There seems to be something about the holiday season that draws me toward books on family dysfunction. The House of Brides is an engrossing title, and the book was equally suspenseful and compelling, but there is no doubt that the Summer family make the Bluths look like the Brady Bunch.
Mid-millennial Miranda is just the sort of person I would enjoy disliking if she were real, but by the end I was rooting for her, while also biting my nails. The books starts at one of the lowest points in her adulthood, in the sudden and crushing way that only could happen in the Instagram Era - sort of the opposite of winning the lottery. Boxed in, crumbling from the inside, she does what everyone in that situation wants to do. She runs away.
And finds herself at Barnsley House, the grand childhood home of her deceased mother, where the Summer family still lives. She becomes the nanny to her three younger cousins, but neglects to tell anyone that they are related. Barnsley is also the setting of her mother’s internationally bestselling book, a history of the women who have been mistress of Barnsley House. Miranda reveres the book as the last connection she has to a long-dead mother.
But, of course, she isn’t the only one hiding something. Sordid secrets seem to be the Summer family pastime, and they fill the halls of Barnsley. As she attempts to learn more about her mother and this hidden family, Miranda finds that trauma can be hereditary, and some sins are earned, others inherited.
The author wisely lets Miranda speak for herself, showing a deeply scarred person, haunted by her past transgression, intertwined by her mother’s legacy and the desire for redemption.