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The History of Us: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451672624
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451672626
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #770,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stewart (Husband and Wife, 2011) takes what could have been a sitcom premise—a single aunt left to care for her sister’s three orphaned children—and turns it into a poignant exploration of the meaning of family. By fast-forwarding from the point of tragedy (when fledgling professor Eloise Hempel inherits her nieces, Theo and Claire, and nephew, Josh), Stewart deftly avoids the trap of relaying stock scenes of the incompetent singleton flummoxed by tasks such as preparing breakfast. Instead, we meet the siblings in early adulthood, each struggling with questions of identity and a desire for roots they fear might not exist. Meanwhile, Eloise is plagued by thoughts of what might have been and the personal sacrifices she made to fill her sister’s shoes. A tug-of-war emerges between Eloise and Theo, the eldest of the children, over whether or not to sell the family homestead. Eloise views the house as a burden. For Theo, it’s home. Resolution comes when the two finally understand that the life they’ve lived was as much a gift as the life they lost. --Patty Wetli

Review

“A sprawling novel with some of the off-kilter charm of Anne Tyler’s work, The History of Us glows with affection for its wounded, familiar characters.” (Boston Globe)

“Touching drama . . . Faced with urgent choices, Eloise and the grown kids react with varying degrees of wisdom and pigheadedness, but as Stewart tenderly demonstrates, they remain – for better or worse – a family.” (People)

“Stewart is a wonderful observer of family relationships, and she adroitly weaves the stories of Eloise and the children she’s raised—their work, their loves, their disappointments and dreams—while focusing on what ties families together, and what ultimately keeps those ties from breaking.” (BookPage)

“Stewart’s novel reminds us how family ties trump all else.” (Parenting Magazine)

"Charming. . . Stewart weaves a smart, redemptive tale of maturation." (Star Tribune)

“Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart’s introspective examination of a family.” (Library Journal)

"With a playwright’s precise, sometimes excoriating dialogue and an insightful novelist’s judicious use of interior monologue, Stewart crafts a tearful yet unsentimental family coming-of-age story." (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Stewart’s novel is an intimate exploration of a family in crisis and the different ways in which people cope with grief.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A poignant exploration of the meaning of family…the life they’ve lived was as much a gift as the life they lost.” (Booklist)

"The History of Us stays the course and shows how a family negotiates through a particular crisis. Leah Stewart seems to love her characters even when they are not especially lovable, and gives them space and time enough to grow and change." (BookReporter.com)

“Leah Stewart possesses magic. It is awe-inspiring to see how clearly and sensitively she presents the numerous ways her characters are broken and then finds a way to offer some hope of healing. With the family at the heart of The History of Us, Stewart shows that she is unafraid of difficult characters and that she is equally unafraid of making sure they matter to us.” (Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang)

"Tender and compelling, The History of Us explores how we define our family and who, ultimately, we are both with and without them. These characters and their stories stuck with me long after the final page, and Leah Stewart proves once again that she is a master of understanding the complexity of human nature." (Allison Winn Scotch, author of The Song Remains the Same and Time of My Life)

"Leah Stewart plunges deep into questions of home and heart. The History of Us is a lovely novel. Just lovely.” (Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread and The Knitting Circle)

“A genuine and heartwarming story about the complicated thing we call family, and what it means to be home. I laughed. I cried. And I was very sorry to turn the last page.” (Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 36 customer reviews
Once I started reading I could stop thinking about them.
Amazon Customer
I forced myself to finish it and the ending was boring with no resolution at all.
rachel
Great story, involving a cast of vividly drawn characters.
Jack Tierney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Leah Stewart's new release, THE STORY OF US, begins with a scholar, Eloise Hempel, rushing to teach her history class at Harvard. The idea of teaching at Harvard still gives her a rush that makes her smile. She's late as usual, but stops to take the phone call that will change her life. Her sister and husband have been killed while on vacation. Eloise is called home to care for her sister's children, because her mother, Francine, simply cannot cope with most things in the world, especially children.

