The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Atria Books: 11/5/19
eBook review copy; 352 pages
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell is a very highly recommended un-put-downable psychological thriller featuring a dysfunctional family.
Libby Jones was adopted as a baby at ten months old, and now, on her
twenty-fifth birthday she receives the letter she has been anticipating
for years. When she opens the letter she expects it will reveal the
identity of her birth parents. She was not expecting to inherit their
abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames
in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. She also
learns her parents died in a suicide pact with an unidentified man and
that she has an older brother and sister who were teenagers at that time
and who disappeared. Libby begins to research her background, not
realizing that there are other people who also have been waiting for her
to turn twenty-five.
The narrative alternates between the point-of-view of three different
characters, Libby, Lucy, and Henry. Libby and Lucy's chapters are
present day while Henry's tell the back story and document what happened
in the house when he was a child. Lucy has two children and is
currently struggling to get by in the south of France but wants to find a
way to get back to London. Libby has an average, normal life working
for a kitchen design company. Lucy has a vagabond lifestyle, homeless
when the novel opens. The alternating points-of-view works exceptionally
well in The Family Upstairs and I was invested in following all
three story lines, waiting for them to converge and create a complete
picture of what happened then to now.
The characters are all well-developed and definitely well-defined as
distinct individuals. Libby is the grounded point-of-view that most
readers are going to identify with as she researches her background and
tries to find out what happened to her birth family. Lisa and Henry both
present much edgier narratives - Lisa's based on her present day
circumstances and Henry's on the encroaching nightmare of their past.
As expected the writing is excellent, both technically and in creating drama in the well-paced plot. Jewell establishes incredible atmospheric tension in this sometimes dark, disturbing story and I
was glued to the pages for all three narrative threads. As I was
riveted to the pages and the story lines, I thought I had it all figured
out; then there was a twist that was so unexpected it took my breath
away. The Family Upstairs is truly an un-put-down-able psychological thriller.
My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.