Wednesday, January 13, 2021

ALL THAT WE CARRIED by Erin Bartels, Reviewed by Paula, Winnie, and Rebecca

“Jeweled trees leaned in toward the water, as though listening to the creek tell its particular story.”

This was a beautifully written book about two estranged sisters who go on a multi-day hike in the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As the story unfolds, we see that the title: All That We Carried, is allegorical. “Olivia couldn’t carry both her pack and Melanie’s. Carrying just her own was exhausting enough.” The characters of Olivia and Melanie Greene are not necessarily likable but they are realistic and we see each struggle to find purpose in life. They have heard the same mantra from their parents as they grew up: “ What is done is done and cannot be undone.”

This story was interesting because I have visited Ontonagon and the Porcupines in a day trip while living in Northern Wisconsin.

While the allegory came through, the author brought out a lot of spiritual questions that the characters were struggling with. I wish she would have taken it a step farther and provided clearer answers. Such as pointing the reader to the true compass, Jesus, who wants to carry our burdens for us. Especially lacking was a follow through with Josh, who seemed to be a Christian and had a captive audience. There was just no real resolution for me.

That said, I would recommend this as a good book, especially if you want to hike through the eyes of the characters without leaving your comfy reading spot.
* I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Revell Reads Book Blog Program. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*I give this 4 stars and an incomplete faith thread.


"How could Melanie ever hope to have a relationship with someone who allowed no room for mistakes, no room for repentance?"

Hoping to bridge a ten year relational gap following the tragic deaths of their parents, Melanie Greene talks her older sister Olivia into an extended wilderness excursion deep within the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Melanie's casual approach to the trip was perfectly counter-balanced by her sister's excessively detailed itinerary, however neither of them could have predicted how heavy their literal and figurative backpacks would become along the way. What would it feel like to be free?

This book is guaranteed to generate widely varied reactions. Some readers will finish with a deep sense of satisfaction; assured of closure, while others will find the ending confusing, wondering how so many deep spiritual questions could be posed with only brushstrokes of possibilities as answers. Regardless, it's a well written book, especially for those who have struggled mightily with life and death issues, knowing there is only One who holds all the assurances that we need, pleading with us to lay down the burdens of our hearts; the ones that we have tried so clumsily to carry.
*I received a copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group through Interviews and Reviews. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.

All That We Carried is a well-written, thought-provoking book about two sisters trying to reconnect ten years after the accidental death of their parents. Although they are siblings and suffered the same trauma, they reacted differently to it. Olivia left town to deal in her own way, while Melanie was left at home to take care of things. I was struck by the difference in the two sisters. While Olivia was very structured and detail oriented, Melanie was more spontaneous and flexible, although when going on an extended hiking and camping trip, each has advantages and disadvantages, as the reader finds out. I had a hard time relating to either of them. Olivia seemed antagonistic and critical, while Melanie seemed to be very unprepared. The story takes them through different adventures during the trip and their reactions to them.

The title is more meaningful as the story progresses. Threads of forgiveness, repentance, and mercy are woven throughout and add depth and dimension to it. I was a bit conflicted about the ending, as I felt I was left hanging, and it could have had more resolution. 3.5 stars
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell through Interviews and Reviews. All opinions are my own

BackCover Blurb:
 Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged 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 cafeteria-style 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.

Michigan Notable Book Award winner Erin Bartels draws from personal experience hiking backcountry trails with her sister to bring you a story about the complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.
Revell Publishing, January 2021
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