Betty Sweet suddenly becomes a widow at age 40 and author Susie Finkbeiner eloquently shares her journey in Stories That Bind Us. I was especially moved by the description of Betty's early days of mourning, when she stayed hidden in her house for almost a month because "I was grieving and I didn't want to talk to anyone about it." (p. 48) It is when her sister is placed into a mental institution that she experiences another life-changing event. Betty, who never had children, becomes the caregiver for her five-year-old nephew, Hugo. He is as needy as she is and it's obvious that a special bond is about to be created between a grieving widow and a sweet little boy with light brown skin and big brown eyes. As Hugo struggles with the absence of his mother, it is his Aunt Betty who chooses to comfort him with the stories that she shares. Some are true and some are made up but they become the stories that bind them together.
Stories That Bind Us is a realistic portrayal of widowhood, depression, mental illness, and the racial climate of our country in the early 1960s. It is historically accurate because I myself experienced the shock and grief of President Kennedy's assassination and felt the despair over the four little girls who were killed in a Birmingham church bombing. I lived during those events and Finkbeiner vividly depicts every emotion! She also captures the racism that existed and there is a moving moment when Betty takes Hugo to see a castle and notices how the caretaker keeps looking at them. She realizes that "the man didn't think we went together. We didn't match. Me with my light skin and Hugo with his dark." (p. 157)
I highly recommend this beautiful story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I won't soon forget Stories That Bind Us. There are moments of both tears and laughter sprinkled throughout but isn't this true of life? Finkbeiner reminds us that love can heal us and that the events that threaten to break us are often preparing us for a happiness that we didn't know was waiting! "Love hurts sometimes. But it was always worth it." (p. 311)
I received a copy of this book from Revell. There was no obligation for a positive review. These are my honest thoughts.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist from West Michigan. She is the award winning, bestselling author of All Manner of Things, a 2020 Michigan Notable Book.
She is also the author of Stories That Bind Us and The Pearl Spence Series.
Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write.
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