"Seven Days of Us" (Berkley), by Francesca Hornak

Going home for the holidays can be a heartwarming occasion for some. For others, the thought of spending even an afternoon of forced yuletide joy with family is enough to bring on a panic attack. In her debut novel, "Seven Days of Us," Francesca Hornak dives into various dynamics that revolve around a traditional Christmas holiday, including an interesting twist of events that adds an extra layer of awkwardness on the blessed event.

To say Olivia Birch isn't looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her family is an understatement. She rarely comes home for any holiday, but this year is different. Olivia is fresh off a medical assignment in Africa where she's been working to help underprivileged people through a horrific outbreak of a life-threatening virus. Although all precautions have been taken to keep Olivia safe, she must remain in quarantine over the holiday break. That translates to seven days cooped up with her annoyingly doting mother Emma, her mostly absent father Andrew and her wildly materialistic sister Phoebe.

All families are dysfunctional on some level, but tensions rise when secrets are added to the mix. Each family member is hiding groundbreaking information from the others and must act covertly to maintain the facade that all is well. Olivia doesn't want anyone to know what really happened in Africa. Emma is determined that she will keep her recent cancer diagnosis from ruining the holidays. Andrew fights to conceal details of his past under wraps, and Phoebe pretends she's ecstatic about her recent engagement to her long-time boyfriend George.

As each day ticks by, the Birch family cracks a little more under the pressure. With everyone under one roof, including some unexpected guests who now have to join the quarantine fun, they all recognize seemingly insignificant details and uncharacteristic behaviors that suddenly don't make sense. Will the Birch family continue to function in surface niceties while resentment boils underneath? Or will someone blow up, causing a chain reaction of confessions?

Alternating among each family member's point of view gives "Seven Days of Us" a fresh perspective on each character. Hornak allows readers to understand both sides of the secret before forming an opinion on how he or she would have handled the situation. No matter which side you land on, you will laugh at hilarious situations and be touched by others, ultimately discovering that the Birch family is basically every family.