Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: All We had by Annie Weatherwax

A poignant and fierce debut novel about the relationship between a teenage daughter and her struggling single mother—from a powerful new voice in fiction.

For Ruthie Carmichael and her mother Rita, life has never been stable. Jobs are hard to find, men come and go. But when a set of unexpected circumstances strands them in Fat River, a small rural town in upstate New York, life takes a turn. Fat River becomes the first place they call home. The modest economic security they gain gives them peace and space for friends. The people of Fat River—Hank and Dotty Hanson, the elderly owners of the local hardware store being driven out of business by the new Walmart; Mel, the flawed, but kindhearted owner of the town diner where Rita finds work; and the cross-dressing Peter Pam, the novel’s voice of warmth and reason—become family. Into this quirky utopia comes Vick Ward, a smooth-talking broker who entices Rita with a subprime mortgage and urges her to buy the ramshackle house she and her daughter have been renting.

Tough and quick-witted, thirteen-year-old Ruthie—whose sardonic voice and plain-spoken observations infuse All We Had with disarming honesty and humor—never minded her hardscrabble existence as long as her mother was by her side. Through it all, the two have always been the center of one another’s lives. But when financial crisis hits, their luck takes a different turn.

All We Had offers an unflinching look at the devastating choices a mother must make to survive and is an achingly funny, heart wrenching tale about love and loss, told with humor and razor sharp vision.

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014 by Scribner
Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Scribner via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is August 5 2014.

This was a remarkably easy read with a subject matter that isn't as easy to digest.  The synopsis of the book is bang on and I really don't know what I can say that has not already been included there.

This is not a rainbows and unicorn type of story.  The life of Ruthie and her mother is not sugar coated as you read through the pages.  Although a fictional story it portrays the gritty reality of poverty and touches on some sensitive topics such as rape, theft and trading sexual favors for personal gain.  The character of Ruthie at thirteen is also not naïve.  She knows that these things have occurred and her mother is not shy in sharing these things.

The characters in Fat River are endearing although they are not profiled in any great detail.  I particularly enjoyed the vision of Dotty chasing people with her walker.  Who I did not enjoy was Rita.  I felt that a lot of the decisions she made were selfish particularly nearing the end of the story.  While I sympathized with her early on due to the hardships she endured by the latter part I found her simply annoying.  I did not understand the decisions she made in order to better Ruthie's future.  The connection did tie up neatly for me and left me with questions.

Ruthie on the other hand was a joy to read.  A thirteen year old who basically grew up on the streets and was street smart to boot.  Experiencing her transition when she started learning about the concept of family when she settled in Fat river was really heartwarming.  The growth in her character from beginning to end was astounding.

Overall if you are looking for an easy read that has some subject matter that may be offensive to some, then I would recommend this book.  I really enjoyed it.

About The Author

(From Goodreads)

Before turning to writing I had a long career sculpting superheroes and cartoon characters for DC Comics, Nickelodeon, Pixar and others. My short stories have been published in The Southern Review, The Sun Magazine and elsewhere. I was the 2009 winner of the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Fiction and I have written for the New York Times. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, I am currently a full time painter and writer. I teach writers how to see and to paint pictures with their words in Boston and beyond. My favorite thing to do is walk my dog! Please visit my website to see my artwork, read my stories and essays on writing.
Twitter:  WeatherwaxAnnie

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a very very heavy read because of the subject matter, but it sounds like a pretty brilliant book despite the dark themes. I hope to pick this up one day. Great review! :)

    -Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas