In acclaimed author Leah Stewart's latest novel, published Jan. 8, 2013, "The History of Us," three siblings return to the home they're not ready to part with, even if their Aunt Eloise is ready to move on. (Read an interview with the author here.)
As much as this novel is about family relationships, the ties that bind, and the way a family copes after a loss -- Eloise becomes the young childrens' guardian when their parents die -- it's also about where you come from.
The eldest Theo, with her love of history, is ready stay in Cincinnati, despite the lack of job prospects. Musician Josh wants nothing more than to run from his past as a rock star. And Claire is about ready to start her life in New York City as a ballerina dancer, but she has her doubts. As for Aunt Eloise, she has some secrets of her own, including one that she's not ready to share with the kids. But when she decides to sell the house -- if only her mom would sign the house over to her -- things begin to fall apart.
Through it all, the house is one of the biggest and boldest characters, literal cracks and all. "I like thinking about what came before in the parts of the city I know. You know? I like the idea of all the layers. New places don't have layers, just surfaces," Theo says at one point. And around every turn that life brings this family, there's more layers to uncover.
While at times "The History of Us" reads as a character sketch of each of the family members -- "There were so many lives to be led in one city, in so many different neighborhoods, on so many different streets" -- as a whole it's an emotionally charged story that, at times, will leave you breathless. The story of this one family and all the decisions they've made over the years will make you think, and not just about their own decisions that made them who they are, but your own life-changing decisions as well. As such, this thought-provoking novel is worth a read.
Meet author Leah Stewart at either Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville (Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. CST) or The Book Stall in Winnetka (Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m CST) to learn more about Stewart and her novel, "The History of Us."
© Elizabeth SanFilippo 2012
Have news about a Chicago literature event, reading, or book? Email Elizabeth here.