What a cute idea – a family forced into a seven-day isolation over Christmas. How novel! What an unexpected scenario! I wonder what hijinks will unfold as a family is thrust together in isolation for a whole week!
Oh wait. Literally everyone has lived this experience in 2020 and it is neither cute nor novel nor quaint. Oh dear.
I feel terrible for Hornak, the author of The Seven Days of Us. She published this little tale in 2017, before the ‘rona hit. What are the odds, right? How could she have known that a mere seven day quarantine sounds like a bloody trip to Disneyland at this point. Seven days?! Cry me a river! How about 7 MONTHS? I doubt the thought even entered her mind.
So, putting aside the unlucky timing of this novel, I gave it a crack. The novel covers seven days with the Birch family – a mother, a father, their children – two grown sisters. This family is quarantining in a sprawling estate, with many many bathrooms, attics, wine cellars, and a who separate ‘bungalow’. Compared to the quarantines many of us have suffered through, it sounded like paradise. One of the sisters – the one causing the family quarantine event – is returning from Liberia caring for victims of a fictional plague. She is a doctor, and thus Very Serious and Very Humourless. Her sister works in media and thus Very Vapid and Very Flighty. The mother is Very Overbearing but Very Well-Meaning. The father is Very British. Chapters are told from different family members’ points of view as the week unfolds. Tensions rise, secrets are told, relationships are redefined.
An alternate title might have been “Seven Days of Drama”. So much drama. Oodles of drama. An adopted child emerges! A secret cancer diagnosis! A broken engagement! I gay love affair! A secret pregnancy! A mysterious illness! It was like a whole season of a Shonda Rhimes series crammed into 368 pages.
I don’t mind drama, but the coincidences really got my eyes rolling through. Perhaps an alternate-alternate title would be “Seven Days of Highly Unlikely Coincidences”. For example: The novel begins with the mother waiting at the airport to greet her daughter. She begins prattling and oversharing to the bloke next to her in the arrivals section. She reveals to him that she has a very recent cancer diagnosis (which she is keeping a secret from her family). The bloke gets swept up in the overshare-a-thon and tells her he has come to this quaint English village to find his father, who he has never met and doesn’t even know he exists. And wouldn’t you know it: that bloke’s father turns out to be the husband of the cancer lady. What are the odds? Well that is just the beginning. Lot of coincides, lots of drama, lots of BIG ISSUES. But still, it felt silly.
An easy little read, but perhaps leave on the To Be Read shelf til 2031 – by then the memories of 2020 should have faded enough to accept the premise and just enjoy the drama.
2 secret love-children out of 5.