2017 Reviews · biography · memoir · non-fiction

Book Review: The House of Lies by Renee McBryde

Title: The House of Lieshouse of lies small.jpg

Author:  Renee McBryde

Published: January 31st 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 303

Genres:  Biography

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

This compelling memoir of family secrets, murder, sexual assault and domestic violence is also the gripping story of Renee’s constant struggle to accept the truth and her true identity, and, ultimately, to forge a life on her own terms.

On the outside Renee McBryde’s life sounds not too far from normal: she grew up with a single mother and her greatest support was her loving grandmother. She went to school, she played with friends. If you fill in the details, though, it was far from normal. Her mother was 16 when she had Renee, and she was single because Renee’s father was in jail for killing two men who, despite what he told Renee, he had not killed in self-defence.

Renee grew up believing that as the daughter of a double murderer, she didn’t deserve much in the way of happiness – so instead she found misery at home and in her relationships. Now she is a survivor, not just of her childhood but of the abuse that marred her adult life.

This is her sometimes shocking, often moving, inspirational true story.

My review:

Lies, crime, abuse and family secrets are all part of The House of Lies by Renee McBryde. In this very personal biography, McBryde bravely bares her soul, ripping apart her troubled childhood, tenuous teen years and complicated early adulthood. The House of Lies is an incredibly raw and true story of pain and resilience.

The House of Lies travels through the problematic early life story of Renee McBryde, who is now a happily married mother of three, working in community welfare, based in the Northern Territory. For Renee to get this point in her life has been an incredibly hard slog, marred by a less than perfect start to life, as Renee outlines in this honest account in her book. Renee was born to a sixteen year old mother, who was also a runaway. Her nineteen year old father was placed in jail soon after Renee’s mother found out she was pregnant for killing two men. For a significant length of Renee’s childhood, her mother and grandparents told Renee the reason she couldn’t see her father was that he worked on the popular Cottee’s cordial farm. One day Renee’s whole existence is ripped apart when she discovers this is a lie. For the troubled years to come, Renee is unable to reconcile with the fact that she is the daughter of a double murderer. As a young girl, Renee makes a pact with herself to overcome her past. However, in reality this is a hard task, as Renee is issued with many obstacles in her path to success. These include painful periods of loss, bullying, self esteem issues, rape, termination, domestic violence and the family roots which continue to haunt her.

I tend to find it problematic to review memoirs and The House of Lies is so deeply raw, honest and absorbing that I am faced with some degree of difficulty in rating this book. What I will aim to do instead is draw your attention to this affecting memoir, the moments of sadness and hope as a young woman navigates the world in which she has been placed.

Renee McBryde is a young woman who has been dealt a rough card in life. From the very beginning, while in her teenage mother’s womb, it was clear that Renee was going to struggle to overcome the difficult early start to life. Renee was lucky in some respects, she had the guiding light of her grandparents, particularly her grandmother, who nurtured her as much as possible. Renee’s grandparents prove a vital lifeline to Renee’s upbringing as Renee was faced with many adult burdens, the product of being the daughter of both a felon and a teen mother. Reading the section in this book focussed on Renee’s childhood gave me a deeper appreciation for my own sheltered childhood. Unfortunately, Renee is not alone in the way she was brought up, many people will be able to draw comparison between their own troubled upbringing and Renee’s.

The House of Lies draws our attention to the darker aspects of life, the ones we often do not want to confront. From an early age, Renee must contend with the trail of broken relationships her emotionally unstable mother leaves behind. She has to reconcile with her young mother, who just wants to go and out and enjoy herself as young people do, instead of care for her daughter. Then, as a teenager, the one figure that provides Renee with comfort and a sense of belonging is cruelly taken away from her when her grandmother succumbs to cancer. Perhaps the most overwhelming area in Renee’s life she must learn to accept is the huge lie told to her about her father’s true identity and background. When Renee finally learns the truth and sets about conducting her own research into her father’s history, the truth is shocking. It is a truth that continues to frequent Renee’s thoughts for many years to come.

The structure and approach Renee McBryde takes to her memoir is logical and this is a personal biography that reads much like a narrative. It opens with the scene of Renee’s father being arrested for murder, just as Renee’s mother has discovered she is pregnant. It then moves to Renee’s early childhood days, her teen years, university days in Canberra, to finally following Renee’s early twenties. At this point, Renee forges a career for herself while negotiating an abusive relationship which she is unable to break. I must make mention at this point that the content of the book may induce high emotions for some readers. There are instances where Renee reveals situations she was faced with where abuse, self abuse, sexual assault, abortion and domestic violence come into play.  Despite the episodes that need trigger warnings, it takes much courage on behalf of the author, Renee McBryde, to share these aspects of her life with her readership.

The compelling and conversational mode of storytelling employed by McBryde, assisted in my reading of this often sad and depressing tale. This is not an easy read by any means. I also experienced moments of pure frustration when I just wanted to yell at Renee and say “leave” – both the situation and person perpetuating her cycle of violence. It was hard to understand how Renee’s thought processes worked that she honestly believed that she deserved all that came at her, due to her origins. No one should be made to feel like this at all. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, as eventually, a better life beckons for Renee. She finds a sense of peace through the love of a supportive man, her professional calling in life helping the disadvantaged and the support of personal counselling.

The House of Lies, is a memoir that reminds us of the pure strength of the human spirit and the sense of resilience that comes with a tough life lived. Renee McBryde reaches out to her readers and fearlessly bares her soul, revealing her struggle to accept her strenuous early start to life. Powerful stories such as Renee’s need to be put out there, as hopefully it will give a voice to those who have or are suffering from a similar situation.

The House of Lies by Renee McBryde was published on January 31st 2017 by Hachette  Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The House of Lies, Renee McBryde, visit here.

 

 

 

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