Kaira Rouda’s latest novel, “Somebody’s Home,” has received mixed reviews, with a lot of the readers complaining about how hard it was to keep track of what was actually happening because of multiple narrators narrating the course of events. Apart from close people keeping secrets and exacting revenge, this book focuses on a lot of issues that are cropping up during contemporary times because of the mass use of the internet and apps like Tiktok and Snapchat. Let’s go through the plot in detail so that it becomes clearer to us.
Mostly the novel focuses on members of two families—the wealthy real estate developer Roger Jonas’s family and pastor Doug’s family. Roger Jonas is a self-made man who has worked very hard to become who he is. He believes in the American dream: that if a man works hard, there is nothing that he cannot achieve. His father had worked as a laborer in a factory his entire life. He realized very early that money could buy you whatever you wanted. He wants to provide his daughter, Jess, with what he didn’t have. Julie is his second wife, who bore him Jess. His first wife passed away very early in their marriage after suffering from leukemia, and since then, he has been numb to all forms of human emotion, which according to him, can only make a man grow weak. He’s a control freak who likes to control every aspect of his life, including his wife and his daughter.
According to him, he is their provider; he is the one who pays for their lavish lifestyle and gives them what they need, so they need to be subservient to him and support him. Julie is a typical trophy wife who has undergone several plastic surgeries because she couldn’t accept herself as she was. For it was all about ‘fixing.’ She wanted to “fix” herself—her looks, her image of a girl from Florida, her confidence, her humble background, her life, and everything else. She has never been happy with what she has, which might be a lot for a lot of people. However, she finally seems to have come to her senses and wants to fix all her wrongdoings. She has bought a house at Cherry Hill and intends to divorce Roger after shifting there and starting a new life with her high school daughter Jess, who is soon going to leave for USC. Her daughter, Jess, or Jessica, as her full name is, has no idea whatsoever about her mother’s plans, which again highlights the problematic aspect of Julie, who thinks only about herself and made decisions for her daughter as well, thinking that she knows what is best for her without ever letting her know so that she could at least prepare herself for what’s coming.
Jess seems to be least bothered about her mother’s plans. All she is concerned about is her life and how she cannot wait to go off to college. She thinks of her mother as a woman who is very shallow, and though she knows that her father is a control freak and that it is impossible for anyone to stay with him, she also shows us the other side of Julie, the non-caring mother who has left her surrounded by nannies and toys to go to parties and has not cared for her at all for years. Rouda here paints a picture of a typical dysfunctional family, one that is very rich and has a lot of power and privilege but lacks love, warmth, comfort, and understanding.
On the other end, we have the family of pastor Doug, a man who is the head pastor at Oceanside, southern California. His house is the one Julie has bought so that she can move there with Jess. In the name of God, Doug commits all sorts of sins, like cheating on his wife, hitting her and their children, tormenting them, and seducing and raping young divorcees. He has terrible anger issues and lots of problematic aspects, which he seems to have passed on to his oldest son, Tom, who is from his first marriage. Nobody knows why his first wife left, but we can only guess that it was because of his affairs and his acts of violence. In fact, because of his sexual misconduct, he loses his job as the head pastor and is transferred to another county so that he can understand the sin that he has committed and can repent. That is the reason why he forces Sandi to sell the house immediately so that they can shift to the new place. He doesn’t even care what would happen to Tom because he is never quite concerned about anyone other than himself.
Sandi, his second wife, is much younger than him and a God-fearing person who genuinely loves Tom as her son and wants his betterment like she wants for her own children. She knows the kind of person Doug is and has been wanting to leave the marriage for several years but hasn’t been able to. She somehow hopes to run away someday with the kids because she doesn’t want Doug’s shadow to fall on them. She knows that nobody other than Doug can be blamed for the kind of person that Tom has become, and she doesn’t want the young ones to follow their footsteps. For months she has made arrangements, saving up money so that she could leave with the boys, and she feels that the day has finally arrived when she sees Doug again finding ways to go back to the church in Oceanside in the name of helping the families whom he once tended to. Tom, the antagonist in the novel, has a different background story altogether.
Abandoned by his mother at a very young age, he has had to deal with his father’s anger issues all the time. He kept thinking that something was wrong with him because his mother had left and his father had misbehaved with him. He felt Sandi’s love and warmth and knew that he mattered to her as much as her young boys did, but Doug was the one who planted the seed of jealousy in his mind and watered it for years. He kept telling him that he was a loser and that he didn’t matter to any of them. Gradually, Tom grew distant from Sandi, Danny, and Davis, whom he considered his own brothers, thinking that Sandi and Doug no longer wanted him around because their “real” children were here now. We also get to know that Tom is dyslexic and has ADHD, all of which were ignored. He was bullied terribly, and his failure to keep up with his studies was considered to be a result of his lack of brain.
The thing that crushes Tom once and for all is when Doug decides to sell the house to a stranger without even letting him know that he is selling it. He doesn’t care what will happen to him once the new family shifts in. He only lets him know that he needs to pack his things and leave by Sunday. Tom realizes that he needs to teach his dad a lesson. With the new friends that he has made at the bar where he works, he plans to shoot his father on Sunday, the very day that he is supposed to leave home. But when he meets Jess, who moves into his house with her mother, his world turns upside down. He feels things that he has never felt before, and though he knows that women are no good and that his plans shouldn’t be shared with anyone apart from the people in his group, he ends up telling Jess all about it when she comes to the place in the backyard where he stays.
Jess, on the other hand, has made a mess by attending a party at her friend Bonnie’s place and playing a Nazi game, videos of which have gone viral on the internet. Roger, at the same time, is arrested by the police for being involved in a prostitution scandal. Who is going to save the father-daughter duo now? Would Julie be able to get them out of the mess that they have created on their own? Would Jess be able to let the police know about Tom’s plans and, in turn, save Doug? We’ll find out soon.