A Modern Day Fairy Tale

Faith. Family. Fiction. Fun.

All That We Carried by Erin Bartels {Book Review}

 **I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for consideration. All thoughts are my own.

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.

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 www.erinbartels.com.

Anyone who has a sibling knows that it is a relationship that at times can be rather complicated. That is certainly the case for the main characters in Erin Bartel's All That We Carried. In this book, we meet estranged sisters Olivia and Melanie as they are about to embark on a hike in Porcupine Mountains. With 10 years of distance between them, the trip was set to be difficult and dramatic before they even began. The journey itself only added to it, with things going wrong at every turn. What follows is a fantastic parable-type story about sisterhood, forgiveness and the burdens we carry with us. 

When we first meet the sisters, they aren't what we would typically expect to see in lead characters in a Christian novel... after all, neither were Christians. Olivia believes in nothing, while Melanie believes in everything... in fact there are talks of tarot cards and reincarnation that one might not expect in the genre. Throughout their difficult journey we are able to see this grow and change. The character of Josh added a great balance to the sisters, and really made the story. I only wish we'd have seen more of him. 

Oftentimes in books we expect it all to be wrapped up in the end, and I personally felt that this one didn't really do so. While part of me definitely missed that happily ever after and wanted to have some of the loose ends tied up, particularly in regards to Josh's character... I also like that it was left open to interpretation a bit too. While I cannot say much more without giving too much away, it certainly was something that made you think and set the story apart. 

Overall, this was a beautifully written story that I truly enjoyed...and one that I'm certain will stick with me with it's beautiful messages of God's presence, forgiveness and the burdens we carry. It is definitely one worth checking out. 


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