The History of Us
By Leah Stewart
(Touchstone Books, Hardcover, 9781451672626, 367pp.)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
List Price: $24.99*
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"Sometimes home is the hardest place to go"
Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach her first class at Harvard when she receives the devastating news that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident. Eloise leaves her life in Cambridge and moves back into her family's century-old house in Cincinnati, pouring her own money into the house's upkeep and her heart into raising her sister's three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire.
Nearly twenty years later, the now-grown children seem ready to leave home, and Eloise plans to sell the house and finally start a life that's hers alone. But when Eloise's mother decides that they should all compete for the chance to keep the house and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, the makeshift family begins to fall apart and ultimately must decide what in life is worth fighting for.
“A sprawling novel with some of the off-kilter charm of Anne Tyler’s work, The History of Us glows with affection for its wounded, familiar characters.”
“Touching drama . . . Faced with urgent choices, Eloise and the grown kids react with varying degrees of wisdom and pigheadedness, but as Stewart tenderly demonstrates, they remain – for better or worse – a family.”
“Stewart is a wonderful observer of family relationships, and she adroitly weaves the stories of Eloise and the children she’s raised—their work, their loves, their disappointments and dreams—while focusing on what ties families together, and what ultimately keeps those ties from breaking.”
“Stewart’s novel reminds us how family ties trump all else.”
“Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart’s introspective examination of a family.”
"With a playwright’s precise, sometimes excoriating dialogue and an insightful novelist’s judicious use of interior monologue, Stewart crafts a tearful yet unsentimental family coming-of-age story."
“Stewart’s novel is an intimate exploration of a family in crisis and the different ways in which people cope with grief.”
“A poignant exploration of the meaning of family…the life they’ve lived was as much a gift as the life they lost.”
"The History of Us stays the course and shows how a family negotiates through a particular crisis. Leah Stewart seems to love her characters even when they are not especially lovable, and gives them space and time enough to grow and change."
“Leah Stewart possesses magic. It is awe-inspiring to see how clearly and sensitively she presents the numerous ways her characters are broken and then finds a way to offer some hope of healing. With the family at the heart of The History of Us, Stewart shows that she is unafraid of difficult characters and that she is equally unafraid of making sure they matter to us.”
-Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang