"In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"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. . . .Compelling characters make this winning debut also appealing for fans of general historical fiction."--Library Journal
"Bartels' debut tells the story of three Balsam women, each of a different era, told against the backdrop of racism and violence in America. . . .will appeal to fans of faith-based women's fiction authors like Colleen Coble."--Booklist
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 north of Detroit, 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 Michigan's 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 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
"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 shares 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
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.
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An Awesome Debut
We Hope for Better Things does a masterful job of tackling challenging topics relating to race. Its three storylines —from the Civil War, the 1960’s, and present-day— interweave seamlessly for a memorable story. I heartily recommend this book.