reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
” . . . what happened had all the elements of a good mystery novel: the creaky old house, the aging invalid and the duplicitous housekeeper assigned to her care, the subtle clues, the red herrings, the dead body at the foot of the stairs.” –Joy Fielding, The Housekeeper
Most of us will one day have to deal with aging parents and being torn between taking care of our family and our parents. Jodi Bishop’s marriage is suffering. She is the breadwinner while her husband tries to follow up the success of his first novel with his second for the past 10 years. Between her demanding job as a real estate agent, her two young children and her aging parents, with her mother dying from Parkinson’s disease, she has little time for her marriage. Forced into a corner, Jodi interviews a live-in housekeeper for her parents so she can spend more time with her family. When she meets Elyse, the perfect candidate, Jodi can’t believe her luck. Elyse is everything she is looking for, almost too good to be true, and you know what they say about that.
At first, everything was perfect. Vic, her difficult and controlling father, seems to approve of Elyse. She takes care of the house, Jodi’s mother, cooks, bakes, and even offers to watch the children while Jodi has appointments. As time goes on, she sees red flags. Is that her mom’s Cartier watch Elyse is wearing? Does that green silk blouse hanging in Elyse’s belong to her mother? When Elyse is confronted, she has perfectly reasonable explanations, but when Jodi stops by and finds her mother in a heap at the top of the stairs, she questions what else is going on.
Meanwhile, despite the help, Jodi’s marriage is falling apart. Her gaslighting husband, Harrison, is struggling to finish his second novel and becoming too close to one student he teaches. Tracy, her self-involved sister, suspects Harrison is cheating as she saw him at lunch with one of his students. Jodi feels like her life is spiraling out of her control.
The Housekeeper is told from Jodi’s point of view, which becomes very frustrating as Jodi is a “doormat.” One of the most non-confrontational characters I have read. From Harrison, who excels at gaslighting, to her father who calls her fat every chance he gets and puts her down any way he can, to her older sister, Tracy, who throws her under the bus all the time, It was hard to figure out why she cared so much about making sure her father was ok, when he clearly didn’t like her at all and let her know every chance he got. She is everyone’s punching bag.
This book is such a wild ride. All the characters, except for the two children, are all terrible people, but that is what made the book hard to put down. You never knew what anyone was going to do next. It is so addictive and hard to put down. I read it in one sitting, unable to resist what happens next.