We Hope for Better Things
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 Details

TitleWe Hope for Better Things
Author
ReleaseJan 1st, 2019
PublisherFleming H. Revell Company
ISBN-139780800734916
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

We Hope for Better Things Review

  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    This was a really solid fiction read although I guess it could also be classified as historical fiction because some real-life events were incorporated into the story. I thought the author came up with a unique way to tell a story that deals with the subject of racism. Reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets with James Rich and she leaves their meeting contemplating his strange request. He wants Elizabeth to find an older relative she has never met and give her an old camera and a box of photos. Given r This was a really solid fiction read although I guess it could also be classified as historical fiction because some real-life events were incorporated into the story. I thought the author came up with a unique way to tell a story that deals with the subject of racism. Reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets with James Rich and she leaves their meeting contemplating his strange request. He wants Elizabeth to find an older relative she has never met and give her an old camera and a box of photos. Given recent life events, Elizabeth decides to go through with it and leaves her home in Detroit and heads to her great-aunt's centuries old farmhouse. This story follows three strong female characters in different time periods including the 1800s during the Civil War, the 1960s, and the present day.I found myself drawn to the story lines of the past much more than the current day storyline. Part of that might be because the characters of Mary and Nora felt more fully fleshed out whereas with Elizabeth I felt like I didn't know her quite as well. The fact the book alternated between the three different women and time periods really helped with the pacing in my opinion. Even though the book is close to 400 pages it actually felt like a quick read. I didn't find this book to be quite as touching and moving as other readers have thought, but there are a few good moments that got to me. In particular, I loved the message of not forgetting family history and how important it is to share with the next generation. Overall, I think the author did a good job tackling a tough subject and I appreciated her honesty in the Author's Note at the end of the book in which she discussed her writing process.I am glad I got a chance to read this one as the 1960s Detroit riots are not something I remember ever having an opportunity to read about before in a fiction book and it's always nice to read something different for a change. Definitely recommend as a pretty solid read.I won a free copy of this book from BookishFirst and the publisher. I was under no obligation to post a review here and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book for free from the publisher (Revell Reads) in exchange for an honest review. This was an insightful historical novel about three generations of women from Detroit. It takes place during the civil war, the Detroit riots, and present day. Out of the three stories, I found Mary’s (the civil war one) to be the most compelling and interesting. The present day storyline was probably the weakest just because there wasn’t anything super exciting going on and it was more focused on d I received this book for free from the publisher (Revell Reads) in exchange for an honest review. This was an insightful historical novel about three generations of women from Detroit. It takes place during the civil war, the Detroit riots, and present day. Out of the three stories, I found Mary’s (the civil war one) to be the most compelling and interesting. The present day storyline was probably the weakest just because there wasn’t anything super exciting going on and it was more focused on discovering what happened in the past. I liked how the three stories intersected and connected. The events were woven together nicely and I liked how the secrets slowly unraveled. I also liked that it took place in Detroit and talked about the riots because that isn’t a topic that is often discussed. I also appreciated that the author included a note at the end of the book discussing that any shortcomings or pitfalls are her own fault and acknowledging the fact that she is a white woman writing about people of color. I love that level of awareness and am always happy to see authors admit that. The thing that prevented me from giving it 5 stars, was that it took me a while to connect with the story and characters. It wasn’t until I was near the end that I felt that emotional connection with them. Overall, I enjoyed this look into the past and found this to be a wonderful debut book.
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  • Lisa A. Sturm
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Erin Bartels' debut novel and thoroughly enjoyed it! Bartels adeptly weaves together the stories of three generations of women in Detroit and the surrounding area who grapple with issues of race relations and persecution, societal boundaries and love, family and self realization. Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth are loosely related by blood, but deeply connected through their beliefs, convictions, and willingness to defy the status quo. I was particular I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Erin Bartels' debut novel and thoroughly enjoyed it! Bartels adeptly weaves together the stories of three generations of women in Detroit and the surrounding area who grapple with issues of race relations and persecution, societal boundaries and love, family and self realization. Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth are loosely related by blood, but deeply connected through their beliefs, convictions, and willingness to defy the status quo. I was particularly impressed with Bartels' rich descriptions of post civil war struggles and the 1960s race riots. Despite the weightiness of these topics, the book is sewn together with sturdy threads of optimism, resilience, and faith in our future. It's a must read for those who love historical fiction or meaningful romance, stories about race relations or the complexities and ironies in what we call family. As the title suggests, we are left hoping for better things in American society, but in terms of novels, one can't hope for much more--this debut really delivers.
