All That We Carried

book coverBy Erin Bartels

** Publication Date 5 January 2021 **

4.25 stars

On a whim, two estranged sisters make a plan to do a backpacking trip through the Porcupine Mountains near Lake Superior. Olivia believes she was swayed by a beautiful March day. Melanie requested that they make the trip, because she wants to reconnect with her sister. Not to mention she has some pretty serious stuff to tell Olivia.

Olivia is a control freak. She’s a prosecutor. She believes in justice. Melanie is a life coach. She’s all about sunshine and rainbows. Olivia is the big sister, Melanie the baby. For this trip, Olivia is not leaving anything to chance. She has mapped it all out. She has packed the packs. She feels that she is 100% in control of everything ahead of her. 

Melanie is more loose and free-spirited. Even though Olivia gave her a list of things to pack and bring with her, Melanie has taken it upon herself to do it her way. She’s sure she will be fine. After all, she usually is. She’s done okay for herself, and she’s not going to let Olivia make her feel like the baby anymore. 

Fall in the Porcupine Mountains means unexpected weather and conditions. It means perhaps not knowing what’s ahead. Melanie isn’t really prepared. Olivia is over-prepared. But neither expects what is ahead of them. Meeting a stranger who will change things for them. Weather, bears, cougars and other surprises. But the biggest surprise will be what Melanie has to reveal to Olivia.

Erin Bartels is a master storyteller. Life isn’t perfect, and neither is the journey that Olivia and Melanie are on. I was gripped by the tale of the two sisters, how they became estranged and what led to each of them ending up how they did. She skillfully navigated the expected conflicts and left a lot of them unresolved. It wasn’t a pretty “tied up in a bow” story.

When I started this novel, I had no idea that it was a Christian novel. Honestly, other than a bit of wisdom sprinkled here and there, it didn’t read like an evangelical novel. I loved the two characters, and how the chapters alternated between their views. Olivia the non-believer, cause what God would bring so much tragedy into the world? Melanie the one who believes in everything and anything, but only the good stuff. There were hints of religion here and there, but it’s done in a perfect way. Enough to make you think, but not enough to overwhelm you. 

Excellent writing. Enjoyable read. Thought provoking.


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