All That We Carried by Erin Bartels has Olivia Greene and her sister, Melanie embarking on a weeklong hiking trip in October in the Porcupine Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The sisters have been estranged for the last ten years. Melanie is hoping this trip will give the two of them a chance to reconnect plus she has something important to share with Olivia. Olivia has planned out every detail of the trip including their route on a waterproof, tear-resistant map. Melanie is the opposite of her casual sister with her vegan diet. The trip does not go quite as planned which gives the sisters a chance to confront their fears, think about their belief systems, and decide the best way to move forward with their lives. At the end of the excursion, the two people who left on the trip may not be the same women who departed on it.
All That We Carried is the first book that I have read by Erin Bartels. The author’s descriptive writing allows the reader to visualize the scenes especially the Porcupine Mountains and the beautiful waterfalls. The author created realistic characters. Melanie and Olivia Greene are as different as two sisters can be. Olivia is a prosecutor who is detail oriented and a planner while Melanie is a life coach and blogger. Melanie embraces a variety of spiritual and religious concepts and practices which baffles Olivia. The sisters bickering was realistic (speaking as someone who has bickered with her own sister). The trip was stressful with both sisters holding grudges (which leads to squabbling). The story is well-written, but it is slow paced (courtesy of the detail-oriented writing). We get to see things from each sister’s perspective (it alternates point-of-view between Melanie and Olivia). Melanie and Olivia get a chance to discuss their religious beliefs and if they believe in God. Their hike through the mountains is a metaphorical representation of the obstacles in their relationship. You wonder if they can resolve their conflicts before they finish their journey. I thought the ending was anticlimactic. There could have been a better wrap-up. Forgiveness is one of the main themes in the book. Olivia has yet to forgive the man who killed their parents. Her bitterness is holding her back. The story has a parable quality to it with Josh who I believe is meant to be Jesus. The get a little guidance during their journey from a kind man. All That We Carried was not what I expected. My journey through All That We Carried was not enjoyable. I found myself bored, frustrated, and annoyed. I have heard good things about Erin Bartels previous novels, though, I will check them out. While All That We Carried did not work for me, I suggest you obtain a sample to check it out for yourself.
The Avid Reader
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