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  • Megan Collins
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a moving, multi-generational story about three women who decide to follow their hearts, even when their families and the rest of society tells them they’re wrong. The prose is lovely and engaging, and the characters jump from the page. For all the heartache within this timely story, I also found it to be immensely comforting; reading this book was like putting on a warm sweater and sipping on hot chocolate. I highly recommend it.
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  • James Charlesworth
    January 1, 1970
    The story of three women separated by generations but joined by blood and the strength of their convictions, Erin Bartels’ debut novel masterfully weaves a trio of interrelated timelines—one taking place during the Civil War and its aftermath, another during the Civil Rights Movement and incorporating the Detroit riots of 1967, and the final in the present day. Each of these three alternating sections contains enough plot and secrets and surprises to take up an entire book, but where Bartels tru The story of three women separated by generations but joined by blood and the strength of their convictions, Erin Bartels’ debut novel masterfully weaves a trio of interrelated timelines—one taking place during the Civil War and its aftermath, another during the Civil Rights Movement and incorporating the Detroit riots of 1967, and the final in the present day. Each of these three alternating sections contains enough plot and secrets and surprises to take up an entire book, but where Bartels truly impresses is in her juxtapositions of the novel’s parts, guiding the reader gracefully back and forth in time in a gripping and steadily building narrative. This book evokes painful periods in our national history, but it does so with grace and deference. Richly plotted and powerfully rendered, We Hope for Better Things is a brave and brilliantly crafted debut.
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  • Erica Boyce
    January 1, 1970
    This is a heartbreaking, heartwarming story about love and hate across generations of women in a Detroit-area family. Bartels does a beautiful job of showing how racism has affected the love stories of three women living in three different eras. Though her novel is technically historical, the messages she conveys are universal--and gorgeously written.
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  • Danielle Urban
    January 1, 1970
    We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels is a one astounding read. This literary debut novel holds so much intensity. I felt the pain, loss, love, and hope. It was like a fresh battle wound that would not fade. A constant reminder of what never died. Still wounds like these exist, today.In this story, I was swept up into the drama mystery of one journalist's family history. An interracial marriage...back then, it was not looked upon as happy thing. It was seen as a deterioration to society's ru We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels is a one astounding read. This literary debut novel holds so much intensity. I felt the pain, loss, love, and hope. It was like a fresh battle wound that would not fade. A constant reminder of what never died. Still wounds like these exist, today.In this story, I was swept up into the drama mystery of one journalist's family history. An interracial marriage...back then, it was not looked upon as happy thing. It was seen as a deterioration to society's rules. Racism was strong then and still is now. People still fight against one another, white versus black. Black versus white. The pressure and troubles that came with the characters' choices were seen, heard, and lived through these words. It was like being a witness to such cruel times. Despite the cruelty and difficulty, the characters made the most of what they wanted and had. I have complete admiration for the couple who never backed down...and still had hope. Their love was hanging over me on every page.Erin Bartels tackled many issues. Important themes that we all needed reminding of. Themes of equality, freedom, race, and love were woven with care. We Hope for Better Things was indeed a perfect title. It summed up what we all hope for each day. Better things...Overall, I would recommend this beautifully told journey. It is full of emotional baggage and hard times. But it showed how strong victims can be despite their challenges.I received this copy from the publisher. This is my voluntary review.
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  • Kate Motaung
    January 1, 1970
    Masterful writing and storytelling. I was captivated by this book and continue to think about it long after finishing the last page. It's obvious that the author spent a long time carefully crafting the characters and storyline. Very engaging. Would highly recommend.
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  • KTC
    January 1, 1970
    Three women. Three eras. One struggle. We Hope for Better Things is the tale of Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth, each living in Detroit and/or Lapeer County, Michigan but in different eras: Civil War/Reconstruction, Civil Rights movement, and present day. Bound by blood, these women also share a compassionate nature, resilient spirit, and innate ability to see below the surface to what lies beneath. Three women. Three eras. One struggle. 

 We Hope for Better Things is the tale of Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth, each living in Detroit and/or Lapeer County, Michigan but in different eras: Civil War/Reconstruction, Civil Rights movement, and present day. Bound by blood, these women also share a compassionate nature, resilient spirit, and innate ability to see below the surface to what lies beneath.
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  • Alison Hammer
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVED this book. It was the best part of having three flights in three days. We Hope For Better Things is such an important, beautiful story that spans three generations of strong women, each dealing with similar issues in spite of being generations apart. It was interesting to look at the struggle of race relations over the years and how some things have changed, and others unfortunately haven't changed at all. And you've got to love a book that gives you a 'gasp out loud' moment :) Couldn't I LOVED this book. It was the best part of having three flights in three days. We Hope For Better Things is such an important, beautiful story that spans three generations of strong women, each dealing with similar issues in spite of being generations apart. It was interesting to look at the struggle of race relations over the years and how some things have changed, and others unfortunately haven't changed at all. And you've got to love a book that gives you a 'gasp out loud' moment :) Couldn't recommend this book more - can't wait for it to be officially out in the world in January. Put it on your list!!!
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  • Felicia Grossman
    January 1, 1970
    This story is a compelling multi-generational narrative about racism, privilege, and family secrets in the north, something that often isn't explored, both in the Civil War era and 1967 Detroit riots, as well as the modern era. The primary first person narrator, modern, out-of-a-job journalist Elizabeth, frames her own present with her family's past as she discovers it through her growing relationship with her great-aunt Nora. The the stories are moving and tragic, with the end ultimately uplift This story is a compelling multi-generational narrative about racism, privilege, and family secrets in the north, something that often isn't explored, both in the Civil War era and 1967 Detroit riots, as well as the modern era. The primary first person narrator, modern, out-of-a-job journalist Elizabeth, frames her own present with her family's past as she discovers it through her growing relationship with her great-aunt Nora. The the stories are moving and tragic, with the end ultimately uplifting. The prose was just lovely and the history was well done. I appreciate how complex each of the three female leads were. This is really a stellar debut.
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  • K.A. Doore
    January 1, 1970
    First off: wow. Three POVs, three timelines, three separate stories - it takes quite a bit of skill to not only keep the reader wholly invested in each, but to interweave them and keep them building off one another and still be able to give each a satisfying ending. And Bartels friggin' nailed it. Bartels carefully and adeptly weaves a story in three parts about history, about family, about prejudice and hate and resilience in the face of it all. Her heroines are complex and multilayered, making First off: wow. Three POVs, three timelines, three separate stories - it takes quite a bit of skill to not only keep the reader wholly invested in each, but to interweave them and keep them building off one another and still be able to give each a satisfying ending. And Bartels friggin' nailed it. Bartels carefully and adeptly weaves a story in three parts about history, about family, about prejudice and hate and resilience in the face of it all. Her heroines are complex and multilayered, making mistakes but learning from them, all the while taking control and getting shit done. Once I picked this novel up, I couldn't put it down. We Hope for Better Things is heartbreaking, yet sweet, in parts quiet and in parts as loud as a riot, but wholly and unflinchingly human. (This review is based on an advanced reviewer's copy of the book)
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  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    A box of photos, an elderly aunt the main character didn’t know about, and an old house.Was it fate that Elizabeth had lost her job as a journalist because of a story she was covering?Was it fate that James Rich found her and wanted her to return some photos to a Nora Balsam?Was it fate that Elizabeth fell in love with Aunt Nora and with her home the minute she met her and stepped inside the family home?As the chapters alternate between the three Balsam women, we meet Elizabeth present day as s A box of photos, an elderly aunt the main character didn’t know about, and an old house.

