House Broken

House Broken

by Sonja Yoerg


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House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

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.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451472137
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 512,843
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, and earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox was published in 2001. She currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband. Together they run, garden, remodel houses, cook, eat, drink wine, then run some more. House Broken is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2014 Sonja Yoerg

Chapter One


Dr. Geneva Novak stared at the X ray clipped to the light box on the wall. She tilted her head sideways and squinted at the contents of the dog’s stomach. The iPod was obvious—it faced her—but the object protruding from the large blurry mass stumped her. Rectangular, with two bright white bars. Only metal lit up like that.

She clenched her jaw. This would be the third time she would have to operate on Zeke to remove things he’d swallowed, things his owner shouldn’t have left lying around. After the second incident, she had talked to the owner at length about how to protect his dog. She recommended he walk Zeke daily, so the dog wouldn’t turn to mischief out of boredom, and suggested he either keep his apartment orderly or confine the dog when he left the house. Nearly all dogs come to love their crates, she reassured him. Geneva had written down the instructions and told him he could call her anytime for help. But when Zeke’s owner brought him in this morning, he confessed he hadn’t followed through on anything. And the outcome was illuminated in black and white on the wall.

Eyes still on the X ray, she pulled a hair band from the pocket of her lab coat and secured her dark hair into a tidy bun that would fit under her scrubs cap. Her cell phone, abandoned on the desk behind her, warbled. She touched the icon. A message from Dublin. It’s Mom, it read. Call me.

Geneva sighed. “It’s always Mom.”

Holding it by the edges as if it were rigged to explode, she placed the phone on the corner of her desk, and took a step back. Her mother, represented by three letters on a tiny screen, had intruded the sanctity of her workplace and unbalanced her. Exhaling completely, she pulled her broad shoulders down and back, a habit from her yoga days that helped her focus.

She didn’t have to call Dublin, not right away. For all he knew she could be in surgery or have back-to-back appointments all afternoon. She might have left her phone on the kitchen counter this morning, or the battery might have died. Whatever had happened—whatever her mother, Helen, had done this time—could wait, ideally forever. Geneva had Zeke to take care of and another surgery after that. Helen was better off in Dublin’s hands in any case. Hadn’t he been dealing with her for years? And what could Geneva do from five hundred miles away?

Down the hall in the treatment room, a dog barked, setting off several others. Rosa, an intern from Marin High School, appeared in the office doorway, clutching a stack of files to her chest. She rocked on the toes of her red sneakers and grinned at Geneva.

“Zeke’s almost done with his fluids, Dr. Novak. He’ll be ready for surgery in about fifteen minutes.”

“That’s great. Thanks.” She turned toward the image of the mysterious object imprisoned in Zeke’s rib cage. “Hold on a minute, Rosa. If Zeke’s owner is still here, can you ask him if he’s also missing a charger?”

“Are you serious?”

“Bull terriers are notorious for their dietary indiscretion.” She noted Rosa’s blank expression. “They’ll eat anything. Still, Zeke’s taste for electronics has less to do with genetics than boredom. Zeke was made a geek, not born one.”

Rosa laughed, tossed her braid off her shoulder, and disappeared.

The call to her brother would have to wait. She took a last look at the X ray, flicked off the light box and went to change into scrubs.

At three o’clock Geneva finally unpacked her lunch. Her cell phone vibrated under the paper bag. Dublin again. She couldn’t avoid this any longer.

“Hi. I was going to call you.”

“Yeah? You got my message? Good. Listen, I know you’re slammed at work. When aren’t you, right? But I just need a minute, okay?” Dublin’s tone sounded more frenetic than usual. She sat up straighter. “Here’s the story, Ginny. Act One. Lights come up. The set’s deserted but there’s an empty vodka bottle on a side table. You can’t miss it.”

“Dublin, just tell me what’s going on. You can write the scene later.”

“I am telling you. Welcome to Act Two. Mom crashed her car. One leg is pretty mashed up for starters. God knows what else. She wasn’t too drunk to remember her seat belt, so we can expect an Act Three.”

