Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Learning to Conduct Life's Storms: All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher

On a dark and stormy night in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1985 Augusta gave batons to her daughters Esme, Liv, and Ru, and while playing the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique taught them how to conduct the storm. Augusta knew there were people who loved storms, people who feared them, and people who loved them because they feared them. Augusta wanted to teach the girls how to control the uncontrollable, for even the appearance of control can make one feel really in control.

All of Us and Everything is about a dysfunctional family of sisters who grow apart into lives they can't control, all believing the roots of their problem lie in growing up without knowing their father. Did their mother sleep with strangers? one questioned.

Augusta wanted to keep the girls safe, just the four of them, not needing anyone else. Liv wanted to find out for herself if being like other people was good. She grew up to be a profiteer though marriage. targeting rich engaged men she deemed desperate and feeling trapped. Esme couldn't wait to escape, desiring an Ivy League education. She marries safe Doug, who leaves her for a dentist he saw while in France. And Ru, the youngest, memorized the whole family drama that would someday inform her novel; she is also a perpetual runaway bride.

August had told the girls what they thought was a story: Your father is a spy.

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy floods Augusta's home and the girls, all at impasses in their personal and professional lives, return home--together for the first time in years. Esme brings her troubled daughter Atty, who Tweets every minute of her life to thousands of strangers. Each is looking for something.

The storm has dredged up a packet of letters that are delivered to Augusta. The contents change her perception of the past and her understanding of the present. And the last member of the family is invited back, the father the girls have never known. The lost are found, the separated are reunited, things taken apart are put back together.

I loved everything about this novel. It is hilarious, wildly funny. It is unbelievable and it is real. It is humane, forgiving, and hopeful. I read it in twenty-four hours and wanted to read it again. It is rare to find a book so witty, a plot line so crazy, characters so eccentric, that is also well written, literary, and insightful.

I thank the publisher and NetGalley for a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

“Charming, original, and impeccably written, All of Us and Everything is a spirited romp through the lives of an unusual family of women. When I wasn't laughing out loud or eagerly turning pages to see what happened next, I was marveling at Bridget Asher’s ability to tell a highly entertaining, fully engaging, and deeply insightful story.”—Cathi Hanauer, New York Times bestselling author of Gone

All of Us and Everything
Bridget Asher
Random House
Publication Date: Nov 24, 2015
$15 paperback

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