House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

House Broken

Sonja Yoerg

A resonant debut novel set in California and the South about a woman who must confront her alcoholic mother and the terrible secret about their family she's hidden.

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In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…
For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.
Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.
Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.


Advance Galley Reviews

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg is the journey of a dysfunctional family as they searched for answers, fought to repair broken family ties, and searched for closure in their lives. As the story unfolded there were some dark family secrets that came to light. I found the behavior of Geneva’s sister and mother troubling. The manner in which her mother avoided the truth and how her sister just accepted things as they were was quite disturbing. In the end, I wasn’t convinced that everything was resolved. However, Yoerg did do a good job of presenting a story that reflected the importance of accepting the things from your past that you can’t change, letting go, and moving on.

I was really grateful to have received an ARC of this book. Though the cover is a bit misleading, I must admit it would be a nice image to flip back to every once in a while, because the story itself is quite heavy and not a very fluffy read. It impressively showcases a dysfunctional family dynamic, alternating between three points of view stemming from three distinct generations. This was an excellent and engaging read.

I am so glad that I was selected to receive an early copy of House Broken because otherwise I may never have actually picked it up. First of all, as much as I love the cover of this book, don't be fooled by it. Though one of the main characters is a veterinarian and there are animals throughout the book, it's not actually about dogs at all. It's about a very broken and dysfunctional family, told through the viewpoint of three generations of women - Helen is the alcoholic and overdramatic grandmother, Geneva the somewhat uptight mother, and Ella the teenager, who is trying to find out exactly who she is and who she wants to become, even if she doesn't realize it. Helen gets injured in an accident and is unable to care for herself or pay someone to care for her, so Geneva reluctantly agrees to have Helen move in to her family's home while she is recovering Sonja is amazingly gifted at writing, especially at giving this particular story multiple layers and constantly changing the way you feel about these characters as you read. She seamlessly wrote from 3 different points of view, plus she alternated from the past and the present when writing from Geneva's and especially Helen's points of view. If this had only been told from Geneva's point of view, I would have a completely different opinion of Helen and Ella. Many of the characters in this book are deeply flawed and have done really horrible things, yet when you read from their point of view you can begin to understand why they made the choices they did. I'm not saying I agree with the choices certain characters made, because this book deals with very sensitive issues, but I did understand their actions and the feelings behind those actions. I would absolutely recommend this book. I didn't want to put it down, and when I had to put it down, I was excited to pick it back up. Books that are classified as women's fiction usually don't have enough going on that I would consider them a real page-turner, but that is exactly what I would call this. I'm looking forward to reading Sonja's next book already!

I really enjoyed this book! Although the main character was a veterinarian, the story itself didn't have much to do with animals. Instead it was a dramatic and heartwrenching tale about longstanding family dysfunction, secrets and the rippling consequences through gernerations.

Really enjoyed this book. I got pulled into the characters lives and felt like I was experiencing the ups and downs with them.

This book was touted as a breakthrough novel from a new author and although I can see her strengths as a writer, a lot of the story just felt too contrived and unrealistic for me to rate it higher. Despite not feeling the story was plausible, I did really enjoy it and found the book to be quite readable even with that little niggling feeling in the back of my head about whether or not these things could actually be happening. I did like the continuity of the names of Geneva and her siblings, because let's face it, a lot of people have some sort of plan when they name their children so why not have city names. For someone so intelligent though, I didn't quite buy that Geneva was so unaware of her children's issues yet I could believe that she blocked out her mother and sister's. I also didn't believe that she was so at odds with her husband and then everything would be ok. For something that was supposed to be an underlying tension built up over time, I just thought it would play a larger and more consistent role in the story. There were quite a few allusions to things that were never developed more, like issues with her in-laws, the Novaks, that I felt could either be left out or needed to be expanded upon. But again, this book was one that I read quite easily so I think that Sonja Yoerg has a fantastic career as a writer coming up.

Was a really good book. The writing of the chapters was very good loved the insight into the characters. Loved that it was so real and something that many families have to go through.