The blood rushed from her head. She lowered the phone from her ear and stared at it with a mix of disbelief and anger. The seconds ticked by on the call timer. She listened to Dublin’s voice, now small in the palm of her hand. How easy it would be to quiet him, to hear nothing more about her mother. She could simply slide her finger an inch to the right. What was technology for if not such a convenience?

She raised the phone to her ear. “Sorry.”

“You okay, Ginny? Didn’t you hear me shouting? I was about to call reception and have them check on you. Don’t scare me like that.”

“I’m really sorry.” A car accident. How often had she asked her mother to get in the habit of taking taxis when sober, so she would automatically call one when she had been drinking? Helen’s opportunities to train herself were diminishing. Was it even noon when she had the accident? Geneva pictured the buckled hood of her mother’s blue Mustang, shattered glass on concrete, the rear doors of an ambulance. “Was anyone else hurt? Please tell me she didn’t kill anyone.”

“She didn’t kill anyone, but the cop at the hospital said she took out a few parked cars along Wilshire. The last one was an armored truck in front of a bank. The drivers thought she rammed them on purpose, so one of them drew his gun on her. That brought the cops pretty quickly. Everyone kept their heads, though. The only thing that went off was the airbag.”

“My God.” She dropped her forehead onto the heel of her hand.

“I know. Even I can’t write stuff this good.”

“Are you still at the hospital? Which one?”

“The Good Samaritan. And no. I was there but didn’t get to see her. I had to pick up Jack.”

When Dublin’s son, Jack, was diagnosed with autism four years ago, Dublin’s life had gone from rosy to harried. He and his wife, Talia, had a complex tag-team schedule, which was already subject to the mercy of L.A. traffic. A trip to the emergency room wouldn’t have been easy. Geneva felt a stab of guilt for Dublin’s burdens, then immediate gratitude for her two healthy children. Then a bit more guilt for that.

“What can I do, Dub?”

“Stay tuned.” He gave her the phone number of the hospital, and said he’d leave a message when he heard from the doctor.

Geneva called Zeke’s owner after the surgery and told the young man it had gone well. She gave him general directions for postoperative care and promised to leave a detailed instruction sheet at reception.

She was about to say good-bye when he asked, “Any chance the iPod still works? The way these vet bills keep piling up, I can’t afford another one.”

She suppressed the urge to hang up. “I didn’t test it,” she said evenly. “And I didn’t match up the socks I found in there either. There were three this time. And two pairs of women’s underwear.”

“For real? That dog is nuts.”

“Nuts? Hardly. Are you waiting for Zeke to reform himself? He needs you to take charge. Do the things I suggested before. Exercise him every day. A tired dog is a good dog. Don’t give him the run of the house when you can’t monitor what he’s doing. And, at the risk of sounding like your mother, pick up your socks.”

Geneva sent off the last urgent email of the day and noticed Constantine Corso leaning against the doorframe. Burly and square-jawed, “Stan” looked less like a veterinarian than a retired hit man.

“Zeke vacuuming his house again?”

“Yes. And he’ll be back. I’m not sure it was ethical to have sewn him up. Perhaps a Ziploc closure next time.”

“A lot of dogs eat things they shouldn’t, Geneva. Their owners can’t always stop them.”

“But they should try, Stan. That poor dog.”

Her cell phone buzzed from inside her lab coat. She pulled it out. Her brother again.

“You want me to show you how to answer that?” Stan teased.

“I’m not a Luddite,” she replied, more sharply than she meant to. “I just think connectivity is oversold. Case in point. Here we were, having a nice little chat about the moral quandaries surrounding sock-eating dogs, when this electronic buttinski interrupts with a message I know I don’t want.” She held the phone aloft. “I’m tempted to feed this to Zeke.” She slapped the phone onto the desk.

Stan lifted his eyebrows. She bit her lower lip and turned to the window. Outside, a woman in a blue coat holding a cat carrier walked down the path. A small girl skipped ahead of her. Geneva let out a long breath. Stan stepped into the room and sat in the chair across from her.

