PUBLICATION DATE October 17, 2017
A week is a long time to spend with your family.
Now imagine being quarantined with them over the entire Christmas holiday.
That is the hilarious premise behind Francesca Hornak’s bright, wryly-observed debut novel, SEVEN DAYS OF US (Berkley Hardcover; October 17, 2017). This Is Where I Leave You meets “Love Actually” in a contemporary family drama about a dysfunctional British family, which was snapped up by Berkley’s newest Executive Editor with a substantial pre-empt. And internally at Penguin Random House, everyone is buzzing about this incredible book and fresh new voice.
Francesca Hornak drew inspiration for this situational dramedy from a friend who, after treating the Ebola virus abroad, was forced into a month-long quarantine upon her return home. In SEVEN DAYS OF US, we meet the Birch family as they re-enter each other’s orbits after years of fractured contact. Eldest daughter Olivia, a doctor, has just returned from treating a life-threatening virus in Africa and must spend Christmas in quarantine. Her family, forced into lockdown with her, decides to spend the week in their crumbling and isolated country manor, Weyfield Hall. Under one roof for the first time in years, each arrives carrying secrets and simmering resentments.
We learn about each member of the Birch family and the secrets they keep through Hornak’s robust writing style and talented storytelling, compelling us to empathize with each character as the novel progresses. In residence with Olivia are her unabashedly frivolous younger sister Phoebe, fixated on her upcoming wedding; father Andrew, sequestered in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and longing for his glory days as a war correspondent; and sweet bumbling matriarch Emma, who’s hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
But when a shocking, unexpected visitor arrives, the family’s pressurized state will boil over, spilling problems—and possibly the deadly virus—outside the gates of Weyfield Hall.
Alternating between each family member’s point of view, SEVEN DAYS OF US is both a sharp-edged wink at difficult family holidays, and a character-driven look at the real failures, fumbles, and false starts that define family.
Like in Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. the World, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, and Emma Straub’s The Vacationers, the hilarious, touching, and poignant idiosyncrasies of the Birch family manage to feel universal. Anyone who loves their family—in small doses—will relate to the inner thoughts of each character. You can’t choose your family, but as the Birch family will discover, that might be the luckiest thing of all.
Imagine being quarantined with your family for 7 days, 1 week, over Christmas. No going to the store, no going out to eat, just being together 24/7. As much as I love my family I am not sure that would be a great time. That is exactly what happen to the Birch family. As the family gets to spend time together they find out that they each have secrets. Those secrets shape how they react to each other and things happening around them. As those secrets come to light their relationships start to change and they come to understand and appreciate each other in different ways.
I found myself becoming more and more invested in this family. There were times that I wasn’t sure that I was loving what I was reading but I was so invested that I could not stop. I was hooked on the story. The characters were not always likeable, the story sometimes seemed to get cluttered up with all the secrets and inability to communicate with each other. Yet the more I read the more I wanted to find out about the drama.
If you are looking for a realistic, family story Seven Days of Us is the perfect book for you. I’d recommend picking up your own copy.
Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. Visit her online @FrancescaHornak. Follow the author on Twitter