls you in to their story, making you feel fully invested in who Eloise, Theo, Josh, and Claire are, what motivates them, frightens them, frees them. Their mistakes are believable, their story told as if it could happen to one of us. Read this. Read it for the four fascinating characters at its center, as well as for its equally fascinating supporting cast. Read it to lose yourself in good storytelling and solid writing. Published on cupcake's book cupboard @VivaAmaRisata

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Prologue: Eloise Hempel, 28, is a newly-appointed professor at Harvard after publishing a well-respected book when her career path is interrupted by the death of her sister and brother-in-law. As guardian to her sister’s children, she returns to her childhood home in Cincinnati to raise her nieces, 11 and 2, and nephew, 9. Flash forward 17 years: We find Eloise and all three children in the same large home. The children are now, of course, young adults, and this is essentially when the story begi Prologue: Eloise Hempel, 28, is a newly-appointed professor at Harvard after publishing a well-respected book when her career path is interrupted by the death of her sister and brother-in-law. As guardian to her sister’s children, she returns to her childhood home in Cincinnati to raise her nieces, 11 and 2, and nephew, 9. Flash forward 17 years: We find Eloise and all three children in the same large home. The children are now, of course, young adults, and this is essentially when the story begins. We’re led to believe that the family has been close, so it’s hard to know exactly why Theo (for Theodora), Josh, and Claire all agonize unduly over their career choices, have painful relationship issues, and fight bitterly with their aunt over future ownership of the house. Eloise, too, at 45, struggles with her profession and her hush-hush relationship with her girlfriend Heather. Flash forward to the end of the book, 350+ pages later, when nothing much has changed: Theo asks Eloise if raising the three kids was worth sacrificing her Harvard life, “even though we’re twenty-somethings who still live at home? Even though we make bad romantic choices and wallow in self-pity despite our privileges and fail at our chosen pursuits?” I might have added, “even though we are insecure messes?” Theo thus provides a synopsis of the entire book. The chapters are filled with fighting, second-guessing, self-doubt, misunderstanding, tension, and blame -- among all the characters, primary and secondary. The last chapters hint at possible reconciliations, but too little, too late? One has to wonder. The writing, however, was good.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    Leah Stewart's new book, The History of Us, is a fabulous piece of fiction that deals with many of life's disappointments. Eloise is a young woman with a budding dream career- being a Professor at Harvard. However, before she can begin to enjoy her new life outside of Ohio she receives the worst phone call of her life. With her world turned upside down, Eloise finds herself moving back to Cincinnati to care for her three young nieces and nephew after their parents are killed. Flash forward 17 ye Leah Stewart's new book, The History of Us, is a fabulous piece of fiction that deals with many of life's disappointments. Eloise is a young woman with a budding dream career- being a Professor at Harvard. However, before she can begin to enjoy her new life outside of Ohio she receives the worst phone call of her life. With her world turned upside down, Eloise finds herself moving back to Cincinnati to care for her three young nieces and nephew after their parents are killed. Flash forward 17 years and Eloise is still living in the house she grew up in with her three adult 'children' that have no intentions of leaving. With dreams of selling her childhood home and leaving Ohio behind for good, Eloise has no idea of the struggles she will face by putting herself first. I believe my favorite character in The History of Us is Josh. He is fun and a bit lighthearted on the surface until one of his loved ones is in trouble, then the 'serious' Josh emerges. Stewart did a great job of creating this multifaceted character. There were many layers to Josh, and they started to peel away as the story went on. I really enjoyed reading about Josh's budding relationship with Adelaide and his internal struggle with music. At first I didn't understand why he would quit his band and then want nothing to do with music ever again. However, Eloise explained his thought patterns to Adelaide quite nicely. He really did feel like a failure because of his actions and was embarrassed that he gave up his art so easily when Adelaide struggled everyday to be the best dancer she could be. I would love to read a spinoff of The History of Us featuring Josh and Adelaide. Theo is the oldest of the siblings and has always been the perfect child. Sometimes coming off as judgmental, Theo is always there when her siblings need her advice. Theo is also very serious and a lot like her Aunt Eloise. However, one of the major differences is that Theo loves Cincinnati and never wants to leave. This causes major discord between herself and Eloise. I felt like I never got to really know the character of Claire. She was not front and center for much of the novel and the only way we could learn about her was by listening to her family. For this reason when Claire did get a bigger role I had trouble connecting to her personal situation involving her career and fiancee. I did really enjoy how Theo discovered Claire's duplicities and the resulting aftermath. Leah Stewart's The History of Us is a truly wonderful read. It is a story about life struggles and how the Hempel family managed to continue on after tragedy befell them. Stewart created great characters that are not perfect, they deal with the joys and disappointments of life on a day to day basis just like you and I. Heartbreaking at times, The History of Us definitely reminds readers to be grateful for the things that are often taken for granted. **The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of the book, The History of Us, for the purpose of review.**

