For readers who loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, or The Shack.
“People walked up the front steps of the funeral home, preparing themselves to see the grieving orphaned children of the woman who passed, but what did they find instead? The youngest orphaned child was snacking on a Quarter Pounder with cheese, drinking a medium Diet Coke, and laughing in a chair with her friends.”
In this fresh, poignant novel, Always There, Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse being worlds and lifetimes apart?
Eastman’s honesty explores the tragic ending to a mother-daughter relationship, revealing the pain a motherless daughter experiences. The two vantage points allow the reader to find a connection with the mother and/or the daughter, personalizing the loss that a dying mother and grieving daughter often face. The novel portrays the truth behind the death of a loved one, while glorifying the mystery of Heaven, proving that love does not die when a person does. The channels of love are still open, going in both directions. Love goes on when life does not. The novel bridges the tragic with the comedic, giving audiences a lighter, more enjoyable, sentimental read. You will laugh while you cry, and cry while you laugh, but in the end, you’ll hug your loved ones for dear life.
Carol Ann Albright-Eastman is a wife and mother of four, crazy, adorable, incorrigible, intelligent, kind, and athletic children. She’s taught high school English for fifteen years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from The Ohio State University, a teaching license and a communications minor from the University of Akron, and holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Akron.
Eastman spends the majority of her time grading papers, reading, but not as voraciously as other “indie” authors and their devout followers, watching her sons play baseball (or whatever seasonal sport they’re in at the time), negotiating futilely with a toddler, and falling deeper in love with her husband every day. Eastman is a motherless and fatherless daughter, but a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t think of them.
♥♥♥♥"I should've learned then that the people you love the most in life aren't always going to be there to do your hair, make you breakfast, or hug you goodbye."
I was blown away by this book for a couple reasons. First, the pain that the characters have endured and continue to endure trying to get over the deaths that have plagued them one after another. Shelby struggles to hold on to life while resisting the love of those around her. Her siblings mourning the loss of their family members and the "loss" of the Darby everyone loves. Shelby's parents and family members up in "Here" trying to cope with being "Here", not knowing how their children are faring "There." There is a lot of loss and love to embrace and learn from in this book. Learning to move on and find your way is always the inevitable; some people just take the longer road to get there.
"It's the pain and setbacks that make a person strong and resilient."
"...Our lives are eerily parallel."
"I was experiencing feelings that we didn't normally feel here; they almost made me feel more alive."
Secondly, the parallels of turmoil were remarkable. When Shelby's mother was having such internal struggles and turmoil "Here," Shelby was going through her own internal struggles and turmoil "There." Shelby's mother worrying that her children hadn't been able to become successful without her; Shelby struggling with opening her heart back up to those who love her most. Shelby has taken all of the death around her and closed herself off from everyone. The parallel emotions going on simultaneously is remarkable and mirrored with perfection.
"You can't always choose who you fall in love with. Sometimes love just chooses you."
Finally, this book is just remarkable in defining love, loss, and resiliency. Wait, didn't I already say that? Well, maybe I did. So I am saying it again. The love of this family in this book shows just how strong their love is in life and in death. The bonds of a family are as strong as you make them. This family has a bond that will last eternally. I fell in love with this family and this story. This book is so heartwarming, and everyone can relate to the love and emotions that all of the characters go through. Anyone questioning whether or not to read this book, there is no question.... the answer is read. Read it; enjoy it; embrace it; learn from it; cry over it.
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