About the Book
Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.
Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.
Michigan Notable Book Award winner Erin Bartels draws from personal experience hiking backcountry trails with her sister to bring you a story about the complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.
I loved it.
When an elderly parent dies, hopefully the children mourn, but then life goes back to normal. There is a sense of loss, and sadness, but there is also the realization that death is a part of life and that it is going to happen to all of eventually. However, when people die suddenly, well before old age, the loss can deeply upset family members, either pulling them apart or pushing them together in unhealthy ways.
As noted above, after their parents died in a car accident, the older sister, Olivia, tried to remove as much random chance from her life as possible. She was always prepared, she always planned. Nothing bad was going to happen if she could help it. Her younger sister tried to embrace everything--tarot and Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism. As her sister noted, she avoided making the wrong choice by not making any choice. Melanie is also an online persona who blogs, instagrams and vlogs, and makes money at it. She's a life coach whose goal for her clients is happiness, though she hasn't been really happy since her parents died and her sister refused to speak to her. She decides to try to repair the relationship with her sister through a back country hiking trip.
We follow the sisters as they follow Olivia's meticulously plotted plan--until they get lost and lose their map. As things not on the agenda happen the sisters do eventually connect, with the help of a man they meet on the trail.
The book is published by Revell, which is a Christian imprint. Part of what each sister does during the incidents that take place in the book is to re-evaluate her religious beliefs. I never got the impression that religion had been an important part of their childhood, but after the deaths of their parents, Olivia decided there couldn't be any loving God and Melanie had to believe there was something--she just wasn't ready to commit to any one belief. There is no big "come to Jesus" moment, and, just out of curiosity, I ran a word search for "Jesus" and found the word only once, when Olivia was asking Melanie how Christians could be right about Jesus without other belief systems being wrong. In short, while the book may be an invitation for you to consider your religious beliefs, it is not a sermon encouraging you to adopt the author's beliefs.
I enjoyed joining Olivia and Melanie on this journey of healing and am pleased to give the book an A.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.