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    "The Myth of You and Me" has been my favorite book since the moment I finished it, sobbing alone in my bedroom at 2 in the morning. Despite owning them both, I still haven't read her other two works, "Body of a Girl" and "Husbands and Wives". When I read the summary of "The History of Us", I was sucked it and immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon. I really really liked it. Stewart's writing is simple, lovely, and very funny. As a teacher, I enjoyed the look into high education and especially Theo' "The Myth of You and Me" has been my favorite book since the moment I finished it, sobbing alone in my bedroom at 2 in the morning. Despite owning them both, I still haven't read her other two works, "Body of a Girl" and "Husbands and Wives". When I read the summary of "The History of Us", I was sucked it and immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon. I really really liked it. Stewart's writing is simple, lovely, and very funny. As a teacher, I enjoyed the look into high education and especially Theo's little love affair. A quote I loved: “All teachers are heavy drinkers,” she said. “Our students drive us to it.” Yes. Another quote I loved: "And Josh wanted to tell her what he knew: that love might look like a shore but turn out to be a desert island, where you roamed alone, talking to yourself, trying to crack open coconuts with your shoe. So thirsty you drank the salt water. So hungry you ate the sand." I found myself identifying with each of the characters in different ways. Eloise's nostalgia, Claire's debate about her future, Josh's hesitance to share, and Theo's general bitchiness. There was a quote toward the end (this doesn't spoil anything), that knocked me over with the way it resonated with me: He said, “You like being in love with someone who’s not going to love you back.” She opened her eyes. He looked at her. “Why would I like that?” she asked. He shrugged. “I don’t know.” In a year I'll go back and re-read this one because I think it deserves a second read, just like "The Myth of You and Me" deserved a second, third, and twelfth read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I just couldn't finish it. It seemed so cliched. How are three orphaned children are ALL so self-absorbed yet brilliant in their own rite, and play their roles so obviously. The eldest is a control freak, the middle needs to find themselves and the baby is the precious commodity. I didn't care what the secret was, who was f***ing who, who wanted to f*** whomever; the whole thing bored me to tears. I also HATE when specific names that are considered popular right now are over used. For example, C I just couldn't finish it. It seemed so cliched. How are three orphaned children are ALL so self-absorbed yet brilliant in their own rite, and play their roles so obviously. The eldest is a control freak, the middle needs to find themselves and the baby is the precious commodity. I didn't care what the secret was, who was f***ing who, who wanted to f*** whomever; the whole thing bored me to tears. I also HATE when specific names that are considered popular right now are over used. For example, Claire, Abby, Emma, Eloise, etc. These names are popular again (god knows why), but if a character is about 30-45 years of age, it just doesn't jive with the time. I'm expected to believe this dead couple named their kids Claire, Josh and Theodora? Theodora? A name that's only recently picking up steam since what, the turn of the 20th century? It drives me crazy, but that just shows my own craziness. Perhaps no one else ever notices that type of thing, but to me it shows a total lack of creativity. I am so very tired of reading books that seem juvenile and poorly developed. I felt like I was reading a story but never part of one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Eloise Hempel gives up her life as a teacher at Harvard to take care of his sister’s three kids in the Cincinnati house she grew up in after her sister and husband are killed in a helicopter crash. Fast forward seventeen years and what their lives have become. Eloise wants to sell the house and get on with her life. Simple premise and it certainly pulled me in. Someone giving up their own lives to take care of others is noble. We learn about each of the three children; Claire, Theo and Josh; now Eloise Hempel gives up her life as a teacher at Harvard to take care of his sister’s three kids in the Cincinnati house she grew up in after her sister and husband are killed in a helicopter crash. Fast forward seventeen years and what their lives have become. Eloise wants to sell the house and get on with her life. Simple premise and it certainly pulled me in. Someone giving up their own lives to take care of others is noble. We learn about each of the three children; Claire, Theo and Josh; now adults and the lives of their own. Different chapters tell each story and we get a feeling of their personalities. Yet, there isn’t a real plot per se; just a sense of what these four people mean to each other, their secrets (which wasn’t so climatic. There were times that I felt for the characters and then other times, I didn’t care, but I wanted to continue on and really like this book. It was okay; nothing remarkable though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Daniel

