Book Review : We Hope for Better Things

I’m not sure that I have ever read a first novel before that was as brave and heart wrenching as We Hope for Better Things. Erin Bartels is the author who has written a story that will inspire you, break your heart and make you ponder life, all at the same time.

There are three women in this book, many generations apart, but all related. Three women trying to figure out who they are, what they value and what they are willing to stand for. Each face different issues as they embrace the life they have.

Elizabeth is the woman who the book centers around, as she is the current living character. When she finds herself without a job and questioning her future, an opportunity falls into her lap. She travels to visit her old Aunt Nora she’s never met before and is thrust into a new world largely revolving around the past. The third woman in this story is Mary who is living during the Civil War. All three women experience similar racial tensions despite the decades of years that separate them.

Erin Bartels has written a book that pulls back the curtain on some of ugly past of our country, but she clearly writes about so much of the good as well. With any book that is brave enough to jump into the subject of race wars, slavery and segregation, the reader is forced to reflect on their own views and whether those ideas line up with the way they are living.

The characters in Ms. Bartel’s book are amazing. The kind of women you want to sit down with and pepper with questions of your own. These women were full of strength, courage and even some foolishness. But all three loved hard and loved strong.

There is a strong element of redemption, especially for Nora, as parts of her past confront her near the end of the book, but the results are full of hope and better things. I was drawn in to their story from the first page, not only wanting to know what was going to happen with Elizabeth but wanting more from each era and character’s story.

This was a fantastic book. I highly recommend it – and I cannot wait to read anything else Erin Bartels puts on paper! I loved the details throughout that demonstrated more than just average research! She is a passionate, detail oriented writer that is quite gifted!

NOTE : I was offered a copy of We Hope for Better Things in exchange for an honest review.

More about We Hope for Better Things   


“In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

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.

Take 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.

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