The History of Us
Sometimes home is the hardest place to go
Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach her first class at Harvard when she receives the devastating news that her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident. Eloise leaves her life in Cambridge and moves back into her family’s century-old house in Cincinnati, pouring her own money into the house’s upkeep and her heart into raising her sister’s three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire.
Nearly twenty years later, the now-grown children seem ready to leave home, and Eloise plans to sell the house and finally start a life that’s hers alone. But when Eloise’s mother decides that they should all compete for the chance to keep the house and Claire reveals a life-changing secret, the makeshift family begins to fall apart and ultimately must decide what in life is worth fighting for.
Leah Stewart digs into The History of Us
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Reading Group Guide
Nearly two decades have passed since Eloise Hempel gave up her dream job teaching at Harvard University to return to her hometown of Cincinnati to care for her orphaned nieces and nephew. Now, with Theo, Josh, and Claire grown, she dreams of selling the family house, perhaps even returning to the life she left behind. But when her mother decides not to let Eloise sell the house—and instead promises it to the family member “who needs it most”—unforeseen consequences and revelations threaten to unravel their makeshift family.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Why did Eloise return to Cincinnati rather than have Theo, Josh, and Claire move to Boston? Do you think she made the right decision? Why or why not? What would you have done if you were in Eloise’s position?
2. Describe Eloise’s individual relationships with Theo, Josh, and Claire. What makes each relationship unique? What are the specific strains on each relationship? Do you think Eloise tr see more