Saturday, December 16, 2017

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

I took a break from my lighter holiday reads to read Seven Days of Us. I'm on the fence about this novel; not sure just how much I liked the novel, even after finishing it and letting it sit with me for a bit. 

The Birch family is gathering for Christmas, and it's a Christmas with a little twist.  Olivia, oldest of two daughters, is returning home from Liberia after spending weeks there treating patients of a horrible epidemic-the Haag, with a fatality rate of 80%.  Due to her return from Liberia, and possible exposure to the Haag, Olivia will require a quarantine for seven days.  This means Olivia and her family: parents and younger sister Phoebe will be in isolation over Christmas. Spending the holiday at their country home, Weyfield Hall, is something none of them are really super excited about--but it's tradition!

There's a whole lot going on in this small family.  Father Andrew is a restaurant critic who is bored with his career and increasingly fond of his days as a correspondent in Lebanon, before his growing family required he give it up. Mother Emma has just been diagnosed with cancer, and has decided to keep it a secret until after the holidays.  Phoebe, the spoiled younger sister, is newly engaged to George, and busy thinking about her wedding, but not really much about her marriage.  There's also Jesse, a young man from California who is in England searching for his biological father.  Guess who that is?

The novel covers the seven days of the quarantine, which run to just before Christmas, to December 29th.  Olivia's got a secret of her own:  she was intimately involved with another doctor in Liberia, which was forbidden.  If they are found out, it could mean a lot of trouble.  While she waits with her family, taking her temperature everyday, hoping she wasn't infected with the virus, all sorts of things are happening.  Jesse is nearby, trying to gather the courage to try one more time to meet Andrew; Andrew is trying to figure out how to respond to Jesse's emails, and explain his unfaithfulness to Emma in 1980, when they were first together.  Emma is trying to keep the whole family together by cooking a lot and forcing herself to be jolly.  Phoebe and Olivia have a less than happy relationship, and aren't very interested in getting along this Christmas, either.  But things happen, secrets are exposed, and people finally start to have conversations that help to create a lot of change not only in each person, but in the family dynamics.  I'm leaving out a big piece of the puzzle, because I  don't want to give the whole plot away.  

I read most of the novel not liking any of the characters. All, even Olivia, were self-absorbed, annoying, and one dimensional.  There is no neat conclusion, as you would expect.  Things improve, and people are changing, but the novel doesn't end with a lovely red bow.  That, I realize I like the most about the novel.  It also had me thinking about traditions, and why we keep plugging away at them, even when they just don't fit anymore, and it's time for an update.  I think traditions, like every other part of our lives, are meant to guide us, but should be able to change with the times and the people. The Birch family are trapped in their traditions.  It takes some pretty significant events to shake them up, but all for the better. 

Rating:  3/6 for a novel about family, traditions, change, and recognizing nothing stays the same.  I didn't connect with any of the characters, but I enjoyed the novel.

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

1 comment :

  1. I like your comment about traditions. In my immediate family all of our traditions have been blown to heck by various developments and it has made for a rocky couple of years. I guess it is all part of life.