    I chose this because it was by a Cincinnati author, set in Cincinnati. Knowing what and where they were talking about was about the only good thing about this Debbie Downer sludgy read. The characters were completely unbeleiveable. An old, closeted lesbian aunt, one sister a prima ballerina who left it all for a 40 something married man, an angry unemployed older sister who couldn't decide which man she wanted and a brother who was a rock star who quit for no apparent reason at the height of his I chose this because it was by a Cincinnati author, set in Cincinnati. Knowing what and where they were talking about was about the only good thing about this Debbie Downer sludgy read. The characters were completely unbeleiveable. An old, closeted lesbian aunt, one sister a prima ballerina who left it all for a 40 something married man, an angry unemployed older sister who couldn't decide which man she wanted and a brother who was a rock star who quit for no apparent reason at the height of his carreer. It was like a bad high school stage play with overblown characters.Even the description of Cincy was overdone and annoying now that I think about it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Four well-educated people are self-centered, selfish, and unloving toward one another and their lovers. Eloise, who is 45, drove me the most crazy because she is old enough to have evolved. The others are 28, 26 and 19. The 19-year-old's immaturity was understandable, but she is featured least in the book. Josh, the musician, was my favorite character, but I still didn't like him very much. All of the characters seemed quite neurotic and self absorbed. I kept thinking that if I knew them, I woul Four well-educated people are self-centered, selfish, and unloving toward one another and their lovers. Eloise, who is 45, drove me the most crazy because she is old enough to have evolved. The others are 28, 26 and 19. The 19-year-old's immaturity was understandable, but she is featured least in the book. Josh, the musician, was my favorite character, but I still didn't like him very much. All of the characters seemed quite neurotic and self absorbed. I kept thinking that if I knew them, I wouldn't want to have such shallow people in my life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Heinzman

    This was just published in 2013 and what a good book! I love how this author writes. It's another book about family relationships (4 members) and thwarted desires, and responsibility, and choices and love. I read it straight through today; couldn't put it down. It takes place in Cincinnati and deals with ballet, music, teaching, lesbianism and more, lol.

  17. 4 out of 5

    cati

    I am no longer going to choose books based on their covers! I really wanted to like this and was so ready to be captivated by a good book. This just dragged on with no real base. There wasn't a single character in the book that I felt compelled by or any emotion for. But, I read to the end. Now on to something good I hope!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christi Doyle

    A lovely quick read. The story is based in Cincinnati and I enjoyed the references to my hometown throughout the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Lynn

    On the way to teach her Harvard class, Eloise Hempel finds out that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident. Eloise’s sister has left her as guardian of her three young children. This causes her to return to Cincinnati to raise Theo, Josh, and Claire. She moves into her mother’s house. Her mother leaves, and Eloise goes about the raising and the upkeep of an ancient house. Now that the youngest, Claire, has moved out and onto her ballet career in New York, Eloise decides On the way to teach her Harvard class, Eloise Hempel finds out that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident. Eloise’s sister has left her as guardian of her three young children. This causes her to return to Cincinnati to raise Theo, Josh, and Claire. She moves into her mother’s house. Her mother leaves, and Eloise goes about the raising and the upkeep of an ancient house. Now that the youngest, Claire, has moved out and onto her ballet career in New York, Eloise decides it is time to move on and sell the house. But her mother and the children make this very difficult for Eloise. Every character is dealing with an issue. Josh the quitting of a successful band and his ex-girlfriend. Theo really wants the house and has a crush on an already taken guy. Eloise wants to live her own life. I really felt like I was just reading a story. At no point did I get sucked in and feel as if I was part of the story. The potential was there and there were times that I felt close. It seemed to be superficial, immature, and unfortunately lacking a great plot. I will say I did like Heather, Eloise’s “friend.” She seemed to understand that Eloise needed to be forced to make changes and how the changes would work in their relationship. Overall, I cannot recommend this book, but have heard great things about Leah Stewart’s previous book and look forward to reading it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    There's a lot of discussion about "New Adult" books right now, and this is (I think) squarely in that genre but... I just didn't really care about the characters enough. We open with 28-year-old Eloise, newly hired at Harvard, flush with the success of her first book and - wham! - her life changes when her sister and brother-in-law die, leaving her as guardian to their three children. That's the prologue, with the rest of the book taking place today. The three children have grown up... mostly. Cl There's a lot of discussion about "New Adult" books right now, and this is (I think) squarely in that genre but... I just didn't really care about the characters enough. We open with 28-year-old Eloise, newly hired at Harvard, flush with the success of her first book and - wham! - her life changes when her sister and brother-in-law die, leaving her as guardian to their three children. That's the prologue, with the rest of the book taking place today. The three children have grown up... mostly. Claire is supposed to head to NYC to become a professional ballet dancer, Josh has given up his career as a musician in a moderately successful band, and Theo is working on her dissertation. Eloise sees this as an opportunity to finally sell the family house and move on with her life; the others are happy to stay at home, not really growing. Is this the key to New Adult? Vaguely dissatisfied 20somethings who don't want to face the responsibilities adults face? Slightly more upscale and higher educated slackers? If so, no thanks. Maybe in another book, with people I cared about, but this wasn't that book. ARC provided by publisher.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Life never turns out the way we plan it and this reality slaps Eloise Hampel right in the face. Eloise has just started her dream job--teaching at Harvard University--when she gets a call that her only sister and her brother-in-law have been killed in an accident and her mother's coping skills extend only to asking the eldest child who has just lost her parents to call Eloise to come home and take over. Before she knows it, Eloise has given up her life in Boston, moved back to the large, old hou Life never turns out the way we plan it and this reality slaps Eloise Hampel right in the face. Eloise has just started her dream job--teaching at Harvard University--when she gets a call that her only sister and her brother-in-law have been killed in an accident and her mother's coping skills extend only to asking the eldest child who has just lost her parents to call Eloise to come home and take over. Before she knows it, Eloise has given up her life in Boston, moved back to the large, old house in Cincinnati where she grew up, taken a job teaching at a local college, and she is raising her sister's children. Now almost twenty years later, the children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire are grown up and Eloise is at a crossroads. She is academically stagnant, she is involved in a secret relationship, and she is being drained financially by the family home that she desperately wants to sell. The same house that Theodora, Josh, and Claire call home. Leah Stewart examines the issue of what constitutes a family and how family ties are stronger than any of us realize in this engaging book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bindu Manoj

    A simple tale told with no frills and fancies. 28 year old Eloise, with a promising career as a Harvard professor suddenly finds her life turned upside down. Her sister and husband is killed in air crash leaving behind three children. Eloise has to return to her home in Cincinnati. The story quickly turns over to seventeen years later with the elder of the two having come back and staying with her as if for ever and the youngest going off to New York to a ballet company. The author has a way with A simple tale told with no frills and fancies. 28 year old Eloise, with a promising career as a Harvard professor suddenly finds her life turned upside down. Her sister and husband is killed in air crash leaving behind three children. Eloise has to return to her home in Cincinnati. The story quickly turns over to seventeen years later with the elder of the two having come back and staying with her as if for ever and the youngest going off to New York to a ballet company. The author has a way with words and is able to capture the emotions of each and every character. How a house serves as a metaphor for one's longing, another's urge to get out and have a life of her own and yet another's casual outlook to life forms the essence of the novel. If the success of a story is how interested or involved the author can keep her reader, this book has succeeded in good measure. The ending seemed a little Bollywoodish, though :)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    There was some really good writing in this novel, along with really honest expression. However, there was much wrong with it as well. The main character had a lot of issues that were never fully realized. She was supposed to be the family "rock" - having given her life to raise her sister's 3 children after an accidental death - but instead she was just a really sad and extremely angry person in seek of finding her true self. In doing so, she is abusive to everyone around her and instead of conc There was some really good writing in this novel, along with really honest expression. However, there was much wrong with it as well. The main character had a lot of issues that were never fully realized. She was supposed to be the family "rock" - having given her life to raise her sister's 3 children after an accidental death - but instead she was just a really sad and extremely angry person in seek of finding her true self. In doing so, she is abusive to everyone around her and instead of concentrating on her obvious issues, the book circles around the problems of the kids, which in my opinion were magnified a great deal by their Aunt. The children's stories go fully realized and played out in the novel, but in the end, we end up completely perplexed as to how the future of this family will carry out as the mc's condition is still up in the air. Frustrating read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Rarely do I write a review on a book, but after reading the reviews on this one I felt compelled to write one. I found this book to be boring, trite and lacking an overall sense of creativity. The characters seemed stereotypical and I did not enjoy spending time with them. I found myself skipping entire paragraphs and chapters sometime and had no problem following the story or missing anything. I felt the entire book could have been summed up in half of its length and there really was no plot to Rarely do I write a review on a book, but after reading the reviews on this one I felt compelled to write one. I found this book to be boring, trite and lacking an overall sense of creativity. The characters seemed stereotypical and I did not enjoy spending time with them. I found myself skipping entire paragraphs and chapters sometime and had no problem following the story or missing anything. I felt the entire book could have been summed up in half of its length and there really was no plot to it. The dialogue between the characters seemed unnatural and none of the characters ever developed. I have never read Leah Stewart before, but if this book is indicative of her writing I never plan to.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne Wolfe

    This was a book I almost stopped reading, but was glad to have read to the end. In the process, I learned about ballet, academe and Cincinnati (and also rock and roll). It took a long time to get where it was going, but the theme, I thought, was what happens when you let life happen to you without making decisions. The characters seem frozen in time and place. One criticism was the difficulty in discerning between two of the characters (perhaps both of which were autobiographical?) Eloise and Th This was a book I almost stopped reading, but was glad to have read to the end. In the process, I learned about ballet, academe and Cincinnati (and also rock and roll). It took a long time to get where it was going, but the theme, I thought, was what happens when you let life happen to you without making decisions. The characters seem frozen in time and place. One criticism was the difficulty in discerning between two of the characters (perhaps both of which were autobiographical?) Eloise and Theo, the niece she raised after her sister and brother-in-law died in an accident. Finally, it was worth the persistence. Stewart closes believably, yet with a final ending yet to come.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Not-so-interesting book about a woman who "inherits' her sister's 3 children after the sister and her husband are killed in an accident. The characters aren't all that likable so it's difficult to really rate the book all that highly. It's not particularly well-written - I guess I would have to say "not bad but not great" about this book. I did finish it though so I guess I wanted to find out what happens at the end which meant I cared at least a little so I gave it three stars instead of two.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Nowak

    I found this book to be just OK. I didn't feel like I really got to know the characters and therefore never really cared what happened to them. I also felt like the story went nowhere. I didn't feel like things changed from the beginning to the end of the book; everything stayed pretty much the same. This was the first book written by Leah Stewart that I've read and I currently have no interest in reading any of her other books.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Kastner

    I enjoyed the themes of location and vocation and their impact on ones identity - each character wrestled mightily with these themes. Perhaps this book resonated with me because I also struggle with these same issues daily! I also enjoyed Stewart's writing and character development. She masterfully crystallizes little life observations into tasty morsels. Looking forward to reading other works by her.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I had high expectations for this novel but was underwhelmed by the whole thing. In the beginning, I stayed frustrated and annoyed by the lack of compassion and empathy the characters had towards one another. Halfway through, though, I had lost interest in everyone involved. I may have only completed this because it was a Buddy Read! I did enjoy discussing the book along the way with my buddy!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    Frankly, I didn't care much for this story or its characters. I found them all to be selfish and unfortunately uninteresting. Living in Cincinnati, it was interesting to imagine reading about the city from the perspective of a non-resident. But here too I felt dissatisfied; the story didn't do the city justice.

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