Book Review: We Hope For Better Things, by Erin Bartels

Every once and a while you pick up a book to review, and you forget that your job is to review it.

That's this book for me.

Elizabeth Balsam is a fast moving reporter on the verge of her biggest story. She gets annoyed when a stranger asks her to deliver a box of old photographs to a distant aunt. But that one task starts to unravel a family story interwoven with race relations, local history, and the power of secrets and truth.

Quite simply: I loved everything about this book.

Erin Bartels is a great writer, creating scenes and characters that are captivating and compelling. Set in Detroit, we experience Elizabeth and two other women of her family in three distinct generations: present day, the 1967 Detroit Riots, and the American Civil War. Each story line is told in revolving chapters, with dialogue and details to create an immersive environment.

Through these three interwoven stories of Elizabeth, Nora, and Mary, we see one family's struggle with racism. Where are our prejudices born, and can they ever be shut down? How do love, hatred, secrets and truth weave themselves into a family history? How can we learn from the past if we never share our stories?

Once I locked into this book, I couldn't put it down. More than once, I was up late, using my iPhone light to brighten my page and not wake my husband. We Hope For Better Things wrestles with vast and complicated ideas but in the context of intimate family relationships. We journey with three women who choose love and family, even when challenged with heartbreak and prejudice. The way the story is revealed kept me turning the pages and riding the emotional roller coaster of this amazing family.

Prejudices of any kind are always based on hating a group, but time and time again we see how hatred can break down when we get to know people as individuals.

Jesus asked us to "love our neighbour." Doesn't loving our neighbour start with getting to know our neighbour? Not as part of a group, with all our biases and assumptions attached, but just as a person, created in the loving image of God? 

I recommend this book as a compelling novel, but more than that, I encourage it as a spark for conversation.

Let it challenge your heart. Learn your own history. 
Tell your own stories. We can always do better. 
We must always hope for better things...



I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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