Alex Halstad, a childless-by-choice interior designer and dog mom, is a true perfectionist. But her orderly life turns chaotic when the teenage daughter her husband, Barry, never knew he had shows up on their doorstep…with a baby girl of her own in tow. While Alex’s dog enthusiastically welcomes the new arrivals, Alex struggles with the loss of her steady routine. She desperately needs peace and quiet to get her business back on track before Barry finds out she’s spent most of their savings.
Meanwhile, the arrival of the girls stirs up old insecurities, and Alex can’t help but worry that Barry’s ex will make an entrance too. With her tidy life a distant memory, will Alex be able to learn from her dog the true meaning of love and acceptance?
Read on for my thoughts on House Trained. No true spoilers, promise.
Life rarely moves along without much drama to stir things up for us. Alex is about overdue for the stinky stuff to hit the fan of her life. As a childless couple by choice, Alex and Barry are content with their adorable dog, Marie as their only “child”. A couple who seems to have it all on the surface will begin to show some cracks, and then split wide open into pain and chaos.
Alex has been dipping into their joint savings to give the appearance that her interior design company is doing better than it really is. Having made the choice together to remain a childless couple, it’s Alex who constantly has to ward off the baby questions from family and strangers, constantly is seems. Then chaos arrives on their doorstep in the form of a daughter Barry never knew about and a granddaughter as well.
Alex’s quiet, controlled life is suddenly a whirlwind of emotions and every single insecurity she has felt about herself and her marriage comes to the forefront. It doesn’t help that the secrets each have been keeping from the other just keep on widening that rift. When a near tragedy strikes, it’s up to Alex to finally pull herself together and either make all of this work or walk away.
House Trained is a layered story. Like the classic onion analogy, it unfolds layer by layer to show a couple that are not as put together or as secure as the surface would like us to see. How do you handle life when it blows up in your face? Some people not so well. As the insecurities, lies and secrets begin to flow over Alex and Barry’s world some hard lessons will need to be learned. The question becomes, can they survive with their marriage intact or does life have other plans for them.
I enjoyed this story very much. There were some lighthearted moments, but mostly we are given the lessons that have to be learned by Alex when her life is turned upside down. It’s not an easy journey. We are taken into a marriage that is already showing signs of stress and them the ceiling falls in on their lives. I’m not sure how most couples would survive. And there were quite a few of those “What would I do?” moments for me as I read this heart wrenching story.
I would recommend House Trained for those readers who enjoy a detailed life that suddenly is not what the couple thought it would always be. You will get emotional, chuckle at parts and do some pondering about your own relationship. I found it to be a story well worth the time and I believe we need to see the chaos as well as the hearts and roses.. because both can be part of life.
*I received an e-ARC of House Trained from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. That does not change what I think of this novel.*
Available in paperback and for the Kindle