The History of Us
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The History of Us

3.5 6
by Leah Stewart
     
 

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Award-winning author Leah Stewart crafts a tale of three siblings facing a heartbreaking secret.

Overview

Award-winning author Leah Stewart crafts a tale of three siblings facing a heartbreaking secret.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Stewart’s new novel (after The Myth of You and Me), Eloise Hempel, at 45, is a history professor whose rising career is derailed when her sister dies, leaving her custody of her sister’s three children. Eloise returns home to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she does her best to raise Theodora, 11; middle-child Josh, and two-year-old Claire in her family’s large, enviable home. Seventeen years later, her sister’s children now adults, Eloise reveals her plan to sell the house and, maybe, move in with Heather, her secret girlfriend. But Theo, Josh, and Claire, none of whom want the house to be sold, confront Eloise, each other, and themselves; in trying to come to terms with adulthood and responsibility, they are all nearly ripped apart. Stewart’s novel is an intimate exploration of a family in crisis and the different ways in which people cope with grief. While the plot meanders and the characters seem paralyzed with indecision, readers will empathize with their plight. Unfortunately, the combination of a melodramatic story line and a focus on minutiae make for a forgettable read. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Jan.)
BookReporter.com
"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."
Booklist
“A poignant exploration of the meaning of family…the life they’ve lived was as much a gift as the life they lost.”
People
“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.”
Kevin Wilson
“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.”
Allison Winn Scotch
"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."
Ann Hood
"Leah Stewart plunges deep into questions of home and heart. The History of Us is a lovely novel. Just lovely.”
Meg Waite Clayton
“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.”
Marisa de los Santos

"This narrative voice is so alive. . . . I cherish this wry, funny, aching, intelligent character and this book!”
BookPage
“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.”
Boston Globe
“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.”
Parenting Magazine
“Stewart’s novel reminds us how family ties trump all else.”
From the Publisher
Starred Review. "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
3 out of 4 stars. "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 for worse - a family." - People Magazine
"Stewart's novel is an intimate exploration of a family in crisis and the different ways in which people cope with grief." - Publishers Weekly
"Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart's introspective examination of a family." - Library Journal
"Stewart 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." - Booklist
"...an emotionally charged story that, at times, will leave you breathless." - The Examiner
"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." - Book Page
"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 Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters
"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
"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
"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
Star Tribune
"Charming. . . Stewart weaves a smart, redemptive tale of maturation."
Library Journal
Stewart (The Myth of You and Me) has a knack for introducing characters in need of mending: they are not broken, just disjointed, needy, and, at times, without emotional support. Eloise Hempel is the de facto mother to three twentysomething siblings, having become their primary caregiver after their parents were killed in a car accident. Always planning to put her life back on track as a Harvard professor, Eloise has found herself rooted in Cincinnati for 20 years as she parented her sister's children to adulthood. There's Josh, her kind nephew, something of a negotiator and very much the middle child, a young man who has recently tossed away a life in music. The youngest, Claire, is a wispy, wily ballet dancer, and sensitive Theodora, the eldest, is nearly as sensible and strong as Eloise. Inextricably linked together, the three also have strong ties to their childhood home. Looking toward future domestic arrangements, Eloise slowly hedges toward momentous decisions, while the siblings dabble in their own decision making, sometimes with disastrous results. VERDICT Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart's introspective examination of a family.—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA
Kirkus Reviews
A professor who raised her late sister's three children grapples with the long-term consequences. At 28, Eloise is a rising star in Harvard's history department, having just published a much acclaimed book. She's prepared for a fulfilling academic career but not for the phone call she receives from her 11-year-old niece, Theo, telling her that she and siblings Josh, 9, and Claire, 2, need her to return home to Cincinnati immediately. The children's vacationing parents have perished in a helicopter crash, and their grandmother, Francine, is lying in bed, unable to cope or even phone Eloise about the tragedy. Seventeen years later, the makeshift family is at a turning point. In less-than-free-wheeling Cincinnati, Eloise is loath to come out as a lesbian, although her lover is pressuring her for a commitment. She's had to settle for a less prestigious position at a local college in order to raise her nephew and nieces in their preferred domicile, Francine's large, crumbling Cincinnati home. (The narcissistic oldster has long since departed for Sewanee, where she makes trouble from a distance.) Josh was once a near-famous rock star before giving up music to please a manipulative girlfriend, who has since dumped him. Theo, now 28, has followed her aunt into academe but is stalled in her dissertation and her love life. Ballet prodigy Claire, 19, the only one to achieve escape velocity from Cincinnati, has left for NYC…until by chance, Theo spots her on the street, Cincinnati being not all that big a town. Francine has complicated matters by reneging on her promise to sign the house over to Eloise. Now, the Machiavellian matriarch insists that she'll give it to whoever marries first. This hook is not as gimmicky as it seems. Rather, it forces Eloise and her charges to fully examine their connection to each other and to the world. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611209419
Publisher:
Dreamscape Media
Publication date:
01/08/2013
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Marisa de los Santos
"This narrative voice is so alive. . . . I cherish this wry, funny, aching, intelligent character and this book!”
Allison Winn Scotch
"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.
Ann Hood
"Leah Stewart plunges deep into questions of home and heart. The History of Us is a lovely novel. Just lovely.”
From the Publisher
Starred Review. "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
3 out of 4 stars. "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 for worse - a family." - People Magazine
"Stewart's novel is an intimate exploration of a family in crisis and the different ways in which people cope with grief." - Publishers Weekly
"Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart's introspective examination of a family." - Library Journal
"Stewart 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." - Booklist
"...an emotionally charged story that, at times, will leave you breathless." - The Examiner
"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." - Book Page
"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 Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters
"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
"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
"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
Kevin Wilson
“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.”