This novel was beautiful, but raw. Joy and pain and terrible disappointment. In a word, life. These are real characters 3 dementional and terribly broken, but beautiful and hopeful. I would read it again and recommend it.

I loved this book! I got into it right from the beginning. I loved the writing style. I felt like I really knew and cared about the characters. Couldn't put it down and would highly recommend this book.

It took a few chapters to get used to going back and forth between characters viewpoints. Once I got the characters set in my mind, then the book was enjoyable. It was interesting to see each characters problems and how they all intermingled at times. I loved the humor Geneva had with her brother. The story has a dark side though. Geneva's husband was not too well developed and we could have done with his point of view. Unfortunately, I did not realize the book would expire before the last date listed that I could review it. So, I can't spoil the end for anyone! LOL I would recommend the book if you like to read about interaction with family problems and the solving of such. C Niles from KY

Willow Leigh from N.E.6hio... Ms. Yoerg writes an inspiring story about family dynamics and relationship that makes you stop and think about your own family. Helen a crotchety old lady comes to live with her daughter Geneva and her two teenage children to recoup. Ms. Yoerg doesn't sugar coat this story...she tells it like it is. Relationships aren't easy especially when you put three generations under one roof. How easy it is for us to misunderstand each other when all the facts aren't displayed. Secrets tend to get in the way because we don't want to hurt one another. I enjoyed the layered depths that of this interesting family. The way animals behavior was brought into the story made it a little easier to draw the analogies within the story out making it easy for everyone to understand adding to the thought provoking in your own life. The messages within the story hit you right between the eyes letting you know that it is time to put the past behind you so that you can move on. It shows how easy it is to keep adding to the mistakes from one generation to the next and in order to fix the problems you have to have the strength and the courage to end the destruction. Ms. Yoerg truly has written a very lovely story with characters that are real...easy to get to know. Bringing that extra bit of realism to the story. The likening of animals to human behavior added warmth to the story. I enjoyed every bit of the heartfelt story. I highly recommend this...

This is not the type of book I would normally have chosen but it looked interesting. Once I started reading I could not stop; the writing was truly compelling. Three generations of disappointments, mistakes and are blended together to create the present and now three women are given the opportunity to build the future in a different direction. Geneva works hard to be a better mother to her children than her mother had been for her, while mother refuses to share or let go of the pains of the past. Her daughter Elle is going through a painful stage of growing up and refuses to share her concerns and confusion or to believe that her mother can understand what she is feeling. When the three women are forced to share a home for a while, they have a chance to better understand one another and to change the direction of their lives. The question is will they be open to what they see?

Sonja Yoerg has created memorable characters, a wonderful setting and an intriguing story in House Broken. I really enjoyed reading about Geneva's world, and I thought Sonja did a magnificent job writing from a teenage girl's perspective. An enjoyable story!

I received this book from Penguin First to Read and I thank them for the opportunity to read an advanced copy. This book wasn't really what I expected. I think I felt it would be a light-hearted contemporary and have some cute dogs in it - I mean, look at that cover. Of course, I can blame myself because I apparently didn't pay close attention to the synopsis. That being said, I am glad I didn't and truly enjoyed this novel. This book is family dysfunction at its best. But not comical family dysfunction, dark and severely messed up dysfunction. Geneva clearly had a crazy childhood and it is a wonder she grew up and is as successful as she is. But Geneva got off lucky, because some of her family had it rougher than her. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. None of them are extremely likable, and it takes some time to get used to Geneva's alcoholic mother, Helen. The book is told from duel perspectives which works extremely well for the story being told. There ARE some animals in it because after all, Geneva is a vet. The author did a great job of introducing a few dogs which end up mirroring characters in the book. It is a subtle symbolism, but it is there. I am glad I picked up this book and I recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a well written novel about families and all their goodness and badness.

This was a really great read, but at times very difficult to stomach. It was a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart. I liked Geneva most of the time, but didn't care much for how she interacted with everyone else. Her children were typical teenagers with major secrets, and her husband seemed to be a passive parent, which caused a lot of problems as the kids played them off each other. I did like the transformation of the daughter, and was interested in her storyline. I was glad to get to read this book as an advance copy. I don't know if it's one I would have chosen on my own, but I would definitely read more by this author.

