House of Wonder. Sarah Healy. Penguin Group (USA). September 2014. 352 pp. ISBN#: 9780451239877.
Jenna and Warren grew up as twins in a small New Jersey town throughout the 1950s and thereafter. Their mother was a famous beauty queen who was primed for fame but neglected and abused in every other way. Jenna was born without trouble but Warren had to be delivered half an hour later by C-section. Warren has an obvious mental disability but is sweet, loving, smart and extremely sensitive to those whom he trusts. He and Jenna have an obviously close relationship; all they have to do is pull on an earlobe when in distress and the other will come to help immediately!
Jenna is grown now and has a daughter of her own, Rose. She is drawn back to her hometown when her mother starts exhibiting strange behavior arising from shopaholic tendencies. One senses something else is wrong with Priscilla but as with Warren the disorder is never named and that’s a good thing as the reader is drawn to learn more about them rather than stereotypically labeling them and fitting future behaviors to that label. We also are able to discern the positive aspects of their personality that we might miss otherwise!
This is the story of Jenna returning to help her mother and Warren, who is beat up severely and accused of the random, frequent robberies in the neighborhood. Add to that that Rose’s absent Dad has now returned and wants to be a father, although his new wife makes everything more than difficult. The bright life in Jenna’s world is an old high school friend Bobby who is preparing to be a doctor and his daughter Gabby. Both of their children have a prescient feeling about their relationship which makes it all the more endearing as their relationship grows into something lovely!
Many secrets are gradually revealed throughout this novel that hurt but hurt less than the lack of ability to explain the way things have evolved with Priscilla and her family and her husband. There’s something wonderfully unique about this story that manages even in the worst of scenes to maintain a respect and love for each other that supersedes all else. Love isn’t easy but it is healing when one sticks around long enough to observe, reflect and act rather than react. Love is precious in this highly recommended novel about family, dysfunction, mystery and growth!