Was it fate that Elizabeth had lost her job as a journalist because of a story she was covering?

Was it fate that James Rich found her and wanted her to return some photos to a Nora Balsam?

Was it fate that Elizabeth fell in love with Aunt Nora and with her home the minute she met her and stepped inside the family home?

As the chapters alternate between the three Balsam women, we meet Elizabeth present day as she is finishing up a story and gets fired because of the story and as Elizabeth meets James Rich who has a task for her she doesn’t want to do until she finds out that Nora is her great aunt.We meet Nora in her younger days and in present time. Going through her house and seeing the beauty that was once there pulled me in.

We also meet Mary Balsam dating back to 1861 and the first inhabitant of the house Nora now lived in.



I love old photos, old houses, and stories that our older relatives have to tell us about their lives and the time period which they lived in and how they lived.Elizabeth found all of those things, with the best things being the old house with stories of its own and the stories of the three women's interesting lives.One problem, though, was that Nora wouldn’t talk about the house or tell any stories at all about her past life.When Elizabeth finds locked rooms, gravestone markers, and many beds lined up in the attic my interest peaked.Those readers who enjoy historical fiction, secrets, surprises, and an unraveling of the past will thoroughly enjoy WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS.

And, of course, the characters were simply wonderful. I didn’t want the book to end because of them.

WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS has a warmth that will linger with you and a wonderful history lesson.Ms Bartels' debut novel has flawless writing and a marvelous story line. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Bookishfirst in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Penny
    January 1, 1970
    The title, We Hope for Better Things, says so much about this story. Elizabeth Balsam, the main character, takes readers on a journey through struggles, love, hate, and loss. I admit there were parts of this book I found difficult to read because the depravity of mankind is exposed, yet I wanted to keep reading as Elizabeth dug through her family's history with hope and determination to find truth. This is an important book and should be read for a better understanding of our history; in hopes t The title, We Hope for Better Things, says so much about this story. Elizabeth Balsam, the main character, takes readers on a journey through struggles, love, hate, and loss. I admit there were parts of this book I found difficult to read because the depravity of mankind is exposed, yet I wanted to keep reading as Elizabeth dug through her family's history with hope and determination to find truth. This is an important book and should be read for a better understanding of our history; in hopes that we'll be a better people. I remember my brother, in National Guards, had to go to Cincinnati for riots in the sixties. It was a scary time. Erin Bartels remarkable writing brings to light times of trouble with a degree of hope. This would be a great winter read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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  • Katherine Riley
    January 1, 1970
    We Hope for Better Things is, first and foremost, about love. This accomplished and tightly plotted work of fiction intertwines three love stories around an American conflict that is not rooted in love at all. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And this novel attempts it, through a white female voice that is slightly self-deprecating and at the same time trying to be deeply respectful of a highly painful and shameful topic in this nation’s history, We Hope for Better Things is, first and foremost, about love. This accomplished and tightly plotted work of fiction intertwines three love stories around an American conflict that is not rooted in love at all. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And this novel attempts it, through a white female voice that is slightly self-deprecating and at the same time trying to be deeply respectful of a highly painful and shameful topic in this nation’s history, and one that is still very much happening now: African-Americans’ mistreatment at the hands of white culture. The complex story is masterfully woven through almost two hundred years of our history. Religious ideals are quietly dealt, reminding us of the underlying truth in the Christian church: that we are all equal in the eyes of its God.
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  • Maureen Timerman
    January 1, 1970
    What a great read, from beginning to end the author pulled me in, from Civil War time to present day, we meet the members of one family through the generations. This one of the best books I have read this year, and now looking for more from this writer. We see injustice here in many forms, but mainly racism, and some that preach what they don’t practice. There is also some sweet romance here, and some tragic endings, family dynamics at the highest levels.A don’t miss novel that will leave you wa What a great read, from beginning to end the author pulled me in, from Civil War time to present day, we meet the members of one family through the generations. This one of the best books I have read this year, and now looking for more from this writer. We see injustice here in many forms, but mainly racism, and some that preach what they don’t practice. There is also some sweet romance here, and some tragic endings, family dynamics at the highest levels.A don’t miss novel that will leave you wanting more!I received this book through LibraryThing, and was not required to give a positive review.
