We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Detroit reporter Elizabeth Balsam is doing someone else a favor (in part) when she travels to a remote farmhouse to return an old camera and a box of photos to an aunt she doesn’t know. But Elizabeth’s farmhouse visit soon pulls her into a family mystery tracing back to the Civil War in We Hope for Better Things by author Erin Bartels.

It was nice to find this story is split into three timelines—a bonus for someone who loves historical fiction as much as I do. Although I didn’t get that attached to the characters, and the present-day developments in Elizabeth’s life weren’t a big draw for me, I really got into the story during the last quarter or so.

Now, extramarital indiscretion is sometimes vital to a plot. But whether affairs are physical or emotional, I just don’t enjoy watching them unfold and escalate over the course of a book, especially if the affair stretches out for years. I get frustrated with the characters.

While this wasn’t groundbreaking or that deep of a read for me personally, it does tell a timely story. I think it’s good when a novel doesn’t paint the Civil War era with a nostalgic, romantic, Gone-with-the-Wind kind of brush. Fiction that connects historical and contemporary times like this serves as a reminder that America’s racial problems didn’t end after slavery, or after the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s, or after the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, and that racism is in no way confined to one region of the U.S. or another. Nor is it a problem for any one race of people to confront alone.

I did get a little emotional during this story’s strong and poignant finish. It isn’t tied up with a neat and perfect “happily ever after” bow, but it’s beautiful all the same.


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