“Care to share with the class?” he said quietly.

In the three hours since she had talked to her brother, she hadn’t paused to think about her mother. In fact, she’d made a point of not thinking about her, and not only because of the demands of her job. The It’s Mom message gave her a familiar wrench-in-the-works feeling because each incident involving her mother upended her life. Last time Helen left a pan unattended, and while she was out cold on the couch, the kitchen curtains caught fire. Taking a nap, she had said. The repairs and insurance claim took weeks to sort out. A year before that, her mother was stranded in Vegas and, having reached the cash limits on her accounts, hawked her jewelry and burned through the proceeds. As in the past, there would be consequences. Legalities. Arguments. Reparations. And, eventually, promises to do better. Those were the worst.

She considered what to tell Stan. A few years ago, he had met her mother during a rare visit. Helen had embarrassed everyone by flirting ostentatiously with Stan in front of his wife. But Stan knew no more about Helen than Geneva revealed—not a great deal.


She leaned back in her chair. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. My mother’s had a car accident.”

“Oh, no. How bad is it?”

“Serious but not life threatening, as far as I know. My brother was updating me.” She tapped the phone on her desk.

“Can I do anything?”

It’s my life and I can’t even control it, she thought. What could anyone else do? “I’ve kept someone waiting in Room Two for twenty minutes. It’s my last appointment. You free?”

“You bet,” he said, getting up. “And let me know if you’ll need time off.”

Dublin’s message was a list: fractured knee and leg, broken nose (from the airbag, she presumed), dislocated shoulder, possible concussion, monitoring for internal injuries, stable. He had placed the word stable in quotes. She smiled thinly at the quip, then winced as she imagined her mother in a hospital bed, in a hip cast, her nose taped across the bridge, and bruises blooming under her closed eyes.

Geneva lifted the leash off the hook behind the door and hung up her lab coat. She left her office and stopped by reception to remind the assistant to check on Zeke later that evening.

Outside the treatment room, she peeked through the window in the door. Rosa was bent over a computer next to Diesel, Geneva’s Great Dane–chocolate Lab mix. The dog had recognized her footfall in the corridor and sat up expectantly, his head cocked to one side. She pushed open the door and called to him. He trotted across the room and sat in front of her, his nose at her waist, and lifted a paw. She held it and inspected the strip of adhesive tape on his forelimb. Tom, her husband, had brought Diesel to the clinic that morning to donate blood for a dog that had been hit by a car.

She stroked Diesel’s ears flat. “How’s my brave boy? Ready for the steak I promised you?”

The marsh wasn’t on her way home. By the time she stood on the path that ran along Pickleweed Inlet, the shadow of Mount Tamalpais had turned the water midnight blue. A pair of kayaks, pointed toward Sausalito, slipped along the eelgrass at the marsh’s edge. She walked Diesel only a short distance, not wanting to tire him after the transfusion. Raising her binoculars, she scanned for unusual shorebirds. A dowitcher probed the sand and a handful of sandpipers huddled close before scattering like children at recess. The head of a harbor seal surfaced twenty feet from shore. It regarded her briefly, then vanished, leaving the merest ripple.

The binoculars had been a tenth-birthday present from her father, Eustace, who died less than two years later. The weight of them on the strap around her neck calmed her as she looked across the water at the reeds on the distant bank, Diesel’s shoulder against her thigh. Her father had no particular love for birds, but Geneva tagged along when he hunted turkey or small game in the lush Carolina wood. He said searching for songbirds would keep her occupied during the long, quiet mornings in the woods. Walking behind him on the narrow paths in the predawn glow, his back as broad as the trunks of the ancient cottonwoods around them, she felt safe, and because of that, happy. They only spoke occasionally, when he would drop to one knee and show her some animal sign—a new opening in the bramble or a print in the dewy moss—his voice so low it sank into the damp mulch at their feet. He never minded when there was nothing to shoot, and she never minded when there was. The harsh crack of the rifle and the limp rabbits and doves represented the practical cost of the joy of those mornings.