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  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    Unfortunately, the opening of the book was not what I was expecting. It starts out with a white journalist meeting with a black man at a Coney Island to discuss a camera. “I’ll admit you do look like her,” Linden said. “But —no offense and all —you do kind of all look the same.”I laughed. As a white person in a city that is over eighty percent black, I was used to occasional reminders of what minority races had to contend with in most parts of the country. There are implications that the prota Unfortunately, the opening of the book was not what I was expecting. It starts out with a white journalist meeting with a black man at a Coney Island to discuss a camera. “I’ll admit you do look like her,” Linden said. “But —no offense and all —you do kind of all look the same.”I laughed. As a white person in a city that is over eighty percent black, I was used to occasional reminders of what minority races had to contend with in most parts of the country. There are implications that the protagonist understands racism because of experience with so called “reverse racism.” I, personally, see that way of thinking as very problematic to society. Since I’m reading a galley copy this quote may change before publishing.I have met Erin a few times at writer events around Lansing. She is a friendly, genuine seeming person. I have no problem with her personally and was very excited to read her book. I love to cheer on writers in my community and see them succeed. I was hoping this would be good, based on the blurb. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • Dianne Polome
    January 1, 1970
    Erin Bartel's debut novel is an interesting take on racial issues, as seen through the eyes of three women connected across the generations--from the Civil War era to the 1960's to more recent times. The characters were robust and believable, and their alternating stories were expertly woven together with threads of deep, personal faith. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, so that I enjoyed this book says a lot. * Other than an advanced reader copy, I was not compensated in any way for thi Erin Bartel's debut novel is an interesting take on racial issues, as seen through the eyes of three women connected across the generations--from the Civil War era to the 1960's to more recent times. The characters were robust and believable, and their alternating stories were expertly woven together with threads of deep, personal faith. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, so that I enjoyed this book says a lot. * Other than an advanced reader copy, I was not compensated in any way for this review.
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  • Pamela Barrett
    January 1, 1970
    This novel follows 3 generations of Michigan women. There is Nora Balsam who was a young white woman of privilege during the 1960’s when she meets a talented black photographer named William. His photos of people document a part of Detroit she has never seen. Soon their friendship blossoms into love even though an interracial relationship is discouraged by both their families. Then there is Elizabeth Balsam a current day journalist who uncovers scandals and corruption; and she is making a name f This novel follows 3 generations of Michigan women. There is Nora Balsam who was a young white woman of privilege during the 1960’s when she meets a talented black photographer named William. His photos of people document a part of Detroit she has never seen. Soon their friendship blossoms into love even though an interracial relationship is discouraged by both their families. Then there is Elizabeth Balsam a current day journalist who uncovers scandals and corruption; and she is making a name for herself. It is the Balsam name that catches the attention of Mr. Rich because he believes she is related to Nora, and he has something he wants Nora to have, but needs Elizabeth to get it to Nora. When Elizabeth finds out that it is something to do with the Detroit Race Riots of 1967, the time period she has been researching, then she is interested to find out if they are related. The 3rd woman is Mary Balsam who lived in Lapeer County outside of Detroit in 1861. Her husband Nathaniel, an abolitionist, is enlisting to fight in the Civil War. While he is gone he keeps sending runaway slaves to their farm and Mary has to come to grips with her feelings about race, and how it affects their family and community. Mary Balsam’s farm is pivotal to all 3 women.This is a fantastic story, well written, it kept my interest to the last page and left me wanting to read more. This is definitely a book for this time in history and I recommend all my friends, family and readers to check it out. 5 stars.
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  • Diane C.
    January 1, 1970
    Erin Bartels is not afraid to take on the difficult—neither in her writing nor in what she is writing about. In her debut novel, WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, she braids three separate narratives, each from a different time period, into one cohesive whole, from the present to the turbulent early years of the Civil Rights Movement to the struggles and conflict of the Civil War. Her striking protagonists, threaded together by unsuspected ties and deeply buried secrets, emerge as women of unusual stre Erin Bartels is not afraid to take on the difficult—neither in her writing nor in what she is writing about. In her debut novel, WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, she braids three separate narratives, each from a different time period, into one cohesive whole, from the present to the turbulent early years of the Civil Rights Movement to the struggles and conflict of the Civil War. Her striking protagonists, threaded together by unsuspected ties and deeply buried secrets, emerge as women of unusual strength , ability, and courage in the face of racial injustice. Each finds herself entangled in extremes of both hatred and love. Each stands defiantly against cultural norms, in community and in family, in the era in which they live. Bartels’s women defy injustice as much by their simple innate sense of human equality and compassion as by their courageous actions against discrimination. This is an ambitious novel about love by an accomplished writer—as ambitious as its timely and rich themes deserve.This review is in response to a prepublication ARC.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    An incredible first novel! Erin Bartels has beautifully quilted a story that spans generations and explores the hard realities of racism. She pieces the story's fabric using threads of love, forgiveness, and the certain hope that God uses all things for his glory and our good. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
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  • Truly
    January 1, 1970
    We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels is a breathtaking read that draws you into a world unlike any other. A story that is vividly written with characters that are relatable and well-written. Bartels has written a romance with family drama, tragedy, and love that is sure to captivate you. A story that is sure to pull you into the story and have you feeling all the emotions the characters are going through. We Hope for Better Things is a breathtaking read that will leave you wanting more.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels was a pleasant surprise for me. The novel is about three generations of women who live in Detroit and rural Lapeer, Michigan, spanning from the Civil War to the 1960s to today.I found the novel to be engaging, with interesting storylines and settings, nicely paced, and with well-drawn and sympathetic characters. As a Christian novel, Bartels message is, "God has a plan." Elizabeth has lost her job at the Detroit Free Press. She is asked to visit her grea We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels was a pleasant surprise for me. The novel is about three generations of women who live in Detroit and rural Lapeer, Michigan, spanning from the Civil War to the 1960s to today.I found the novel to be engaging, with interesting storylines and settings, nicely paced, and with well-drawn and sympathetic characters. As a Christian novel, Bartels message is, "God has a plan." Elizabeth has lost her job at the Detroit Free Press. She is asked to visit her great-aunt Nora to determine if she is the rightful owner of a camera and photographs in the possession of an African American family. With nothing holding her back, Elizabeth agrees and leaves Detroit for Lapeer.Nora is confused and reclusive. Over time, Elizabeth pieces together a family history that involves the Underground Railroad, forbidden love, and the Detroit riot. I was interested in reading the book because of its setting. I grew up and now live in Metro Detroit and remember vividly the 1967 riot. Other connections include my husband's family roots in Lapeer and adjoining villages including a great-grandfather who married a Farnsworth, a name which appears in the novel.A bonus for me was the quiltmaking that takes place! A 19th c. Crazy Quilt, a yellow hexagon quilt, and a contemporary crazy quilt are central to the story. I love that Nora is a fabric hoarder, her stash spilling out of the closet and filling dresser drawers!Piecing a life, piecing the mystery of the past, piecing things whole--the book's theme could be said to be the work of taking the worn scraps life hands you and creating something of beauty out of it.A kaleidoscope of color, it was formed from varied patches of jewel-toned velvet and silk, each piece edged with multicolored embroidery thread in a hundred different patterns. from We Hope For Better Things by Erin BartelsHistorical fiction fans will enjoy the book. Women's fiction readers will respond to the challenges the women face. Plus, there is romance and heartbreak and hope. The story addresses racism throughout American history.I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Irene
    January 1, 1970
    A powerful, riveting, and unputdownable tale of three women from different eras (Civil War to present) that frames the issue of race relations within the context of family relationships, making the subject immensely relatable and deeply touching. Bartels spins this masterful tale with a deft touch and a caring heart to create a stunning debut. If you enjoyed Lisa Wingate's New York Times bestseller "While We Were Yours," you'll find much to like in this novel. Bravo!