What does Eloise know about children? And what will she do with herself if she's forced to stay in Cincinnati, having so deftly escaped it to start her real life? One of the things I loved about Stewart's telling of this story is that she doesn't give us the "fish out of water" cliches with Eloise playing the beleaguered "mother" to three children, chronologically dragging the reader through all the stages of childhood. She does not force Eloise into action as the unwilling Mrs. Mom or the "Kramer vs. Kramer" ineptness turning to love with dirty diapers and fevers in the night, breakfast ruined, and lunches forgotten. She saves these scenes and parses them out in perceptive retrospect.

She spares the reader by jumping to ten years later, the children now grown up. They are adults, and yet they cling to their house, their home, their substitute mother. They LIKE Cincinnati! Eloise wants nothing more than for them to get on with their lives, let her sell the house and find a new job somewhere else. She would like to reclaim all that she gave up.

But young adults, like young children, have a lot of exploring to do. The eldest, Theo, can't really decide if she wants to finish her thesis. If she does, she will have to move. And besides, she's in love with a a guy or two.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. Harrold on March 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Somewhat interesting but no real ending. Hated that there was no epilogue -- of you care enough
to read an entire boring book you should at least be given the option of what the characters are
doing 5 years later. What happen to the house that seemed to be the premise for the story?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. Gross on January 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this based on the review of the book in 'People' magazine. I didn't enjoy it at all and had to force myself to finish it. I didn't care about the characters and the 'kids' were whiny, unappreciative adults. Minor spoiler coming - the fact that Eloise's mother chose NOT to sign over the house to her upon Claire (the youngest child) turning 18 as she promised for years was, in my opinion, downright evil and vile after everything Eloise gave up to make sure her sister's kids were taken care of - adding on top of that Eloise could have refused to take the 3 kids in thereby basically forcing her mother to take the kids in herself which she obviously didn't want to do. And, as other reviewers have said, these supposed intelligent adults (the kids) didn't know their aunt was gay? Yeah, right. I was sorry I wasted my money on this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LORI MCGOWAN on February 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
didn't connect with any of the main characters. the plot was very slow to evolve and i lost interest a quarter of the way through the book.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By sherry Fowler on January 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most important point: Did I like it? I would have to say, not really. The story could have been, SHOULD have been intriguing. It missed the mark on that front because one passage after another was just confusing. All the characters are highly educated people, yet Eloise thinks the three adults who live with her don't know she is gay? Is the reader supposed to believe that three people in their twenties never wondered why their aunt didn't seem to date men?

A reference is made to Eloise's ten thousand dollar gutter repair, the monthly four figure energy bills. She didn't own this house, had only vague committments that she WOULD one day own the house--why would she spend money on this order of magnitude? It doesn't even make sense, any other highly educated woman would have moved the three children to a house that was cheaper to heat, cool and maintain. Theo, who is supposed to be writing her dissertation, wants desperately to hang on to this house. The reader is supposed to believe that she really and truly has no idea that the electric bills run to totals with a comma in them on a regular basis? Eloise paid for ten thousand dollar GUTTERS and never mentioned this in passing in all the years the children were growing up? Theo has never given a thought to how or for that matter, WHO will pay for all this going forward? For that matter, where did all this money even come from? Midwestern adjunct faculty members don't make that kind of money! Where on Earth would Eloise have gotten it? I found myself wondering if the grandmother who owned the house paid for it--no, that finally got addressed after several mentions of the gigantic amounts spent, Eloise paid. Did she use life insurance left by the children's parents? No, eventually that was addressed too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rachel on February 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I loved the authors previous novels and was really looking forward to reading this book. The characters were not like able, the dialogue dull and the relationships seemed like stock characters who never came to life. I forced myself to finish it and the ending was boring with no resolution at all.
I hope her next book is better than this one!
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