Cover image for We hope for better things
Title:
We hope for better things
ISBN:
9780800735661

9780800734916
Physical Description:
393 pages ; 22 cm.
Summary:
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.
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" We Hope for Better Things has it all: fabulous storytelling, an emotional impact that lingers long after you turn the last page, and a setting that immerses you. I haven't read such a powerful, moving story since I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. This book will change how you look at the world we live in. Highly recommended!"-- Colleen Coble , USAToday bestselling author of the Rock Harbor series and The View from Rainshadow Bay

*****

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.

*****

"A timely exploration of race in America, We Hope for Better Things is an exercise of empathy that will shape many a soul."-- Julie Cantrell , New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials

"I applaud [Erin's] courage, her authenticity, her beautiful turn of phrase, the freshness of her imagery, and the depth of her story that speaks to a contemporary world where understanding is often absent. We Hope for Better Things is a remarkable debut novel."-- Jane Kirkpatrick , award-winning author of Everything She Didn't Say

"Erin Bartels's We Hope for Better Things s hares the joys and sorrows of three women from different generations. A roller coaster of emotions awaits as you share the lives of these women and hope along with them for better things."-- Ann H. Gabhart , bestselling author of River to Redemption

"Storytelling at its finest. Erin Bartels delivers a riveting story of forbidden love, family bonds, racial injustice, and the power of forgiveness. We Hope for Better Things is a timely, sobering, moving account of how far we've come . . . and how much distance remains to be covered. A compulsively readable, incredibly powerful novel."-- Lori Nelson Spielman , New York Times bestselling author of The Life List

"There is the Detroit we think we know, and there is the Detroit full of stories that are never brought to the forefront. With We Hope for Better Things , Erin Bartels brings full circle an understanding of contemporary Detroit firmly rooted in the past, with enthralling characters and acute attention to detail. It's a must not just for Detroit lovers but also for those who need to understand that Detroit history is also American history."-- Aaron Foley , city of Detroit's chief storyteller and editor of The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook


Author Notes

Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than 15 years. Her short story "This Elegant Ruin" was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women's Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA's Write On! magazine. She lives in Michigan and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this powerful first novel from Bartels (after story collection This Elegant Ruin), a successful journalist must weigh her desire for uncovering the truth against the collateral damage of revealing family secrets. Elizabeth Balsam believes she is on her way to making headlines with an incriminating story about Judge Ryan Sharpe's involvement in the 1967 Detroit riots when she is suddenly fired from the Detroit Free Press after it's revealed she used an assumed identity to investigate the judge. Without a job, she is confronted by a mysterious man claiming to have photographs of the riots, which he says belong to an aunt of Elizabeth's whom she has never met. Elizabeth agrees to deliver the photos to her aunt, believing the photos will be her ticket back into the story she has been trying to write and her career as a journalist. After she tracks down her aunt Nora at an old farmhouse outside Detroit, Elizabeth discovers the true history of the Balsam family and learns that box of photos contains something far more life-altering than her story about the riots. As Elizabeth and Nora pore over the photos, stories of forbidden love, war, racism, and sacrifice emerge, and Although Elizabeth isn't the most devout person, she begins to see the destiny involved in her reconnecting with her aunt and must make the hard decision of whether to pursue her career or leave her family's dark history buried. Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Elizabeth Balsam is an established journalist at the Detroit Free Press, the preeminent newspaper of Motor City. But when her investigation into the 1967 riots costs Elizabeth her job, she is forced to look at the direction her life is taking and consider whether it's the right one. Contemplating her next move, she moves in with her great-aunt Nora, a woman burdened with a heavy heart. As Elizabeth learns more about Nora and her own family's history, she comes to realize that maybe the road she is on is the one God had intended for her all along. Bartels' debut tells the story of three Balsam women, each of a different era, told against the backdrop of racism and violence in America. Though some of their paths lead to forbidden love, heartbreak, and even death, the women's stories of love, hope, and inspiration will appeal to fans of faith-based women's-fiction authors like Colleen Coble.--LynnDee Wathen Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

DEBUT Fresh voice Bartels writes about three generations of women in Detroit, MI, as they navigate the muddy waters of the civil rights era, the Underground Railroad, and current times. Elizabeth Balsam is a reporter at the Detroit Free Press, until she screws up an investigation and finds herself out of a job. When she meets James Rich, he starts her on a search for a relation she didn't know she had. The mysteries that surround her at her great-aunt's farmhouse bring her reeling into the past, as she finds graves and photographs that uncover decades-old secrets. A forbidden interracial marriage, an escaped slave, an expectant mother waiting for her Union soldier to return-all of these stories are deftly told by Bartels, as she explores the hard realities of racism and its many faces during various eras of American history. VERDICT The themes of this novel are much needed within Christian fiction. Compelling characters make this winning debut also appealing for fans of general historical fiction.-Julia M. Reffner, North Chesterfield, VA © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.