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    Three women, three turbulent times in American history, three stories braided together to create one poignant and unforgettable novel. This is a book that you’ll remember long after you’ve turned the last page. I highly recommend it.
  • Earl
    January 1, 1970
    We Hope for Better Things from Erin Bartels is a wonderful debut and a moving story about family as well as society.I found the beginning a little slow for me but not to the point of making me think about stopping. More like just wanting to get through the set-up a little faster. That said, it was probably good that it proceeded slowly and methodically so I could get the names and time frames clear in my mind. So if you start the book and feel it is a little slow, keep going, you will be rewarde We Hope for Better Things from Erin Bartels is a wonderful debut and a moving story about family as well as society.I found the beginning a little slow for me but not to the point of making me think about stopping. More like just wanting to get through the set-up a little faster. That said, it was probably good that it proceeded slowly and methodically so I could get the names and time frames clear in my mind. So if you start the book and feel it is a little slow, keep going, you will be rewarded.Race, class, and familial ties are front and center in this book. If a sentence or scene rubs you the wrong way keep going and make sure both that you understood it correctly and that it doesn't represent something that the character might learn from later. One reader both grossly misread an early scene (as in even the part quoted does not represent what she claimed it did, she misuses a term that is likely just cliche-talk for her) and, because she did not finish the book, judges the entirety of the book on her misreading of a paragraph. Don't make this freshman mistake, be open-minded and give the book and the characters a chance.If you enjoy historical fiction, especially from the not too distant past and that reverberates for contemporary society, you will enjoy this novel. If you particularly like historical novels that use major historical events as a jumping off point and a bit of a framing device, this will definitely work for you. There will likely be some uncomfortable scenes, as most good books that address societal issues have. These are ideal for thinking about why you feel as you do and, more broadly, how you feel about the issue.Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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  • Sarah Grace Grzy
    January 1, 1970
    This is an important book. And it is not for the faint of heart. We Hope for Better Things deals with ugly things. Things that aren't pretty. Things that we don't want to read about. But they are things that we need to read about, we need to know about. And the prevailing message of this book is a beautiful one - one of hope. We Hope for Better Things flips between the points of view of three different women in three different time periods. Elizabeth in modern-day Detroit, Nora in the 1960s, and This is an important book. And it is not for the faint of heart. We Hope for Better Things deals with ugly things. Things that aren't pretty. Things that we don't want to read about. But they are things that we need to read about, we need to know about. And the prevailing message of this book is a beautiful one - one of hope. We Hope for Better Things flips between the points of view of three different women in three different time periods. Elizabeth in modern-day Detroit, Nora in the 1960s, and Mary in the 1860s. While I found these characters somewhat hard to connect with at times, they were all still very well-rounded and well-written characters.Without a doubt, Erin Bartels is an incredibly gifted author. From page one, I was sucked into the story. Her writing style is so beautiful, and her ability to jump time periods so cohesively is incredible. When we entered Mary's point of view, I was instantly in 1860s-era farm country Michigan. When we switched to Nora's point of view, I was instantly in a restless and ravaged Detroit in the '60s. As a Michigan girl and lover of Michigan history, I soaked up the rich history displayed throughout this book. It is very clear Bartels did her research, and did it thoroughly. Overall, this is an incredibly written and extremely thought-provoking book that, while not a happy read, is one that is necessary nonetheless. CONTENT NOTE: Recommended for ages 18+ due to mature themes. (view spoiler)[The subject of adultery is dealt with rather heavily, and there are also a couple of implied scenes of intimacy between a husband and wife, as well as a few vague mentions of sex in general and prostitution. Racism is the predominant theme of this book, and there are uses of the n-word and other derogatory terms. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! This book was not exactly what I was expecting but it was so much better. It follows 3 women from 3 generations of the same family. Liz, recently fired from her job at the Detroit Free Press, Nora a young somewhat rebellious 20 something in the late 1960's, and Mary a young wife during the civil war. The book showed the importance of family history. These 3 women made a difference during their time even it if it was small. I was lucky enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy from LibraryThi Wow! This book was not exactly what I was expecting but it was so much better. It follows 3 women from 3 generations of the same family. Liz, recently fired from her job at the Detroit Free Press, Nora a young somewhat rebellious 20 something in the late 1960's, and Mary a young wife during the civil war. The book showed the importance of family history. These 3 women made a difference during their time even it if it was small. I was lucky enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy from LibraryThing and Revell Books.
