October GGC Adult Book Club Reviews:
Welcome to She Said/She Said, where GGC Members are our book reviewers from across Canada, sharing their opinions about our book of the month. This month, we take a look at Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard, published by Harper Collins Canada.
Suggested GGC Rating by our book reviewers: “This book is suitable for adults aged 18 and older, containing none to very little, profanity, sexual content or mature themes within the context of the story.”
She Said: JACLYN M. QUA-HIANSEN
Everything We Ever Wanted begins with the death of a member of the Swithin school wrestling team. Rumour has it that the teen was being bullied by teammates, and that wrestling coach Scott Bates-McAllister had done nothing about it. Did the bullying have something to do with his death? It’s an intriguing mystery, and one that I wish Shepard had spent more time exploring.
However, the real story is how this incident impacts Scott’s family. His mother Sylvie and brother Charles have always felt disconnected from him. I like that Shepard shows how, as an adopted, mixed-race child, Scott has always been visibly different from the Bates-McAllisters, and I love the tension created by the racism of Sylvie’s grandfather. I also like how Sylvie has to deal with losing the family prestige that she’s taken for granted. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Scott’s perspective until near the end, which frustrated me. He’s a fascinating character, and I wish Shepard had shown us a bit more of him throughout.
The focus of the title appears to be Scott’s sister-in-law, Joanna. Growing up with a mother who suffers from Munchausen’s syndrome, Joanna dreamed of belonging to a family as seemingly perfect as the Bates-McAllisters. Her marriage to Charles made her dream come true, but she still feels like she doesn’t belong. Everything depicts her struggle to find self-worth, beyond the Bates-McAllister name. Joanna can be whiny, but is overall sympathetic. Unfortunately, Shepard tries too hard to deliver the moral that you can be unhappy even after getting everything you thought you wanted. Shepard’s approach detracts from the impact.
Everything is about losing what you’ve taken for granted and finding the strength to deal with that. It’s an emotional book and a good read.
– Jaclyn is a bookseller, book blogger and art gallery assistant. Read more on her blog: http://literarytreats.wordpress.com
She Said: Guider Kerri Casper
82nd Winnipeg Brownies, Manitoba
Everything We Ever Wanted is a story of family relationships, good and bad, past and present, and how they can evolve over time. The Bates-McAllisters are a high-class family with a private school as their family legacy. The book starts out with a family scandal of sorts, and turns several characters’ worlds upside down. Joanna, one of the main characters, who has recently married into the Bates-McAllister family, is left out of what is occurring in the family that she has married into and is beginning to feel resentful toward her husband, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law. Joanna does not know of the problems that have been occurring within the Bates-McAllister family for many years and she becomes increasingly resentful of her husband. Joanna also begins to form a relationship with her husband’s brother, the black sheep of the family, with whom most family members do not have a good relationship.
It is not uncommon for family relationships to be strained and unhealthy, both short-term and long-term. I think that Everything We Ever Wanted illustrates these family dynamics, but also demonstrates that family relationships can be repaired and the strains can be lessened with time and effort. I think that the Promise and Laws we follow as members of Girl Guides of Canada gives us advice on having healthy relationships, such as, “Be honest and trustworthy” and “Respect myself and others”. I think that numerous characters in this story improved their family relationships by being honest, trustworthy and respectful.
If you are looking for a story about family relationships, I would encourage you to pick up this book. I believe that everyone can learn something from and relate to the story in some way.
– Kerri lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She’s a recent graduate of the faculty of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba and is now a Dietetic Intern in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. She is also known as “Tawny Owl” to the 82nd Winnipeg Brownies.
She Said: Guider Melissa
Guides #17 and Trex #1 Saskatchewan
Everything We Ever Wanted, by Sara Shepard (author of Pretty Little Liars) is about a wealthy American family of privilege that embarks on individual journeys of self-discovery when faced with a series of conflicts. Within this family are a mother, two grown sons and a daughter-in-law. Shepard has created characters that are very realistic, thus making it easier for the reader to relate to them and drawing the reader further into the story. As the characters evolve, the concept of imperfect yet healthy relationships becomes clearer.
On their individual paths to self-discovery, the four main characters assess their relationships with each other and with additional characters and try to right past wrongs. This theme, of assessing and correcting relationships, is relevant to our Girl Guiding family because healthy relationships within the Canadian and global sisterhood of Guiding are central to the success our organization.