Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: Better All the Time by Carre Armstrong Gardner

The Darlings are one of those fictional families that you really just want to be a part of.  Although they aren't perfect by far, they're loving and always there for one another.  I've been waiting a very long time to get another little peek into their lives.  Better All the Time did not disappoint!  It's been nearly a year since I read All Right Here, which is the first book in the series, and I needed a "Darling Fix!"
The Darling family consists of Leander and Jane, and their five children: Ivy, Laura, David, Sephy and Amy.  The first book focused mostly on Ivy and her desire for children, and Laura's drug addiction.  In this second book we get a little more personal with Sephy and Amy, and also find out a little more about Laura. 
Sephy is 23 years old and almost ready to graduate from nursing school.  She's been a dedicated student, and has worked multiple jobs to help pay her way through college.  Sephy has always been overweight, but she's always been complacent about it.  Then one night there's a concert at the university where she attends, and Sephy is asked to babysit while all of her friends are out having a good time.  She suddenly realizes that she needs to make some serious changes.  But she'll have to dig deeper and work harder than she ever imagined to become the person she wants to be.  
Amy is the youngest Darling, and she's always gotten her way.  She's a hard worker, is very talented and driven, and won't take no for an answer.  When she is hired as the director of the new Community Arts Program in Copper Cove, Maine, no one is surprised when she goes all out.  But she's working so hard that she's not taking care of herself, and she's alienating those around her.  She is trying to make friends with Mitch, the contractor who's making the repairs on her office and the theatre, but he rebuffs her away at every turn.  When Amy pushes too hard, everyone threatens to leave, and she realizes that if she doesn't take it a bit easier on those around here, her first show may be her last.
Laura has left her big family behind and moved across the country to Arizona for some peace.  She's been clean for a year, but continues to drink.  When she has a hard time finding friends, she starts attending church.  She finds herself drawn to a man she meets there, even though he's exactly the opposite of the kind of man that usually interests her.  But Laura still won't let go of the past and open her heart to God.  Maybe she'll finally discover the answers she's been looking for through drugs and alcohol.
I think there's something about each one of the Darling sisters that I can relate to, and I think most readers will feel the same.  Whether it's feeling inadequate like Sephy, smothered like Laura or overachieving like Amy, readers can see themselves in these pages.  That makes this story very readable.  It's a great portrayal of family dynamics and unconditional love and support. 
This book makes me love the Darlings even more!  I love that they are a close family, but they don't always get along.  None of them is perfect.  Since we get to see them from different points of view, we see that each one of them is flawed.  Ivy is easily offended.  Laura is selfish.  Sephy is a pushover.  Amy is spoiled.  But at the end of the day they love each other and would do anything for their siblings.  The story isn't really wrapped up at all by the end, but we see that Amy and Sephy are both headed in good directions.  Hopefully the next book will find Laura on her way to a better relationship with God and her family.  I also expect to read more about their cousin Bailey in the next book.  And while I'm excited to see what the family will be up to next, I dread it a little, too.  There's a big heartache on the horizon that they don't even know about yet.  I hope I don't have to wait another year to see what's going to happen next! 

Happy Reading!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own.

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