By: Francesca Hornak
Published Year: 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
I don’t remember where I first heard about/saw this book, but I think it was in an article where the cover caught my eye. The summary sounded like the perfect book club book, so it jumped onto my radar right away. I don’t know if it’s the minimalism or the color, but the cover speaks to me!
What I thought
This book was exactly what I expected it to be, and I wish I could have saved it for a book club pick.
Olivia is coming home after 3 months of working in Liberia as a doctor on a contagious virus. As a result, she is required to spend a week in quarantine over Christmas. Her family, who she’s been successfully avoiding for years, is in on the quarantine with her over the holidays. Phoebe, her younger sister, Andrew, her dad, Emma, her mom, and Olivia all head out to their country home in hopes of making the quarantine feel more like a holiday. But when family, who hasn’t been together in quite a while, is forced to be closer than they have been in years, drama is guaranteed to occur.
I really liked the format of this book. It followed daily through the quarantine and rotated between each of the characters involved. I enjoyed being able to read the perspectives of each character in quarantine. I think when dealing with family stories, they are always richer when you get everyone involved.
The storyline with Phoebe and George (her fiancé) irritated me the most. Phoebe is a selfish and immature character and I could not care less about her and George. I did enjoy seeing the progress of Olivia and Phoebe’s relationship as well as the marriage of Andrew and Emma.
Family is complicated and this book showed those nuances perfectly. All of the relationships intertwined and each one had something that wasn’t perfect that they needed to work on. Without giving too much away, it was a perfect balance of ordinary family problems that are very relatable and a bit more abstract problems that make a book interesting.
There were some aspects that were predictable, but it didn’t bother me as much because they weren’t the main part of the book. I also appreciated that while this isn’t the type of book that is moving forward towards a plot point, like a mystery, it still moves at a good pace towards the end of quarantine.
The ending was not my favorite. There was a storyline towards the end that I wasn’t happy with and it did end up knocking it down a star or half star for me. It didn’t ruin the book for me in that I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I would still highly recommend it as a book club book. But it just ended on a bit of a blech note for me.