The House of Lies is a misery memoir, but one with purpose. Of course the author, Renee McBryde has survived all that life has thrown at her, in order to be able to write of the experience. It is a tribute to speaking out about abuse and trauma, and the power of counselling.
Her mother was fifteen and pregnant when her father was arrested for murder. She grew up being fed tiny bits about him, but told she must keep them secret. Her mother, Gemma, still a child herself when she became a parent, does her best, with the help of her own mother and step-father. But Renee ‘at the tender age of six, … was initiated into my lifelong role as a Secret Keeper’ and this ‘lifetime of lies and betrayals’ take their toll on her.
Her mother and grandmother’s relationship is complicated and bitter as well. Nan had Gemma at sixteen, and was a single mum. Gemma spent time in boarding school, a Catholic home for orphans and in foster care. Nan met her partner when Gemma was ten and he became the peacemaker between them, and later between Renee and her mother and grandmother.
The neglect and horrors that became commonplace in their lives, what they were exposed to, all had a cumulative impact.
Renee is subjected to bullying, suffers from eating disorders, struggled to fit in and find her own identity separate from the overshadowing knowledge of what her father had done, and finds an alter ego to revert to. She loses support networks she does have and has to rely more and more on herself at such a young age.
In a bid to not become her mother, and escape the cycle, she works hard, gets into university and starts a law degree, but has to support herself, and this leads to further terror, and back into the clutches of her abusive boyfriend.
Despite all of this, her resilience, determination and intelligence win through and she gets herself in a good position, personally and professionally. Her story reminds us that it is not healthy to bottle up pain and that seeking help as early as possible is the way to stop history repeating itself. This is not an easy book to read, but it is an important one. Renee McBryde has been courageous enough to share her secrets and her life, and hopefully it can help others, as it has her.