Review: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

Geneva Novak tends to relate better to animals than she does her own family…that’s why she’s a vet.

And avoiding her family has more or less worked for her these last few years.

But one day she gets a call that is going to change all that and make her finally face the relationships she been avoiding.

Geneva’s mother, Helen, loves her vodka but vodka doesn’t love her back. Dublin, Geneva’s brother calls to tell her that their mother has been in a drinking and driving accident.

Though not life threatening, she has some significant injuries. Dublin, though close with Helen, can’t take her in as he has a special needs child. Her sister Floence, lives in New York and won’t take her in. The oldest sister, Paris, is living in Africa and hasn’t been in contact with the family in years.

Tom, Geneva’s husband, feels that family should always be close, and it’s at his encouragement that Geneva agrees to take her mother in.

Geneva has two teenagers and a husband plus her career….this is the last thing she wants, but with little choice she brings her mother home and does her best to not be overbearing…..but it’s evident that Helen is about to turn the Novak house upside down and not in a good way.

This is an exceptionally powerful story. It’s definitely on the heavy side so be prepared….but it is wonderfully written and moving. It’s told from three different perspectives: Geneva, Helen, and Geneva’s daughter Ella.

This style narrative is wonderful for displaying how people can misinterpret others and their actions. It worked well in this novel. Yoerg does a wonderful job demonstrating how complicated family relations are and I think this was further enhanced by the alternating narratives. Clearly Yoerg knows human relationships and family dynamics.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to read this novel. It’s one I would normally not have picked up….I am not big on family dramas….especially those involving mothers and daughters. But who could resist that adorable dog on the cover? The story sounded compelling enough so I agreed to review it….I had no idea that the story was going to be as poignant as it was. Don’t let that cute dog fool you, this is a gripping and moving novel.

For me, I found Helen’s narrative the most compelling and mysterious. When introduced to Geneva–the uptight straight laced doctor who hates her mother….you have to wonder why? What did Helen do to make her hate her so much? And I don’t know if it’s necessarily ‘hate’ that Geneva feels for her mother, but she clearly doesn’t want to really deal with her. So because of that I was eager to find out more about Helen and her history more so than Geneva and Ella’s.

I loved how none of the characters really dismiss the past as ‘the past is the past let it be’….they embrace the past in their present lives and focus on how the past shapes the future. I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel.

My only issue with the novel was I wanted more dogs. Ok I know how lame that sounds but I did! I figured that the book had a cute dog on the cover and the title even suggested that dogs would play a larger role….I mean the main character is a vet for god sake…..I wanted more dogs! I realize that many of the ‘life lessons’ mimicked how one trains a dog and so on but I guess I was hoping that somehow there would be more actual dogs and less animal behavior. This is really a minor thing, but for some reason I was expecting and wanted more dogs :).

Yoerg is daring in her novel….I love that there wasn’t a clean cut happy ending, because in real life there rarely is. This is a complex character driven novel about women each with deep issues. This is a great choice for book clubs and fans of contemporary women’s literature. Yoerg is one to watch for in the future….she has the potential to be a real powerhouse in women’s fiction.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

  • Paperback, 336 pages
    Expected publication: January 6th 2015 by NAL Trade
    ISBN 0451472136 (ISBN13: 9780451472137)
  • Review copy provided by: Author/Publisher in exchange for an honest for review.

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Contempo lit, women’s fiction

Memorable lines/quotes: 

The past wasn’t a guest you could ask to leave when you tired of its company. No, the past put up its feet and meant to stay

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