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  • MT
    January 1, 1970
    This book absolutely will not disappoint! The story travels from present day to 1960s to 1860s as it reveals family secrets. Present day journalist Elizabeth Balsam is given an unusual assignment that intrigues her. Little does she suspect that it will lead to unearthing deeply kept family secrets and to solving a mystery that's fifty years old. Written in a first person narrative this book is verbally scrumptious and you will not want to put it down. Vivid, heart rending stories from the civil This book absolutely will not disappoint! The story travels from present day to 1960s to 1860s as it reveals family secrets. Present day journalist Elizabeth Balsam is given an unusual assignment that intrigues her. Little does she suspect that it will lead to unearthing deeply kept family secrets and to solving a mystery that's fifty years old. Written in a first person narrative this book is verbally scrumptious and you will not want to put it down. Vivid, heart rending stories from the civil rights movement will stun and shock you. Then as the reader travels down the road back to the Civil War days the unrest, terror and uncertainty of the times will feel very real. Elizabeth is an endearing and multi-faceted character that deserves exploring through the pages of the book. Through these characters the hard choices those trying to make an end to slavery and racial injustice faced come to life. And one must ask the question what would I do for love?I received this book from the publishers but was not required to write a positive review.
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  • Monica
    January 1, 1970
    "The Past is Never as Past as we'd like to Think" is a quote on the back of We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels. This book and this quote made me truly think about the racial challenges in this country--and how my thoughts and actions could work for bettering things as we go into the future.We Hope for Better Things tells the stories of three different generations of people and how race played a part in their stories through the Civil War, the 1960s and in today's world.We read the story o "The Past is Never as Past as we'd like to Think" is a quote on the back of We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels. This book and this quote made me truly think about the racial challenges in this country--and how my thoughts and actions could work for bettering things as we go into the future.We Hope for Better Things tells the stories of three different generations of people and how race played a part in their stories through the Civil War, the 1960s and in today's world.We read the story of Mary and Nathaniel Balsam and how they fared during the Civil War when Nathaniel left to join the Civil War and sent home a slave named George for Mary to help in the underground railroad--and more slaves in the future. Nathaniel and George faced challenges in their marriage and in the society in which they lived at that time as they tried to help the slaves to freedom.Bartels also shares the story of another generation of Balsam's as Nora Balsam falls in love with a black man in Detroit in the 1960s. There is a show of prejudice through both families when the two get married and try to live a life together. There is also upheaval all around as Martin Luther King comes to town and there are riots that ensue not long after.Then comes today's generation, Nora's neice, Elizabeth Balsam is journalist who is asked to deliver a box of old photographs to her great-aunt Nora, who lives in the house that once belonged to Mary and Nathaniel, and the story comes full circle in today's world.I found We Hope for Better Things to be an easy story to follow. While the author flips back and forth throughout the book between the stories, as the reader I never lost track of characters or stories. I understand this is Bartels' first novel but it was so well-written and easy to follow that I am quite impressed with this first time author. While I liked the characters for the most part, I didn't always like the choices they made--and there were consequences to those choices when they didn't live "right." Because I usually read Christian novels, I should mention that there is mention of God and going to church, but this isn't a typical Christian novel. It is clean but there are some choices that are made that are clearly sinful although you can feel for why the character made those choices. The best part about We Hope for Better Things is that it could lead to discussions and thoughtful reflection on the racism in this country and how things could be better as we go forward. It would make some good book club discussions on that topic, as well as some good discussions on making good choices. I wish it came with questions to ask in the back, but it does not. However, We Hope for Better Things is book that could lead to "better things" if we let it.I received this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.
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