All Right Here: A Darling Family novel by Carre Armstrong Gardner
The author, Carre Gardner, write stories “about the ordinary lives of ordinary people. She believes every life is a fascinating drama, every person is the hero of his or her own story.” The “About the Author” page goes on to say that Gardner “tells those kinds of stories in a way that makes readers love her characters.”
If this book is typical of the way the author writes, then I agree with the above statement because I came to enjoy the lovable characters, root for the ones struggling with issues, and developed the desire to give a good shake to the irritating ones.
Since this is very much a character driven story here is a list of a few of the persons the reader meets:
Ivy Darling: Married seven years to Nick and unable to have children of her own.
Nick Mason: Husband of Ivy, whom he resents for depriving him of having children of his own.
Jane Darling: Mother of five Darling children, all adults, but still a close knit family. Like many mothers, she worries and prays over her brood.
Laura Darling: Ivy’s twin sister, but unlike her in many ways. She is restless and flirts dangerously with boundaries. She has a crush on her handsome married boss, Max.
Amy Darling: Jane’s youngest daughter, started college, and is a bit restless like her sister Laura.
Esme: The college student manager of Parchments bookstore where Ivy works part-time.
Leander Darling: Father of the Darling family, the wise and loving husband and Dad.
Ruby Mason: Nick’s mother who has never liked Ivy and is always hinting how much she would love grandchildren.
Sephy Darling: Another daughter of Jane and Leander, goes to college in Ohio, works as a nurse’s aid, and has always been overweight. She has never been on a date.
David Darling: The only boy in the Darling family, is 30 and still unmarried, which worries his mother.
Grace Chapel: The church where both the Darling and Mason families attend. The entire Darling family sing together and many play instruments for some of the church services.
Lily Allen: The mother of three children who live next door to Ivy and Nick. She disappeared shortly after moving in, abandoning her children.
DeShaun Johnson: The oldest of the three abandoned children; he is 14 with a knack for cooking.
Jada Lovett: DeShaun’s 9 year old sister. She has a lovely singing voice.
Hammer Hernandez: Jada and Deshaun’s 6 year old brother. He had never been properly potty trained.
Baily: Ivy’s cousin works for Child Protective Services of Maine. She set up Ivy and Nick as foster parents for the three children when their mother did not return.
Milo: DeShaun’s geeky best friend at school (and self proclaimed Jew).
Jessica, Angela, Tiffany: Nick’s three married sisters who have never liked Ivy and exclude her at every family get together they attend.
Jonathon Blackfeather: Ivy took a pottery class through adult education to give herself some “me” time as counterbalance to all the time spent with her three foster children. Ivy and Jonathon, the instructor, become friends. For a little while, Ivy is tempted to be more than a friend.
While the storyline at first seemed slow to develop, it didn’t take long before I was engrossed in the many layers of the Darling and Mason family dramas. Once Ivy and Nick became foster parents to DeShaun, Jada and Hammer, their laid back predictable lives were turned upside down. They were thrown into the deep waters of parenting without the benefits of easing into the shallow waters first. By the time the couple gained their stride, it was difficult for me to put the book down, even to sleep. The story is filled with trials, lessons and hard-earned victories. I found it hard to predict what would happen next. The author successfully brings the reader along for the ride.
By the time the authorities finally found the children’s mother, nearly a year later, they all knew they would be staying with Ivy and Nick for a long time to come. And while the main conflict is eventually resolved, many other subplots in the book remain unresolved giving the impression that there may be more books to follow. The next Darling family novel is slated to come out in the Fall of 2015. I am looking forward to reading more from this author. If you like character driven stories, with events that make you think, then you’ll like this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. through their Blog Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”