Author: Erin Bartels
Genre: Inspirational Fiction
Release Date: January 5, 2020
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.
Reviewer: Nora St. Laurent
I loved how the author captured the essence of each sister and how they prepared themselves for the hiking trip, in hopes it will reunite them. I adored this surprising, emotionally rich, engaging story, I could not put down.
The author explores how sisters (and/or people) can experience the same loss (ten years before) but look at it and dealt with it differently. These sisters learn how to stay alive on this shadowy wooded trail, trying to work together as travel through the difficult terrain. This novel explores trauma, honesty and had a depth of love and understanding that choked me up. I enjoyed these sisters’ courage, as each faces their fears, deal with incredible loss and their willingness to get unstuck from the pain of the past.
I was blown away by the compassionate way the author told this story, and brought up difficult topics such as death, religion, forgiveness, what we believe and why we do what we do. It was revealing, as the two search their souls, and hearts for a new comprehension. I liked how the author inserted flash backs to give readers a peek at how the girls' relationship used to be and how they interacted with their parents. Currently, they were treating each other like they did as kids, how did they cross over and treat each other like adults?
This is a well-crafted, gripping narrative start to finish with a surprising conclusion. It is a grand adventure in more ways than one. It is a novel you do not want to miss. Not only that, but It would work well for your next book club pick as there is so much to discuss.
This book was provided courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Winnie Thomas
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.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews & Reviews. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: June McCrary Jacobs
This is one of the most unusual stories I have read in the past year. Along with two other Baker Publishing Group novels from 2020, Softly Blows the Bugle by Jan Drexler, and Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn, All That We Carried is a story I will not soon forget.
This powerful drama of reconciliation, forgiveness, and self-discovery documents a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan by the Greene sisters. The younger sister, Melanie, initiates the hike with her older sister, Olivia, whom she has not communicated with or seen in the ten years since a tragic accident took the lives of their parents. Surprisingly, Olivia agrees and sets off to plan the entire trip in her own relentless way.
The two sisters are pretty much polar opposites in temperament, perception of themselves and others, and outlook on life—glass half-empty or glass half-full. The dynamics of their interactions are tense, emotional, and filled with apprehension along with some angst.
The author's descriptive writing about the scenery they viewed along the trail was interesting to me as I love being in nature. If the setting is in the mountains, I love it even more. Therefore, I was fully engaged in that aspect of the story. Waterfalls, rivers, mountains, valleys, wildlife—lots of variety and high-interest elements were mentioned.
Since I have never been backpacking, I was fascinated by the day-to-day operations of how to pack the gear to get the most items in the least amount of space, how to take measures to ensure food and clothing does not get ruined by water (or bears), and what types of food were packed to avoid having to cook while on the trail.
The author is an excellent storyteller who has created a thoughtful and meaningful piece of work. This is a story that will remain in my mind and heart for a long time as I sort through the spiritual and faith lessons woven throughout the novel. I look forward to reading more stories by this talented author.
This book is completely clean in language and content.
Highly-recommended for fans of Christian/clean women's fiction, Christian/clean adventure fiction, and Christian/clean family sagas.
I received a paperback copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group through the Revell Reads blogger program. My opinions and comments are solely my own.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"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 their parents' tragic deaths, 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 counterbalanced 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 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/Revell through Interviews & Reviews. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.
Reviewer: Mindy Houng
"But there is one thing I do know: life is about more than just being happy or being liked or being self-actualized. It's about more than just me. It's about more than just you."
This is the first book I have read by Erin Bartels (though I do own her two previous books). She has earned many accolades, and rightly so, given her lovely writing, deeply layered characters with raw and intense emotions that roll off the pages, a well-constructed plot that brings the reader into the characters' heart, and poignant and thought-provoking themes. This book allows the reader to follow two estranged sisters, Olivia and Melanie, through a week-long hike in the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The scenery is absolutely breath-taking, and I felt like I was actually hiking the trails with them, suffering and triumphing alongside their losses and victories. Their reunion is stilted at best, having been estranged for a decade. Their completely different personalities and outlooks on life add fuel to the fire growing since their parents' tragic death ten years ago.
Olivia, the older sister, is an atheist control-freak, extremely structured but also self-centered. Melanie, the younger sister, is more of a free spirit and tender-hearted but quite unstructured and somewhat lost in her new-age thinking. Unfortunately, I couldn't fully connect with either sister and their argumentative dialogue, though probably very realistic between sisters, made me feel on edge, especially because Olivia mostly argued for the sake and love of argument. The sisters' convoluted history and relationship are made clearer with flashbacks, as new and old friends enter into the plot to nudge them along.
The epilogue and Olivia and Melanie's spiritual stance are left open without any firm resolution, which disappointed me but also made me think deeper about the sisters' journey. Even though I didn't empathize with the sisters, their fears and heartache were real and tangible, as was their growth during the hike. If you enjoy well-written women's fiction, I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy this book.
