The History of Us
In the newest novel by the celebrated author of The Myth of You and Me (which Claire Messud called “poignant, fierce, and compelling”), three grown siblings return to their childhood home and face a family secret that forces them to reexamine their relationships to each other—and to the aunt who took them in as children.
Eloise Hempel is on her way to teach a class at Harvard when she receives a devastating phone call. Her sister and her husband have been killed in a tragic accident, and Eloise must return home to Cincinnati to take their three children, Theodora, Josh, and Claire, out of the hands of her own incapable mother. She moves back into her mother’s century-old house and, after her mother leaves, pours her own money into its upkeep.
Nearly two decades later, Eloise is still in that house with now-grown Theo, Josh, and Claire, still thinking about the career and life she left behind, even as she pushes the kids to get a move on. With Claire leaving for New York City for a promising ballet career, Eloise has plans to finally sell the house and start a life that’s hers alone. But when her mother creates a competition for which of them gets the house and Claire turns out to have a life-changing secret, their makeshift family begins to fall apart.
The History of Us is a heartrending story of loss, sibling relationships, and the life you make in the path not taken.
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 treats see more