Author: Susie Finkbeiner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next. She couldn't have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.
In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
Near Detroit, Michigan summer 1963
Stories That Bind Us is a journey of healing for the characters Betty Sweet and her five year old nephew, Hugo. But for me it was a trip down memory lane. I was 14 in 1963 and lived a bit south of Detroit in a Northwest suburb of Chicago. I remember visiting my preacher uncle in Grosse Pointe and making a trip to Greenfield Village, as the characters did.
This novel was not just about stories that bind us but about shared memories of growing up that bind us together in unity. These were my memories!
The historical events depicted in this book were disruptions in a time of social unrest. In spite of that, the book came across in a comforting way. Betty’s life seemed normal. She was so fortunate to have a loving in-law family who gathered around her when tragedy struck. The author has written Betty as a strong, loyal and gentle person, whose idyllic life is torn apart. She takes on the task of keeping her nephew. She might not have been able to birth a child but her mother’s heart blooms when Hugo comes to stay with her. A quote as Betty is musing: “Just along the horizon I saw the birth of the morning. This was the gift God had for me right at that moment. I saw hope.” I love that Betty can use stories that tug at your heart and teach lessons at the same time. I would love to see a volume of her stories— hint to Ms. Finkbeiner.
This book reminded me of all the things this country has gone through in my lifetime. It caused me to be thankful for growing up in the era that I did, with parents who taught me so much of my values.
After reading two Susie Finkbeiner books, she has become a favorite author.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Revell through Interviews And Reviews. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Mary Polyakov
Stories That Bind Us is the kind of peaceful read that's perfect for the beach.
It doesn't rely on suspense or action to get the reader's attention. Instead, readers are treated to a captivating narrative with relatable characters who face challenges that readers can understand and with which they can empathize.
But just because this book is comforting doesn't mean that tough issues aren't addressed. Grief, abandonment, loss, mental illness, the inability to have children, and parent issues--- the author deals with these challenging topics in a way that acknowledges the pain and emotional impact, but also gives hope.
Betty, the main character who finds herself a widow at forty, is sweet, caring, and patient, but not unnaturally so. The reader is shown that she is not perfect or attempting to appear flawless, but that she deals with the feelings of jealousy, discouragement, fear, and the rest with self-control, and she extends love in very challenging situations.
I found Betty's in-laws endearing, and the twins Dick and Nick were so adorable, whether they were sneaking Betty a cat, helping her nephew Hugo learn to swim, or making a mud pit in the backyard, and they did it all without losing their charm. Albert, Stan, Marvel, Norman, Clara, and Pop are so memorable, and they are so authentic that they could exist off the page.
And I love how they all care for and support each other. This book is such a gem.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group/Revell, through Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required.
Reviewer: Lori Parrish
Wow! I was certainly sad to see this book end! But then again, good books usually are over before you know it. I love Susie Finkbeiner. I like how she makes me stop and think about each quote whenever I came across one. I really liked this one because it was fitting for the '60s when things were scary in an ever-changing world.
"Don't let the scary things of the world keep you from seeing the good. Even the darkest night can't put out all the light." I really think that this advice from Betty to Hugo applies even in today's world. Not just the '60s. I like how Betty reminds herself while she's telling Hugo this. Even adults need gentle reminders too.
I remember sitting in church listening to Preacher Joe preaching this very thing. As long as there's light, there will be hope. I think that's why this particular quote stood out to me. God is always a beacon of light. He's there for us all the time. Fear can often make people do things they normally wouldn't do. This is how Satan can get under our skin if we let him.
Another quote was a lady talking to Betty when she was visiting. Clara told her that all we can do is love them if we can't do anything else. We love them because they are still family. How true this is!
I couldn't put this book down because every time I did, it would holler at me to pick right back up until I finished it. I love it when books yell at me like that. It means they're fabulous!
Hugo stole my heart from the beginning and, at times, made me cry. I just wanted to snatch him right out of the book and keep him for myself. He would be a wonderful friend to my son if he were real.
Betty was a fabulous character, too, who had a big heart of gold. For what she did for Hugo. I wish she was my aunt. My the stories that she told! I had to laugh at a few of them.
I have been to the places the author described. But I didn't mind visiting again. I rather enjoyed it! Michigan is my favorite place to visit. I really liked the actual historical events that took place in real life. I feel that the author has done her research to the T. She's done an excellent job in bringing them to life so that we can imagine being there ourselves. Finkbeiner writes the best stories ever! This book definitely comes from the heart. I hope this isn't her last.
I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars. It certainly deserves it. I would reread this book over and over because it's just that good. Friends, you just have to read this heartwarming tale of an era gone by. So so good! I highly recommend it.
My thanks to Baker/Revell publishers through Interviews and Reviews for a beautiful read! I highly enjoyed it! I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"There once was a turtle named Sam. . . He lived near a river filled with crayfish and frogs and minnows. . . . .but even as wonderful and special as that riverside was, Sam was too afraid to enjoy it."
Isn't it true that a well told story possesses a certain impression of artistry? Stories paint pictures, while their canvases store memories in an easy-to-open vault; available at just the right times, . . .perhaps, when a heart is heavy or a pair of sorrowful eyes need a touch of brightening. Or a loved one just needs to have something to remember. And just like flour blends the ingredients of a beloved family recipe into a well formed loaf of bread, a story has the uncanny ability to "bind us" together, forever.
There are those in this book who need these special kinds of stories; a grieving wife, an unstable mother, a terrified little boy, a kind, shy man and family members who are grieving the loss of one of their own. So often remembering is loving, and being loved resides at the heart of every good story.
What a remarkable book, written by an author who writes simply enough to form everyday people into outstanding characters.
I received this book from Baker Publishing through Interviews and Reviews.
Reviewer: Anna Bottoms
Stories That Bind Us is a heartwarming historical novel that takes place in the early 60s. The story touches on mental illness, grief, prejudice, faith and the powerful bonds of family love.
Betty is a young widow, still grieving the loss of her husband when her long lost sister, Clara, shows up at her door with Hugo, her mixed-race son. Struggling with mental illness, Clara must depend on Betty for the stability her son needs. Through their trials, each sister must come to terms with her own issues and find her way to wholeness.
The lives of Betty, Clara, and Hugo are intricately twined with the lives of their family. Each secondary character has a specific part to play in the healing process, and are well written with their own distinct personality and purpose.
If you’re tired of fluff and want a book of substance, this book is for you. One of the best I’ve read this year.
I was given a copy of this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group through Interviews and Reviews. This is my honest opinion of the book.
We are listed in The Book Reviewers Directory!