By Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Penguin/NAL Trade
Publication Date: 01/06/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
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. (Love the cover!)
A special thank you to the author and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Don’t be fooled by the adorable dog cover (loved the cover of the year-hats off to the designer), as between the pages of Sonja Yoerg’s brilliantly written and remarkable character-driven debut novel, HOUSE BROKEN is an intense and compelling “grown-up adult novel.” The author tackles highly-charged topics, and multi-generational dark family secrets and complexities, mixed with humor and wisdom, for a bittersweet “Must Read” of love and forgiveness!
Dr. Geneva Novak is a local veterinarian married to Tom for eighteen years, owner of a wood working shop (he comes from a large lovable supportive family), and they have two teenagers, Ella and Charlie. As the books moves on, we learn Ella and Charlie have secrets from their parents, as does their Nana. Trying to protect one does not always work in the big scheme of things.
Geneva, the youngest of a family of four Riley children, comes from a dysfunctional and mysterious family. Father, deceased; mother Helen is a raging alcoholic, and siblings – brother Dublin, (LA) they are close, Florence (NY), a little distant and removed, and Paris (Africa), totally estranged.
Yes, Helen named her four children after European cities to give them the sophistication lacking in their one-horse South Carolina town. However, to Geneva their names had come to represent their distance from their mother and one another, as she had not seen Paris in ten years and Florence rarely leaves Manhattan. Only she and Dublin phone and visit each other regularly as they were very close growing up.
As the book opens, Helen, now age sixty-five currently residing in California (having left the small SC town as too many bad memories); has just found herself in the middle of another fiasco driving drunk and involved in a car accident and needs care (she is trouble, and this is not the first time). Her mother is too old and too stubborn a dog to learn new tricks.
Her brother cannot take care of their mother as they have their hands full with an autistic child, and forget the older two sisters, so the burden falls upon Geneva. Needless to say, they are not close and never have been; however, possibly this may be the turning point to repair their mother-daughter relationship.
However, when she moves in with Geneva, new problems surface as Helen is like having a third problematic teenager. Underneath her nose, her two teens are involved in all sorts of illegal behavior which she seems blind to and her mother is front and center in the middle of all the trouble. (Definitely will keep you laughing in the midst of tragedy).
Told from the POV of three generations of women, Helen (Nana), Geneva (Mother), Ella (Daughter), switching back and forth from past to present; each with their own unique and gripping voice with insights and perspectives for life lessons and many takeaways well after the book ends.
I have so looked forward to reading HOUSE BROKEN, as enjoy connecting with Sonja Yoerg via Twitter, and Goodreads; however, had no idea the depth of this powerful well-written and thought-provoking debut novel. Trust me when I say, "it exceeded all expectations"; brilliantly written, a page-turner and one hard to put down (you will not be able to go to sleep until you finish). If is a debut, wow, cannot wait to see what comes next!
There is so much to say about this novel, as ideal for book clubs and discussions (included). Helen was my favorite intriguing character, as guess I can relate as a baby boomer, closer to her age; and grew up in the small town south.
I loved the way the author developed this character, at first you do not sympathize with her; however, as she peels back a little more throughout the book, unveiling the heartfelt struggles, of Helen and her mysterious background. As an innocent and poor teen of sixteen being caught up in a big world for a better life; when she became a real woman, and in her own way, trying to protect her daughters and the guilt she lives with presently—you realize she and Louise had limited choices in a different time and era; however, interesting to explore the, what ifs.
I loved the relation to dogs as not front and center, but always in the background with comparisons and analogies to the human characters, and their role in the plot, with faithful adorable companion Diesel (Geneva/Dublin), Argus/Paris connection, and Aldo/Eustace/Paris’ dark disturbed side.
Without saying too much, brilliant strategy with Yoerg’s twist using a willing participant (denial and brainwashed), versus the helpless victim, which added another dimension. And Louise, she made for a true down home southern connection and ally for Helen (two women; victims of a time in a man’s world, left powerless).
In summary, cannot wait to recommend riveting HOUSE BROKEN and this dynamic and talented writer, Sonja Yoerg one you will want to follow for years to come! Thank you, for a remarkable and beautiful novel of loss, love, and forgiveness.
Fans of Eileen Goudge, Diane Chamberlain, and Jodi Picoult will devour, and appreciate the author’s style—keeping the book real with flawed characters, without wrapping up neatly with a big bow. One you will not want to miss-Well done! Cannot wait for the next book, Middle of Somewhere, coming Sept 2015. .