Seven Days of Us, Francesca Hornak
Published October 17th 2017
Imagine a Christmas in which you are housebound with your family for an entire week, forbidden from having outside contact with any other people. This is precisely the situation the Birch family find themselves in, when they are quarantined for seven days at their English country estate. Eldest daughter Olivia is a doctor working abroad in Liberia during a deadly epidemic of Haag-a fictionalized ebola-like virus. For the first time in many years, she is returning home to spend the holidays with her family. As a precaution however, Olivia, her younger sister Phoebe, and their parents Andrew and Emma must keep to a strict quarantine. Seven whole days with only each other for company would be stressful enough under the best of circumstances, but is only compounded by the fact that each member of the Birch family has something to conceal this year. And how long can secrets possibly remain hidden in such close quarters?
There are plenty of secrets incubating here. Matriarch Emma has just been diagnosed with cancer, and is determined to keep the news to herself for now so as not to ruin Christmas. Andrew has just received a letter from a long-lost son from a previous fling he had while on a journalism assignment abroad; a fling that overlapped with the beginning of his relationship with Emma. Newly engaged Phoebe is excited to begin planning her wedding, but is confused by her fiancé George’s behavior and is fed up with her sister’s pretentiousness. While in Liberia, Olivia engaged in a romantic relationship with fellow doctor Sean, despite the strict no physical contact policy. When the news breaks that Sean has contracted the deadly haag virus, Olivia worries if her secret has exposed her family to danger. Seven Days of Us is full of all the typical family drama one could expect, with some explosive secrets thrown in as well. No matter what, these seven days will be ones the Birch family will never forget.
I think my expectations for this one were slightly too high. I enjoyed Seven Days of Us, but not as much as I had hoped. The writing was fine but nothing noteworthy, and the plot was pretty predictable. I wasn’t overly fond of any of the characters, and was annoyed with each of them at different points. A lot of the family dynamics were spot on and realistic however, even if some of the plot points were a tad melodramatic. I had been hoping to love the Birch family and my time spent with them, and I just didn’t. Perhaps I had been expecting more of a flawed yet lovable family whose holiday season was infused with crazy (and unpredictable) drama.
I did enjoy the festive atmosphere but couldn’t help but wish for even stronger Christmas vibes. However, the fact that it wasn’t overly Christmassy means that it would be an enjoyable read throughout the year. I really loved the chronological format, and how the narrative alternated between each family member throughout the course of the seven days. The chapters are on the shorter side, with each one detailing a different hour/set of hours. This made it easy to read a few sections at a time, which was especially ideal during the busy holiday season.
In spite of the fact that many of the plot points were easily predicted, there were a few surprises towards the end. One event in particular felt especially rushed, and some serious subjects were dealt with a little too lightly for my taste. I would have preferred a less abrupt ending and a better sense of where the Birch family was headed next.
Overall, I found Seven Days of Us to be an easy, enjoyable-if slightly disappointing-read. Francesca Hornak’s novel is an entertaining festive read to fly through when you’re not up for anything heavy. I would recommend it, with the caveat that you keep your expectations lower than mine were, and that you don’t expect to be surprised by the plot or to fall in love with the characters.
**A huge thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC in exchange for an honest review**