Up the Hill to Home

Written by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi
Review by Jeanne Greene

Up the Hill to Home follows the vicissitudes of three families, united by marriage into one, who call Washington, DC home from 1895 to 1939. Like the city itself, the Millers, Becks, and Voiths recover from World War I, grow, endure, survive the Great Depression, and, inevitably, prepare for another war.

The author uses a diary based on that of her own grandmother to introduce Lillie Voith, who is the heart and mind of the family in 1933. Lillie’s days are filled with the myriad responsibilities associated with raising nine children, leaving little time for reflection. When she reaches for the box that contains her memorabilia, her husband Ferd, who has a sixth sense about these things, knows Lillie is pregnant.

Then Lillie suffers a fall, which leads to serious illness. With Lillie confined to her bed, the frightened family is forced to put aside their petty differences and manage without her. Meanwhile, in Lillie’s mind, the pages of her mother’s diary turn back as well as forward: the present alternates with events when she was well and throughout family history, not always in chronological order.

For a first-time novelist, Yacovissi handles the unconventional organization with aplomb. Chapter headings prevent confusion, as the lives of the Millers, Becks, and Voiths for the last 40 years are described in detail (some may say too much detail). Although the personal tragedy of those who prepare for loss is touching, this is not a sad book. There are humor and happy times and good news. Up the Hill to Home is a novel of complex relationships and complicated people who make up one variety of the “average American family” over time.