Friday, January 8, 2021

Hey everyone!  It's been a little while since I've posted on here...yikes!  But I hope you've been having a wonderful start to the new year.  This is the first post I've made this year, and it's about a thought-provoking novel called All That We Carried by Erin Bartels, courtesy of Revell Reads.  
Are you ready?  Keep reading!


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 is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, a 2020 Michigan Notable Book and a finalist for the 2019 Christy Award and the 2020 Star Award from the Women's Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), and The Words between Us, a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from WFWA. Her short story, "This Elegant Ruin," was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest in 2014, and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. A publishing professional for 18 years, she is the director of WFWA's annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at

I have to give this book 3.7 stars out of 5, rounded to 4.  It was very thought-provoking, especially for folks with siblings or strained relationships.  It has impactful discussions about beliefs, forgiveness, and healing -- told between two sisters who were estranged for nearly a decade.  Both characters were relatable throughout the majority of the novel, although in the beginning, I honestly wanted to put the book down right away because of how the sisters' extremely different personalities were portrayed (I think my exact thoughts were "oh boy, this is gonna be a wreck," but then I had to keep reading).  Olivia is grating, a Type-A personality to the extreme, and Melanie is someone who will literally believe anything; very gullible.  It's interesting to see how they interact and how their different personalities affected how they moved on (or didn't) from the loss of their parents.  
While I appreciated the themes in the story, there were a few aspects of the novel that I expected would go completely different in regards to Josh, a stranger they meet on their hike, and a couple other things that I expected would be significant to the plot later, but ended up kind of...dropped, which I was a bit disappointed in (and this is separate from the ambiguity in the ending, which is totally acceptable for the style of novel/storytelling), so that definitely contributes to my rating.  The plot did hold my attention throughout the entirety of the novel, though, so I can't be too disappointed.   

Overall, if you're looking for a thought-provoking story with fantastic themes and you don't mind a bit of a bumpy start, you might want to consider this book.  

Have you read any books by Erin Bartels?  Do you plan on picking up All That We Carried?  What's on your January TBR?