Meet the Author

Leah Stewart is the critically acclaimed author of The History of Us, Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, and Body of a Girl. The recipient of a Sachs Fund Prize and a NEA Literature Fellowship, she teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Cincinnati and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. Visit her online at LeahStewart.com.

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The History of Us 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
On the way to teach her Harvard class, Eloise Hempel finds out that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident.  Eloise’s sister has left her as guardian of her three young children.  This causes her to return to Cincinnati to raise Theo, Josh, and Claire.  She moves into her mother’s house.  Her mother leaves, and Eloise goes about the raising and the upkeep of an ancient house. Now that the youngest, Claire, has moved out and onto her ballet career in New York, Eloise decides it is time to move on and sell the house.  But her mother and the children make this very difficult for Eloise. Every character is dealing with an issue.  Josh the quitting of a successful band and his ex-girlfriend.  Theo really wants the house and has a crush on an already taken guy.  Eloise wants to live her own life. I really felt like I was just reading a story.  At no point did I get sucked in and feel as if I was part of the story.  The potential was there and there were times that I felt close.  It seemed to be superficial, immature, and unfortunately lacking a great plot. I will say I did like Heather, Eloise’s “friend.”  She seemed to understand that Eloise needed to be forced to make changes and how the changes would work in their relationship. Overall, I cannot recommend this book, but have heard great things about Leah Stewart’s previous book and look forward to reading it. 
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
Teaching at Harvard is a dream come true for Eloise Hempel, but then she gets a life changing phone call. Her dream life ends, as she takes guardianship of his sister's three children. Fast forward, as her youngest niece, Claire is about to leave home to pursue her ballet career in New York. Eloise believes now she will able to pursue 'her' life. But Theo and Josh, the two oldest adult children, don't want to move out or move on. They are both stuck. As Eloise is about to throw them out, her mother decides to set up a competition between all of them to see who gets the house. Eloise has a secret relationship and waiting to pursue her dreams, Theo is dragging her feet to look for a grown-up life and having puppy love for one of Eloise's colleges, Josh is running from his successful music career, and Claire is hiding the most! With all the secrets coming to light everything begins to unravel. This novel really hit home for me. I got Theo on a number of different levels and issues. It was like no one got how she was still dealing with the loss of her parents all these years later. Eloise is in such a hurry for Theo to leave Cincinnati didn't seem to realize what the home, what the city meant to Theo. It's where her parents left her. In some way I related and understood each character and their motivations. None of them are perfect, none of them are totally likable or not likable. They are a family with all their issues. Not just current issues, but those ones we take with us from our childhood and seem to carry with us into our adulthood. A very character driven story! I was sad when the book ended. I wanted to keep turning pages and follow them. I wanted to see what was next for each of them. The History of Us is a story of a family and I very much recommend reading it.
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