Title: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program
In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…
For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.
Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.
Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.
House Broken is an absolutely spectacular debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. This beautifully written story is a touching, insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the strained relationship between an alcoholic mother and her children. It is a complex tale of family dysfunction that is quite riveting but it is the cast of characters that makes it a truly unforgettable read.
The youngest of four siblings, Geneva Novak is a married mother of two teenagers who reluctantly lets her alcoholic mother Helen temporarily move in while she recuperates from a car accident. Geneva has never been close to Helen and she decides to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between them. Her attempt to understand why her mother drinks leads to the discovery of a shocking family secret that explains Helen’s behavior but will this knowledge allow them to repair their fractured relationship?
Geneva is very regimented and logical thinking so at first, she appears rather strict and unbending. She is quite intuitive and she lets her instincts guide her most of the time. Her relationships with husband Tom and her kids, Ella and Charlie, are troubled as they begin to rebel against her unyielding standards. Her relationship with her brother Dublin is rock solid and the two have no secrets from one another. But to get answers for the questions that are troubling her, Geneva turns to her older sisters, Florence and Paris, but neither of them is eager to rehash the past with her.
Helen is flippant, conniving and self-absorbed and this makes her very difficult to like. Her reflections on her past make some of her actions understandable but for the most part, she remains an unsympathetic character. Helen’s memories provide an explanation for her alcoholism and the reasons for her distance from Geneva, but these revelations do little to redeem her character.
Ella is dealing with the typical teenage insecurities and angst. She has a sardonic and snarky sense of humor that is absolutely hilarious. Her relationship with her brother Charlie is often adversarial but Ella keeps quiet about his increasingly alarming activities.
House Broken is an intriguing and sometimes heartrending novel that does not shy away from difficult subject matter. Sonja Yoerg brilliantly weaves past and present into a compelling and realistic story that is healing but always stays true to the characters. A sensitive portrayal of a family’s darkest secrets that I will not soon forget and highly recommend.