A woman mourning the losses of her husband and young daughter goes on a cross-country road trip to rediscover her faith.
Kuder’s debut novel tells the story of Ali Berg, who has just suffered the losses of her husband, Isaac, and their teenage daughter, Zoe, in a car accident. Supported by her loving parents and siblings, Ali decides to go on a road trip to meet up with people from her past she is grateful for, hoping that the journey will help her remember what makes her life worth continuing. The novel also cuts from Ali’s present journey to her past with Isaac and Zoe, demonstrating the imperfect but ultimately loving nature of their relationship. Kuder has crafted a meaningful exploration into some of the difficulties of grief and a brave protagonist whom readers can root for as she travels. Unfortunately, though, many of the characters resemble mouthpieces for specific philosophies and perspectives on grieving more than fully developed people. For example, Ali’s friend Gwen embarks on an extended discussion of positive thinking when they first meet, saying, “I believe we each create our own reality….My world, my life, is whatever I believe it to be.” The dialogue, rather than representing realistic conversations, takes on a didactic, moralizing tone. The idea of going on a soul-searching road trip to meet people who were important in the past is an engaging one, yet so many pages are spent on people whom the reader hasn’t met before that incidents tend to blend together. What’s more, a character who serves as a potential love interest for Ali doesn’t actually get to appear or speak in the novel, a missed opportunity to get to know someone who might have helped her move on. While the premise of the novel is full of heart, it has too few three-dimensional characters to truly come to life.
A story of catastrophic loss that fails to stand out from the crowded field of books on grief.