Friday, August 08, 2014

Relatable Premise Just Not Enough to Earn My Undying Love

 (Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ivy Darling enjoys all the trappings of a successful life.  She's been married for three years, works at a job she likes, and thrives on the strength of her tight-knit family (if not her in-laws, who've never quite warmed to her).  There's only one thing she needs to be truly happy:  a child.  Her struggles with infertility have left her feeling raw and vulnerable.  Ivy's ready to move on, ready to grow her family through adoption.  If only her husband would agree.  Determined to have "his own" child or none at all, Nick has become increasingly distant and hostile.  Ivy can't stand the constant tension between them, but she's not willing to give up on her dream of being a mother—even if it means doing it without Nick.

When an African-American family moves into the ramshackle house next door, Ivy's interest is piqued.  The single mother and three children look like no one else in tiny Copper Grove, Maine, which doesn't stop Ivy from trying to welcome them to the neighborhood.  She soon realizes why her friendly overtures are being rebuffed—the kids don't want her to know how often they are left by themselves.  When their mother fails to return from work one day, leaving her children scared and locked out of their home, Ivy can't stop herself from intervening.  Taking the trio into her own home, Ivy pours all the love in her mothering heart into their well-being.  Despite Nick's vehement protests, the situation is looking more and more permanent.  Ivy couldn't be happier with the arrangement, but what will it do to her fracturing marriage?  And how will her heart heal if the children are taken from her?  Does Ivy dare risk it all in the hopes of finally creating the family she's always wanted?

The first in a planned series revolving around the Darling Family, All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner, is a hopeful, inspiring novel.  Although it's classified as Christian fiction, the religious aspects of the story feel natural, not heavy-handed.  The story's focus really is family—the warmth, the conflict, the joy, the jealousy, the love, etc. that exist in every large brood.  It examines some weighty issues, but does so in a way that is both realistic and PG-rated.  While I appreciated all of these elements, there were a few things that bugged me about the story.  The altering viewpoints, for one.  I get that, while All Right Here zeroes in on Ivy's story, it's meant to be an introduction to the whole Darling clan.  Which is all well and good, as long as all the different narrators have distinct voices and problems that are intriguing in their own right, something that doesn't really happen here.  I was most interested in the story's main conflict and found it distracting to head-jump.  As the adoptive mother of a bi-racial child, I identified most with Ivy, although there were definitely aspects of her experience that didn't ring very true.  Still, my biggest problem with All Right Here is that, in general, I found the Darlings—the whole lot of them—underdeveloped and just not rounded enough to really live and breathe inside my head.  Considering all of this, the novel ended up being just an okay read for me.  Disappointing, because I wanted to love this one.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for intense/adult situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-galley of All Right Here from the good folks at Tyndale House Publishers via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

2 comments:

  1. Despite being a Christian, I tend to shy away from books actually a part of the Christian fiction genre. Like this book, as you say, they tend not to quite ring true even if they back off on religious heavy-handedness. This one does sound like it has a great premise and it's got a beautiful cover, too. Sad to hear it doesn't quite deliver on all its promise.

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    Replies
    1. I'm that way, too, but the Christian element in this one is actually very light. Mostly praying. It really wasn't bad. The parts of the novel that didn't ring so true to me had more to do with Ivy's experience with transracial foster care/adoption. But, yeah, the novel as a whole, disappointed me.

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