I had a difficult time getting thru this book. The plot is good, but there is too much going back and forth without the development and understanding of each character. As time went on, I liked Geneva. Her Mother, I didn't like although as the story continues, I begin to feel sorry for her.

Wonderful captivating read. Hard to put down. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by this author.

House Broken is an absolutely spectacular debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. This beautifully written story is a touching, insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the strained relationship between an alcoholic mother and her children. It is a complex tale of family dysfunction that is quite riveting but it is the cast of characters that makes it a truly unforgettable read. The youngest of four siblings, Geneva Novak is a married mother of two teenagers who reluctantly lets her alcoholic mother Helen temporarily move in while she recuperates from a car accident. Geneva has never been close to Helen and she decides to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between them. Her attempt to understand why her mother drinks leads to the discovery of a shocking family secret that explains Helen’s behavior but will this knowledge allow them to repair their fractured relationship? Geneva is very regimented and logical thinking so at first, she appears rather strict and unbending. She is quite intuitive and she lets her instincts guide her most of the time. Her relationships with husband Tom and her kids, Ella and Charlie, are troubled as they begin to rebel against her unyielding standards. Her relationship with her brother Dublin is rock solid and the two have no secrets from one another. But to get answers for the questions that are troubling her, Geneva turns to her older sisters, Florence and Paris, but neither of them are eager to rehash the past with her. Helen is flippant, conniving and self-absorbed and this makes her very difficult to like. Her reflections on her past make some of her actions understandable but for the most part, she remains an unsympathetic character. Helen’s memories provide an explanation for her alcoholism and the reasons for her distance from Geneva, but these revelations do little to redeem her character. Ella is dealing with the typical teenage insecurities and angst. She has a sardonic and snarky sense of humor that is absolutely hilarious. Her relationship with her brother Charlie is often adversarial but Ella keeps quiet about his increasingly alarming activities. House Broken is an intriguing and sometimes heartrending novel that does not shy away from difficult subject matter. Sonja Yoerg brilliantly weaves past and present into a compelling and realistic story that is healing but always stays true to the characters. A sensitive portrayal of a family’s darkest secrets that I will not soon forget and highly recommend.

This is an amazing story! Once I started it, i couldn't put it down. This is a story about a family that has many issues and in the end the truth finally comes out.

I am so glad that I got the opportunity to read the advance copy of this book. I could not put it down and was definitely drawn into the story of three generations of woman and how the dysfunction in the first generation affected everyone. I am looking forward to reading the next novel by this author. A great debut novel!

I really enjoyed reading this story. It's an interesting family drama that draws you in to their lives and its mysteries. Told by three different family members, you get to see different views of the family problems, which made me like them all in different ways. I found myself curious about the family mystery and worrying about how they would deal with it and work through it. Adding to this was the Geneva's (one of the three) career as a veterinarian and her stories involving pets.. Being a pet person, I enjoyed that aspect as well. I definitely recommend this book.

So happy to have had a chance to read and review this book. It was a very good story about the dysfunction in a family, how it effects each member differently and how it can carry forward into future generations. I had a hard time really connecting with any one character in the book as they were all lost in their own little bubbles of misperceptions and despair. The end wrapped it up well, mysteries were solved and life goes on. It was a very thought provoking novel that caused me to look deeper at my own relationships and why and how each person behaves the way they do. It was a very introspective novel. That part was interesting. I loved to see how the main characters grew and changed for the better and even how some lesser characters never did change but were stuck in their own life of disillusionment. Overall, a very great book that every one can relate to on some level as we all have some kind of dysfunction in our life.

House Broken follows Geneva and her family and the secrets that they hide, past and present. It was interesting to see the family dynamic through the perspective of the grandmother, mother and daughter. It was a little slow in parts. I did enjoy it, for the most part. There were definitely some surprising moments and that kept me interested. I would have liked to have Geneva' s other sisters have a bit more of a voice in the story.

House Broken explores familiar relationships from the perspectives of three generations of women (grandmother, mother, granddaughter). I am weary of books with alternating perspectives and it is difficult for each perspective to have a unique voice. House Broken had this issue, the only perspective with a unique voice ( and the most compelling to me) was from Ella the granddaughter. This book is very descriptive and chatty (not very action packed in other words) so if that's not your cup of tea you may not enjoy this. If however, you enjoy family stories and family dynamics and stories of female relationships (which I do) you'll like House Broken.

I was given a copy of House Broken after submitting a request to review the book. It wasn't my first choice but I'm really, really glad that I was given the opportunity to read it . This was probably one of the best books I have read all year. The story is told from the view point of the three main female characters, Helen, Geneva and Ella and traces generations of family secrets. While some aspects may seem obvious, the manner in which these relationships are resolved are not. While the characters impress and disappoint one another this story holds enough surprises and makes the book difficult to put down.

There a family mystery that Geneva does not understand. Thing go from bad to worse once her mother has an accident and need to recuperate. Geneva is relaxant to do so. Her husband convenience her to bring her mother in to stay. Geneva start to investigate about the relationship between her older sister Paris and their mother. Geneva mother Helen has dealt with since her eldest daughter turned sixteen. There mother had to do something about it to stop what was going on. That thing see had to do is something Paris and her mother could not forgive her for it. Ella and Charlies get themselves in trouble as well. Things gets worse after their grandmother comes to stay for a little while. Things start to startle Geneva while her mother starts to put some things together. It a fun read but not for children. It deals with teenage things and adult things. My rating is a 5/5 stars.

House Broken by Sonja Yoerg is an eye opening book. After reading this book you start to wonder, how much you really know your own family. Is it as rosy as you think – or not. Sonja’s main character Geneva thought that she had a good normal life with good job, good kids, good husband and a drunkard for a mother, until her mother got in to a bad car accident and forever changed Geneva’s life. Geneva’s mother’s moving to leave with Geneva’s family set off a chain of events that forever change her life and the life of those she loved. I highly recommend this book for everyone but especially parents with teenage kids. I enjoyed reading it, but I was sad for what Geneva uncovered about her family.

Geneva Novak is happy in her career as a veterinarian, and reasonably happy in her marriage, too. There are some stresses, as in any life: her kids are teenagers now, and she and husband Tom have different and sometimes conflicting views on discipline and rules. But that's life, and they work at it. Then her brother Dublin calls to say their mother, Helen, has crashed her car while driving drunk and is in the hospital in Los Angeles. With a busted knee and a busted shoulder, even after she can be released from the hospital, it's going to be weeks before Helen is able to return to her own apartment. Dublin's house is too small, and Helen doesn't cope well with his autistic son. Their sister Florence lives in New York, and their sister Paris is somewhere in Africa--and has been for almost thirty years. So the only real option is Geneva and Tom's house near San Francisco. Geneva will be forced to confront her issues with her mother. I had my reservations about this book when I started it, and Yoerg quite successfully swept them away. We see the unfolding of this family drama through the eyes of three generations of women--Geneva, her mother Helen, and her daughter Ella. As Geneva struggles with her conflicted feelings about her mother and her fears that she may become estranged from Ella as Helen did from oldest daughter Paris, she recalls her childhood and some of the more confusing events of those years. Helen is drinking to forget, and for a while Geneva succeeds in cutting off her supply of vodka. She, too, finds herself recalling events she'd prefer to forget--including events and details that Geneva was never aware of. As for Ella, she's struggling with both her own conflicts in school and with her mother, and her knowledge of exactly what trouble younger brother Charlie is involved in--which she would like to stop, but which she is reluctant to reveal to their parents. Yoerg very convincingly builds this slowly to an explosion of dangerous family secrets. Highly recommended. I received a free electronic galley from the Penguin First to Read program. This review appears on Goodreads at and in January it will appear on my blog at

House Broken by Sonya Yoerg is an interesting book. It is about families with their struggles and their secrets and how they overcome them. It looks at the lives of Geneva Novak, a veterinarian (she prefers dealing with animals to humans), and her family (and what a family she has)! Her husband, Tom, looks at life through rose colored glasses. Her children, Charlie and Ella, are seriously lacking discipline, rules, and someone to keep a close eye on them! Geneva’s mother, Helen, is the worst of them all. She is an alcoholic that refuses to reform. Geneva has done her best to distance herself from her mother, Helen, and her behavior. Helen started drinking heavily after her husband passed away. However, Helen gets into a car accident, while drunk, and needs assistance while she recovers. Tom suggests that Helen stay with the Novak’s while she recovers. Geneva dislikes the idea, at first, but realizes it is the right thing to do and, maybe, she can repair her relationship with Helen. Geneva and her family go through a period of discovery and revelations. Geneva uncovers long buried family secrets that explains Helen’s behavior, Tom and Geneva grow closer together, and unexpected revelations regarding Ella and Charlie. After I first started reading this book, I was not sure I would enjoy the book, but after a while, I could not put it down. I wanted to see what would happen with Geneva, Tom, Ella, Charlie, and Helen. This is an excellent debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. It is about real life and real families. Not something that I would want to read all the time (because I see reading as a way of getting away from real life), but enjoyable.

My first thought as I began reading was that Geneva sounds like my best friend; A veterenarian who is extremely organized and not on good terms with her mother. The mainfocus of the book is Geneva learning things about her past and present that she was blind to. The major secret being about her father, sister, and mother. The more minor of the secrets being about her children. As everything comes to light she learns the true depths of love. The sacrifices love is willing to take to protect,and the way that love can help to heal. This was a great book that I will be recommending.

Very appropriately titled this is a story of family secrets and I must say I was pulled in from the very beginning. The author did a wonderful job writing about such touchy topics and the characters were wonderfully portrayed. I admit I knew most of the deep dark secrets before they were fully revealed but that didn't at all take away from the story. I am sure I will continue to think about the characters of this book, they are the type that will stick with you. This is the first book by this author I have read and I really enjoyed the writing style. I look forward to reading more books by Sonja.

This book was told from the perspective of 3 generations of women (Helen, Geneva, and Ella) and explores mother-daughter relationships and uncovers various family secrets. On the surface the story appears to be about an overstressed veterinarian in California who has to deal with an alcoholic mother, but actually there's so much more to discover. The author does an amazing job writing about very difficult emotional topics in a realistic manner which allows the reader to become connected to this family's history. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

Geneva and Ella Family secrets can't always stay hidden. Sometimes we need answers to be able to move on and understand why life is as it is. House Broken is aboiut one such family. I loved how the mother and daughter relationship between Geneva and Ella flourished at the end.

I liked this book, it dealt with complex issues and the author did a good job of portraying them. I had a hard time at first with Geneva. I found her hard and unyielding and kind of emotionless. As the story goes on, though, I realized there were reasons for her attitudes. After an accident, her alcoholic mother comes to live with Geneva and her family while she recovers. Along the way, Geneva finds out things about her family that she never knew or suspected. This made me think of how our childhoods are never really quite the same as we remember them. We remember things, but not everything. By the end of the book, I felt I understood Geneva better and was able to actually like her. I think she realized that no matter how much we want to change a person, the choice has to come from them. We never know another person's demons completely and should not assume that they do what they do because it's what they want. The only problem that I had with the book was the Ella and Charlie storyline. I won't go into details, but they didn't react like normal teenagers, in my opinion. Not all of the time, but there is one scene that I found a bit unbelievable. I think I've found another debut author who I want to read more of, which makes me happy...

This is a fast-paced novel that traces the many generations affected by family secrets long withheld and denied. While some aspects of the family dynamics may seem obvious over the course of the story to the reader, the manner in which these relationships are resolved will not. While the characters impress and disappoint one another, the story holds enough surprises that the book is difficult to put down. This is the author's first novel, and a delight; I look forward to reading her future work.


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