All That We Carried: A Novel Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
"This subdued tale of learning to forgive is Bartels's best yet."--Publishers Weekly
"A deeply personal, thoughtful exploration of dealing with pain and grief."--Life Is Story
"Taut and engaging."--Foreword
"A deftly crafted, entertaining, thought-provoking novel."--Midwest Book Reviews
The most treacherous terrain is found within
Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven't seen each other since the funeral. Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life coaching business around her DIY spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.
Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.
"Erin Bartels has a gift for creating unforgettable characters who are their own worst enemy, and yet there's always a glimmer of hope that makes you believe in them. The estranged sisters in All That We Carried are two of her best yet."--Valerie Fraser Luesse, Christy Award-winning novelist
"All That We Carried is so much more than just a beautiful novel--it's a literary adventure of both body and spirit, a meaningful parable, a journey of faith. Simply stunning."--Heidi Chiavaroli, award-winning author of Freedom's Ring and The Tea Chest
Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things and The Words between Us. She lives in Michigan's capital city with her husband and their son. She hikes Michigan's backcountry trails with her sister. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B08CJSDMK5
- Publisher : Revell (January 5, 2021)
- Publication date : January 5, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 9100 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 362 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0800739604
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #137,874 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Not that Erin didn't try. All That We Carried has a classic Bartels premise of people trying to work through everyday problems and find who they were meant to be, how to live as they were created to be. The novel also has some of the lyrical prose I so enjoyed in Erin's other novels. Olivia and Melanie had potential, both as sisters and on their own. I was especially drawn to the spiritual aspect of the novel, particularly Melanie's "cafeteria-style spirituality," because my spiritual journey was the exact opposite. As in, you get your plate, you eat what's on it, and if you look at anybody else's plate, you're wrong. It can take awhile to build a relationship with the Chef out of that.
Ahem. Enough with the food metaphors.
Basically though, what readers get from this is a lot of exposition and dithering. As in, we're told up front what the problem is--Melanie and Olivia are trying to work through the death of their parents and using a hike to do it. We're told up front what their personalities are, which boils down to the stereotypical profiles of oldest vs. youngest you'd see in a birth order-themed self help book. We're told where they're going and what they're seeing every minute of every day in every chapter.
Of course, I tried to excuse that. I told myself I was taking longer to "get into" this book because I'm not much on hiking, camping, and similar activities. But it's not just the hiking and the plodding pace of it. It's the fact that Olivia and Melanie spend much of the hike in silence (we're told). And when they do talk, it's to bicker or tread the same conversations. Thus, those conversations don't go anywhere. There's also no true introspection to break them up, or stopping to see anything unusual or interesting and learn from it. For instance, both sisters make a big deal out of seeing eight waterfalls, but then when they see a waterfall, nothing happens. Melanie tells us she feels connections to the animal world, but we don't see any, except Olivia shooting her down, and the sisters having a senseless argument over whether passing fauna was a cougar or deer.
There are also no other characters to break this up for over 2/3 of the novel, except some obnoxious unnamed hikers, some guy named Josh, and Justin Navarro, who Melanie makes a big deal out of forgiving and spending time with, but who isn't even there. I did find some mildly interesting flashbacks to the sisters' childhood, but they seem oddly placed and disconnected from the main story.
I hope this is a case of Erin Bartels writing that one clunker, because I so love her other stuff. Unless you're a fan of somebody like Thoreau or Emerson, though, I wouldn't recommend this--and maybe not even then. It never goes anywhere, just sort of plods and plods like tired hikers. Better luck next time, Erin.
I liked that Bartels portrays Olivia and Melanie as completely opposite belief-wise and that at the end of the novel they’re still sort of searching and asking questions (maybe not the very end, but at the end of the hiking trip, anyway). The backstory and all of the problems related to their estrangement was well done, and it was an interesting and compelling story of forgiveness in the midst of tragedy. And their reconnecting on the hiking trip was realistic and believable. In short, anything involving the relationship between the two sisters was good.
Where the book fell flat with me was the odd Jesus character, when the book fell into some sort of strange parable territory. Basically, the sisters run into a man named Josh who gives them all the advice they could find, gives Olivia a compass (which SPOILER she uses at the end to follow “the narrow path” to find him, which is either a really obscure way of saying she died or a really obvious way of saying she became saved), and in general is wise and calm and exactly what the sisters need. He was obviously supposed to represent Jesus, though I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be literal until the end when he simply disappears, and no one remembers him being around. Which…okay, a Jesus-figure in Christian novels is relatively normal, but having him literally be Jesus made everything far-fetched. I get what Bartels was trying to do, and if you set aside the “Is this supposed to be Jesus or just a really decent and kinda perfect man?” questions, then you’d probably be really interested in this story, which is at its heart a journey of faith that two sisters go on.
I liked it enough that I’d probably read more by Bartels given the opportunity, but I’m not overly fond of parable/analogy stories, and the Josh character just threw me off too much. I did think the book had some fantastic themes and a fairly compelling story, however, if a bit too neatly put together. This is a good book for Christians, but it won’t appeal to anyone outside of that faith in any way. It doesn’t have to, but I think the best Christian books do.
Disclaimer: Book provided by publisher. All opinions are my own.