A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
My Review of Seven Days of Us
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak is the intricate story of the Birch Family forced together for a week at Christmas under medical quarantine.
The Birch family has not been together under one roof for quite a while. Their oldest daughter Olivia is coming home from Liberia where she has been treating an epidemic of Haag Virus along with another doctor Sean Coughlan. Unfortunately, Olivia must stay in enforced medical confinement at home, leaving her family with little choice but to join her in isolation at their old county manor in Norfolk. But Olivia’s dreading the week she must spend with her family over the holidays. She has felt disconnected from her mother and father for quite a number of years and the closeness she once felt with her sister is gone as they now have nothing in common. As the days progress Olivia begins to feel trapped. She misses Sean and the day to day intensity of living in the worst of conditions, treating the worst of diseases. Phoebe, her sister, does nothing but prattle on about her upcoming nuptials while dad makes himself scarce and mom bustles about the decaying manor cooking and wrapping gifts as if everything is hunky dory. But the serene family Christmas the Birch family is trying so hard to manufacture is about to come unraveled at the arrival of two unexpected guests, George, Phoebe’s fiancé and Jesse, a son Andrew Birch has never met. As secrets of the family are revealed, and everybody has one, the tension within the house comes to a head with explosive results. But the outcome is for the better as the Birch family find they will emerge from their medical seclusion a more caring and tight-knit family. One they’ve always wanted to be, one they always needed to be.
I liked the way Francesca Hornak weaved complex characters into an ever evolving storyline. As the holiday week wore on, you could feel the tension building in the house. When George and Jesse finally arrive on the scene, things really begin to take a turn in an unexpected way and there was never a dull moment in the Birch residence again. Secrets are laid bare leaving the family to deal with them in the aftermath. Things will never be the same again, but the family will be the better for it.
All the characters in Seven Days of Us were unique and well written. Each had a distinct part to play in this book, but my favorites were Jesse and Emma. I liked Emma because despite all the problems she was quietly dealing with, her priority was always and foremost her family. She tried to bring lightness to all the tension and when all else failed she reverted to the kitchen to feed her loved ones. She tried to constantly keep everyone happy even in the most awkward of situations and when she finally had enough of her husband’s behavior she let lose a lifetime of pent-up frustration. It was a great scene in the book, one I could read again and again.
I also liked Jesse. Jesse liked to get to the heart of the matter, in other words he wore his proverbial heart on his sleeve. This made him extremely endearing to the reader, but not necessarily to his new found family. Jesse also had a kind side to him and was willing to go the extra mile, even at the expense of himself. I believe it was Jesse and Emma that were instrumental in resolving the conflicts that held the Birch family hostage for so long. All in all, they were charming characters amid the others who were often reserved and seemingly detached. Unfortunately, George was my least favorite character. Selfish and often self-serving, he only had his own interests at heart.
Seven Days of Us is the unique story of The Birch Family trying to get through the holidays with secrets intact and with little emotion expended as possible. Instead, secrets are revealed, feelings expressed and a family long void of emotion manages to find themselves seeing each other in an all new light. The family that entered the holidays will not be the same family that enters the New Year.
I want to thank Berkley Publishing via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak for a fair and honest review.
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