That marked the beginning of her interest in animals, and the beginning of who she was to become. When her father died, she felt forsaken. A few years passed before she also felt cheated. Her eldest sister, Paris, was nearly an adult when he died, and his love for her was blinding, uncommon. Geneva, by comparison, was a child in the shadows. He had missed out on her entirely.

She turned toward the car. Tom would be wondering where she was. She would have to explain why she hadn’t called him about Helen. He would nod with understanding. And when he asked if she wanted him to go with her to L.A., she would watch for the measured disappointment on his face as she admitted she hadn’t decided whether to go.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A stunning debut that will leave readers wanting more! Yoerg is on par with established women’s fiction authors such as Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)

House Broken is a beautifully rendered debut. It’s smart, heartbreaking, and thought provoking… This wonderful novel is destined to be a hit with book clubs.”—Beth Hoffman, New York Times Bestselling Author of Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt

“A riveting tale exploring the power of family secrets.“—Ellen Marie Wiseman, Author of What She Left Behind

"Sonja Yoerg creates a compelling tale of a family gone awry, and the ultimate cost of maintaining shameful secrets. House Broken is everything I love in women’s fiction…beautiful writing, strong characters, a dash of mystery, and the hope for redemption."—Lori Nelson Spielman, International Bestselling Author of The Life List

“Gorgeously written with characters that shine.”—Eileen Goudge, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Replacement Wife
“A sparkling and insightful debut.”—Emily Liebert, author of When We Fell
“With marvelous wit, Yoerg shows us that for almost every dark pocket of pain a family’s history hides, there is, ultimately, a ray of light and love.”—Julie Lawson Timmer, Author of Five Days Left

Reading Group Guide


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.


Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, and earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox was published in 2001. She currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband. Together they run, garden, remodel houses, cook, eat, drink wine, then run some more. House Broken is her first novel.

  1. Helen’s choices within her marriage were shaped by the nature of small town life in the South during the 60s. Imagine, however, she lived in present-day California with a powerful and abusive husband and a daughter in denial of her victimhood. Would Helen have different options? Would she take them? If not, would she deserve forgiveness? Did she deserve the forgiveness granted her by Geneva and Dublin?
  2. Geneva brought her mother into her home, despite her adamant belief that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Were there other instances where Geneva second-guessed her instincts? Have you ever made the right decision by ignoring your instincts?
  3. The story is filled with dogs, and each plays a role in the plot, sometimes figuratively. Diesel is Geneva’s faithful companion; who else stood by her? Which human character reminded you of Aldo, Juliana’s Doberman, and how did Geneva come to make this comparison? What lesson did we learn from Argus, Paris’ German shepherd? Finally, the retriever at the rescue clinic is flawed, but not irredeemable. Who else could be described in those terms?
  4. Paris is an intricate, disturbed and disturbing character. How did you feel about her as a victim of incest? As Helen’s daughter? As a sister to Geneva?
  5. Ella and Charlie have a complicated relationship and keep many secrets from their parents. How do they evolve over the course of the story? What do you think happens to them over the next few years?
  6. Geneva’s brother is the one saving grace from her childhood. Discuss how Geneva might have become a different person without Dublin.
  7. Paris notwithstanding, the Riley children become relatively well-balanced adults. Does this outcome justify Helen’s actions? Dublin, in particular, appears bulletproof. Do you see this as a function of his personality or something else in the family dynamic?
  8. At the beginning of the novel, Tom and Geneva bump heads over parenting. How are their approaches affected by their own family histories? How does this change over the course of the story?
  9. Helen’s children’s views of their upbringing are as far flung as the children themselves. How do siblings come to such different perspectives on the same events? Do you and your siblings hold similar views of your family life?
  10. Geneva learns to forgive her mother, at least in part, and learns to let her go. What else did Geneva learn over the course of the story?