I received a copy of the book from Revell via Interviews & Reviews and NetGalley and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
This is the first Erin Bartels book I’ve read. This is the author’s third book and is a standalone title.
The premise of estranged siblings or family is always interesting because the reader often wonders why and, as a result, is drawn to the story to figure it out and see what happens.
This is no different.
The cover is artistic and beautiful, yet to me, it seemingly had nothing to do with the story. Bartels’ writing is a different aspect. Like this novel, or hate it, her writing is vivid, descriptive, almost immersive – it really puts you in the middle of the drama with the sisters. The title was definitely significant and had such a deep meaning – not only the physical things we carry but also the mental. Such as overcoming grief and learning to forgive so we can lose the bitterness within us. It is also about learning to forgive even when it seems impossible to do so.
The main characters are younger sister Melanie and older sister Olivia. Right away, I was drawn as to why the sisters hadn’t spoken to each other in ten years – when their parents died in a car accident. Melanie, at times, seemed very flighty, but likable and sometimes relatable. Her depression, after the accident, leads her to want to help others. She also has a multi-faith belief system to the chagrin of her sister Olivia. Melanie leans more to prayer than Olivia. Olivia is almost if not entirely an Atheist. This is an interesting perspective as you don’t tend to see it in Christian Fiction without the character having found “God” or is finding God.
I really disliked Olivia from the very beginning. There was almost nothing likable, relatable, or redeemable about her. She was, to me, a cold fish. Her job as a prosecutor is the only thing in her life – no boyfriend, no friends, no pets, no life (at least that’s how I saw it). She was probably not the worst part of the book, but it definitely didn’t give me a warm and cozy feeling. She treated the hike as a military operation rather than a re-connecting, scenic trip with her sister. She was also far too controlling, and even when she was younger, rather mean to her sister. Olivia is eventually forced to deal with that. I sometimes wondered if they weren’t adopted.
There are very few, if any, secondary support characters. There is one – Josh – who I really wanted more of. He seems to be more of a guide for the sisters. At one point, he gives them a compass, “so you can find your way in the wilderness.” This proves to be a pivotal statement.
The hiking trip is a chance for Melanie to reconnect with her estranged sister, Olivia. Olivia is only on the trip to shut Melanie up. But, Melanie also has another secret. The secret that caused Olivia to stop talking to her sister.
One of their mother’s favorite sayings was “what’s done is done and can’t be undone.” Olivia takes this truth to heart. Melanie is more or less a free spirit about it.
Even as they’re heading to the hike site, the bickering begins. This is probably the most agonizing and annoying part of the story – the seemingly never-ending bickering between the two sisters. It isn’t until chapter five that the reader learns the history of Melanie and Olivia’s statement. And, it is hard to reconcile if you’ve been there. While Melanie has “forgiven” the other party, Olivia is hard-pressed to do so. As a result, the estrangement occurred, and that also contributed to Melanie’s depression.
Bartels is honest with the depression issue and doesn’t make light of it. She really highlights Melanie’s struggles with it as well as the coping mechanism that Melanie chooses.
As readers will come to see, Melanie has not only forgiven the other party – there is a far more personal connection. At one point, Melanie notes to herself that Olivia used to stand up for her. Now she seemingly stomps all over her. It is worse when Olivia learns the real reason why Melanie brought her on the trip.
Along the way, there are falls, arguments, lost compasses, and a forest fire. Then, there is also a “guide” by the name of Josh, who doesn’t take sides but offers food, guidance, and wisdom to the sisters. One question was about the purpose of the trip in relation to the hardships faced on it. He only helps to do as his dad did.
One interesting question at the halfway mark was, “does Olivia love anyone?” The reader is never given the answer. She does begin to realize she’s treated Melanie rather badly for most of their life. But, there are no warm feelings towards her younger sister.
This is one of those books that as soon as you begin reading it, you have questions. Whether or not they get answered depends on how well you read into the story or read the story. The idea of putting random “memories” behind every chapter adds to the questions that were racked up.
This is a heart-breaking, reflective, as well as introspective read. There were some aspects that I really enjoyed and made the book worth reading. It leaves the reader questioning their own beliefs and belief systems. Despite being from a Christian/faith themed publisher, there are only slight references to God, and even away from God.
This was not a super addictive read, but I wanted to keep reading as I was drawn in and curious. I needed to take frequent breaks from it because of the drama. It did have a rather unfulfilling end for me. It doesn’t give the warm fuzzies or “happy-ending” some might think it should.
Some of my questions were not answered, and I was also trying to figure out what role or symbolic gesture Josh portrayed in the story. I also wanted to know more about the car accident that claimed the Greene couple and why no charges were ever filed.
Fans of the author and genre might enjoy this read. It was a low four-star read for me.
Thank you to the publisher, Revell (a division of Baker Books), for providing an advance review copy through Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required in any way, nor was it requested. All words are my own.
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