The House Uptown
by Melissa Ginsburg

Thank you so much to Marlena Bittner from Flatiron Books for sending me a finished copy of Melissa Ginsburg’s latest book The House Uptown and for asking me to take part in the blog tour!

Published: March 16, 2021.

The House Uptown tells the tragic and emotional story of Ava, a fourteen-year-old girl from Iowa, who is sent to live with her grandmother, Lane, in New Orleans after her mother’s sudden passing.  Upon her arrival, Ava quickly realizes that her new life will not be anything close to what she knew before.

Lane, although a brilliant and phenomenal artist, is not fully present mentally and—without it being explicitly stated—it is clear that she suffers from Alzheimer’s or Dementia.  As such, Lane struggles to take care of herself and spends her days painting and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol supplied to her through her assistant Oliver (who struggles with substance abuse himself).  This is made worse when Ava’s arrival forces Lane to confront the painful memories she has of her now dead daughter.  Because of this, aside from Oliver’s “help,” Ava is left unsupervised, without structure, and has to find a way to care for the household and her grandmother by herself.

Ava, Lane, and Oliver seem to be making the most of the situation and balancing their new dynamic until one day when Lane accidentally lets a major secret from her past slip, causing an avalanche of events to ensue that none of them could have ever prepared for.


Overall this was a good book and I really enjoyed it!  It’s a short and quick read, but the story itself is more of a slow burn with some added mystery and suspenseful elements to it.  The prologue starts the book off with a bang (which I won’t give any details on!) and you’re left wondering where the story will go from there… right up until the final pages!  I really loved that I could not figure out where the story was headed.  I do, however, wish that there had been more closure at the end for all of the characters.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the characters.  Lane is such a complex and interesting character… her memory lapses and confusion were so sad but also so believable, and it was so interesting to see inside parts of her mind and to see how she makes sense of things.  Lane is simply a heartbroken mother over her estranged relationship with her now-dead daughter… and the arrival of Ava dredges up so many old and painful memories for her.  Ava, on the other hand, was so relatable to me on so many different levels.  She brought me back to my fourteen-year-old self.  Her life has been completely flipped upside down with the death of her mother and she’s left to try and figure out how to make the most of it and her new situation.  I just wanted to hug her through the pages to try to make things better for her.  Now, as for Oliver… I liked his character the least of the three even though I liked him, just because he made me so angry with his decisions, and you’ll see why when you read the book.

Read below for the full synopsis to see if this is potentially a book for you!


For fans of Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman, Melissa Ginsburg’s The House Uptown is an emotional coming-of-age novel about a young girl who goes to live with her eccentric grandmother in New Orleans after the death of her mother.

Ava, 14 years old and totally on her own, has still not fully processed her mother’s death when she finds herself on a train heading to New Orleans, going to stay with Lane, her grandmother whom she’s never met.

Lane is a well-known artist in the New Orleans art scene. She spends most of her days in a pot-smoke haze, sipping iced coffee, and working on the mural that has been her singular focus for years. Her grip on reality is shaky at best, but her work provides a comfort.

Ava’s arrival unsettles Lane. The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to her daughter, whom she was estranged from before her death. Now her presence is dredging up painful and disturbing memories, which forces Lane to retreat even further into her own mind. Ava, meanwhile, is entranced and frightened by her grandmother. She wants to be included in her eccentric life, but can’t quite navigate Lane’s tempestuous moods.

Attempting to keep the peace is Oliver, Lane’s assistant and confidant. As this unlikely trio attempts to find their way and form a bond, the oppressive heat and history of New Orleans bears down on them, forcing them to a reckoning none of them is ready for.



  • Kashmini

    May 8, 2021 at 4:40 am

    Lovely review!! So informative and useful!!

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