AUTHOR: Erin Bartels
When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.
At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.
Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.
We Hope for Better Things is an unusual story. It’s not a romance, but love plays a critical role. It’s not a suspense, yet is filled with secrets waiting for revelation. Set in three distinct time periods (1860s, 1960s, and present day), the core issue remains the same. Although this novel doesn’t fit neatly into a category, it will stay with me for a very long time.
Elizabeth Balsam, the present-day heroine, begins digging into the past of Nora Balsam and her life in the 1960’s. Nora’s life, as Elizabeth discovers, is inextricably tied to her great-grandmother Mary Balsam, who lived in the 1800s. Three women, all carrying secrets, set into motion events that shape their and their descendants’ destinies.
I was surprised to read that this is the debut novel of Erin Bartels, as her writing is exquisite. Gem-like details, like “my aunt’s glacial pace,” are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Bits of humor ease the heaviness of buried secrets without detracting from the serious subject matter. Each character comes to vivid life under Ms. Bartels’ skilled pen, and although the three Balsam women are obviously the premier characters, each member of the supporting cast is crucial to the tale.
We Hope for Better Things moved me. Deeply. It made me realize that while many things change, some things—sometimes unfortunately—do not. This important novel earns five stars. Recommended.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing Group.