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House Broken 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Debut novels are either good or dreadful. House Broken was brilliantly written . Having come through the teenage years fairly sane with my clan ,and having lots of family baggage makes this a truly realistic novel .
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Helen, Geneva and Ella - three generations of women narrate this story and I loved that each of them had a voice although Geneva took the lead most of the time.  In some books the teenagers and their story lines are minor, but somehow Sonja Yoerg gave the teenager's storylines as much weight as the adults and they intertwined so perfectly.   I always say I love generational stories where you see that the decisions that your grandparents make will affect how your parent was raised and then in turn how you were raised.  I just love to read the trickle effect that happens in family dynamics.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started this book and carried it with me until I finished it, meaning. I brought it to the dentist, hair salon, bathroom, bedroom, airport, and destination. I didn't want to put it down or risk having a moment without it incase it was a moment I could steal away and read Sonja Yoerg's words. The compelling story of a family with secrets and dysfunction in the light of a world trying to stay on track is my favorite kind of book, if well written. This is well written, well told, beautifully done. You will love it. 
Mel_in_AZ More than 1 year ago
I first discovered Sonja Yoerg when her nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox, popped up on Goodreads (“How interesting!” said the animal lover in me). I was fascinated by this author’s professional experiences and grew even more so as I got to know her wit and charm through social media. It goes without saying that I couldn’t wait to dig in to her fiction debut, House Broken, to see how pieces of Yoerg’s professional background fit into her fictional story. She certainly did not disappoint (and I’m quite thrilled to have gotten an advance copy). It’s clear, in this story of family relationships and hidden secrets, Yoerg understands the complexities of animal AND human behavior. Told through the points of view of three characters – Geneva, her mother Helen, and Geneva’s daughter Ella – we learn so much about the ways people misunderstand one another. Family dynamics and dysfunction play a primary role in this story, aided by the author’s clever insertion of canine analogies and connections to the wild. Says Geneva of her son Charlie’s behavior: “Habits were hard to break; a child cutting corners and bending the rules was the same as a dog with a habit of digging. Look the other way, and a hole becomes a tunnel, and the dog is somewhere on the far side of the fence.” Through Geneva’s recollection of childhood, we see a remarkable human connection to animals and the natural world. “One summer morning she had been sitting on a log for half an hour when she detected a change in her surroundings. A moment passed, then a Cooper’s hawk swooped down to snatch a warbler from the air…. At the time, she concluded that the gravity of certain events ran slightly ahead in time. If she paid close attention, she could sense the subliminal shudder preceding something dangerous, or spectacular.” While wildlife and nature lend a lovely backdrop to this story, it is, ultimately, a tale about family and the poisonous effects of hidden secrets. Despite the story’s serious nature, Helen’s character provides some laugh-out-loud moments with her particular turns of phrase. One of my favorites was the description of her husband going “ass over teakettle” as he fell into a bunker while golfing. Helen may sum up the essence of this story best when she thinks to herself, “The past wasn’t a guest you could ask to leave when you tired of its company. No, the past put up its feet and meant to stay.” If you enjoy introspective character-driven women's fiction with smart writing that grapples with tough issues, this is the book for you. I’m personally looking forward to the next story by this wonderful author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sonja Yoerg alternates between three multigenerational female narrators in this compelling family saga--Geneva, a middle-aged veterinarian and mother of two teens; Ella, her teenage daughter who's struggling for independence; and Helen, Geneva's alcoholic mother who drinks to forget secrets from her past. Yoerg uses suspense and foreshadowing that keeps readers flipping quickly through the pages, but even if you think you have it all figured out, there are several twists and turns you definitely won't see coming! A strong debut novel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A compelling, authentic, and beautifully realized debut by a promising new author! 
PennysueHI More than 1 year ago
This is a great story! The characters are well developed; there is a sense of mystery and some clever foreshadowing. I won't give away the secret....The main character is a vet so I enjoyed the animal components in the novel as well as the relationships between family members. Definately a powerful yet easy read that I highly recommend.
Tracey_L More than 1 year ago
This book has been on my radar for months, so when I was fortunate enough to win a copy from Goodreads First Reads program, I was ecstatic. Then my excitement morphed into worry that all of my anticipation was going to ruin the reality because I had built up so much expectation of the book. I didn't need to worry. Sonja Yoerg has provided us with a stupendous debut novel. This is a novel of family and relationships, and how complicated each of those things can be. The writing is at times lyrical, but always clear and concise, moving the story forward beautifully. The story is told from the point of view of three generations of strong women; grandmother, mother and daughter who have been thrown together by the reckless actions of the grandmother. This results in upheaval to the carefully, if somewhat precariously structured dynamic, and ends with belief systems shattering left and right. This was an unexpectedly personal story for me, and I suspect that many others will feel the same. The issues are universal and gripping, which kept me reading far later into the night than was wise, but I have no regrets. If you don't find at least one piece of yourself in this novel, no matter how infinitesimal, who are you really keeping secrets from? Bravo to Ms. Yoerg on a glorious debut. I look forward to her next story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story was so interesting you will not want to put it down.
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Sherri_Hunter More than 1 year ago
With <i>House Broken</i> , new to me author Sonja Yoerg writes a heartfelt story about a woman&rsquo;s journey to connect with her mother, siblings, children and husband.  Geneva Novak is a typical woman trying to find balance between career and family.  Her world is thrown a major curveball when her mother, Helen, is injured in a car accident while driving intoxicated.  Geneva&rsquo;s relationship with Helen has never been ideal and she is reluctant to invite her to move in to recover, but Geneva is Helen&rsquo;s only option.  Geneva doesn&rsquo;t count on the impact Helen&rsquo;s presence will have on the rest of the household and before long, Geneva finds herself facing long buried secrets about her family that she never expected and new problems involving her own children. I admired Geneva and her courage to persevere with so many obstacles in her path.  Her determination to uncover the truth behind the reasons behind her mother&rsquo;s drinking, her oldest sister, Paris&rsquo;s 30 year estrangement with their mother made me feel a lot of empathy for her.  Geneva starts looking at the parallels between the relationship she has with her mother and the one she has with her sixteen year old daughter, Ella, and realizes she doesn&rsquo;t want the same patterns to repeat themselves. The plot switches smoothly between the past and the present and gives the viewpoints of Geneva, Helen and Ella.  As more is revealed about Geneva&rsquo;s parents and the secrets that have been long buried, Geneva&rsquo;s belief system is shaken.  I had a hard time warming up to Helen but the more I learned about her, I felt sorry for her but didn&rsquo;t agree with the choices she made.  I really liked Geneva and her brother, Dublin.  Geneva&rsquo;s sisters, Paris and Florence, don&rsquo;t make much of an appearance in the story&rsquo;s present timeline and the glimpses I did get of them, I didn&rsquo;t care for them.  I liked Geneva&rsquo;s husband, Tom and their children, Ella and Charlie and thought they were flawed just enough to make them interesting. When I first saw the cover of this book, I initially thought this would be a woman&rsquo;s hilarious journey to potty train her puppy.  This book covers a lot of painful and sensitive topics that took me by surprise.  Kudos to the author for writing a book that addresses these topics with grace and class that drew a lot of emotions out of me. My Final Verdict: If you are a reader that chooses their books based on the cover, then you will be in for a big shock as the adorable dog on the cover is only a minor character in the story.  I recommend this story for the strong familial relationships and one woman&rsquo;s determination to shine the light of truth on the dark corners of her family&rsquo;s past. <i>Disclaimer:</i>  I received a complimentary copy of <i>House Broken</i> from the author in exchange for an honest review. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was lucky enough to score an ARC of House Broken by Sonja Yoerg and I&rsquo;m so glad I did! House Broken is a terrifically nuanced story of a fractured family. No one is perfect, and not one single character is predictable. These are complicated, layered people (my personal favorite!) The subject matter itself is brave: family secrets, inappropriate relationships and old resentments pile deep and thick but Yoerg&rsquo;s deft prose keeps it captivating, never heavy or melodramatic. Geneva is career driven, almost to distraction, Helen is an alcoholic, and Ella is a typical self-centered teenager. I loved how despite (or maybe because of) the characters flaws being center stage, they were still enthralling and endearing. I wanted to know what past secrets would unspool, what forgivenesses and hurts would be aired, how these women would heal and move on. The mother/daughter bond is incredibly strong and always complicated. Yoerg captured this perfectly. Woven within all the novel's relationships is a common thread: your past is yours if you own it. It doesn&rsquo;t define your future if you face it. Forgiveness is only found in honesty. There are big life lessons here. A fabulous book club read, without a doubt!
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
I have to start with the cover.    I am not a huge animal person, but that puppy on the front cover is adorable and pulled me right in.   The white picket fence symbolizes the American family to me.    I was intrigued before I even started the book, while hoping that this was not just a cute dog story.   House Broken is a family story.   The Novak family has been torn apart by secrets and is working at getting back together.  Geneva, the main character, has secrets that she doesn&rsquo;t even know about.   When her life comes crashing down, starting with her husband and continuing with her kids, mother, and siblings, Geneva knows that she has to toughen up and work through it.   I feel like her mother is the worst of the problems.   She is an adult and should know better, yet with every decision she makes Geneva&rsquo;s life harder and harder.    I wanted someone to tell her to grow up and fend for herself.     At no point did I feel like Helen took anyone into consideration other than herself.    Yet, Geneva managed to work through all of her family&rsquo;s problems and become a strong, healthier, and more understanding mother, wife, and overall person.   This is the first book of Sonja Young&rsquo;s I have read.    I love that she pulls the reader in from the very first page and keeps the reader engaged until the story is entirely told.    Sometimes I had to put the book down and just think about what had just happen or been said.  I believe this is a story that will stay with me for a while.  It will definitely make me appreciate how drama free my family is (at least most of the time).
TheAvidReader_KA More than 1 year ago
House Broken by Sonya Yoerg is an interesting book. It is about families with their struggles and their secrets and how they overcome them. It looks at the lives of Geneva Novak, a veterinarian (she prefers dealing with animals to humans), and her family (and what a family she has)! Her husband, Tom, looks at life through rose colored glasses. Her children, Charlie and Ella, are seriously lacking discipline, rules, and someone to keep a close eye on them! Geneva&rsquo;s mother, Helen, is the worst of them all. She is an alcoholic that refuses to reform. Geneva has done her best to distance herself from her mother, Helen, and her behavior. Helen started drinking heavily after her husband passed away. However, Helen gets into a car accident, while drunk, and needs assistance while she recovers. Tom suggests that Helen stay with the Novak&rsquo;s while she recovers. Geneva dislikes the idea, at first, but realizes it is the right thing to do and, maybe, she can repair her relationship with Helen. Geneva and her family go through a period of discovery and revelations. Geneva uncovers long buried family secrets that explains Helen&rsquo;s behavior, Tom and Geneva grow closer together, and unexpected revelations regarding Ella and Charlie. After I first started reading this book, I was not sure I would enjoy the book, but after a while, I could not put it down. I wanted to see what would happen with Geneva, Tom, Ella, Charlie, and Helen. This is an excellent debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. It is about real life and real families. Not something that I would want to read all the time (because I see reading as a way of getting away from real life), but enjoyable. I received a complimentary copy of this book through Penguin&rsquo;s First to Read Program. Happy Reading!
mystery53 More than 1 year ago
The title, I believe is a metaphor or pun on words and that is all I will say. The author's character delineation is excellent. Sonja Yoerg expresses a lot of love and emotion putting it words but by the characters body language and tone. She depicts the spectrum of human emotions and allows the reader to respond in kind. I felt quite frustrated with Geneva, Helen and Juliana at times, but grew very close to Helen and her daughter. The book is sorely missed by me.