Friday, April 21, 2017

strictly literary: the whole thing together by ann brashares

at its heart, the whole thing together is about family. it's about the family you are born into and the one you chose to build. it is about siblings who love each other and appreciate even if they don't understand each other's differences. it is about how our families and our place in it shapes who we are and how we relate to the world.

the thomas-riggs family tree is complicated in that twenty-first century kind of way. lila and robert were married. they had three daughters: emma, quinn and mattie. then they divorced. it was very acrimonious. when they remarried, lila to adam and robert to evie, they each had a child. lila and adam had ray. and robert and evie had sasha.

as part of their divorce settlement, they shared custody of a beach house, alternating weeks throughout the year. and sasha and ray sharing a bedroom. without ever meeting. they've come close but managed to avoid any actual connection. except this summer, their ever-industrious sister emma, finagles them a shared job. and for the first time, they must communicate directly.

in seventeen years they had plenty of time to come up with an idea of each other. in some ways they shared their most intimate secrets with one another. but there was always the mystery the other half of the family, they never quite got the whole picture because their halves were whole. it's their sisters' family that fractured.

this summer is different not only because sasha and ray suddenly open communication. emma is secretly seeing a man that she loves and adores and whom she is determined to marry, but first, she has to figure out how to introduce him to her crazy, splintered family. and quinn is floating, as she does. she gardens and observes and is there for her siblings with unconditional love. and they really do need it. and then there is mattie, who is learning that maybe asking questions leads to unexpected and unwanted answers, who comes to realize that what she always believed about her identity may not be reality, and who is stuck questioning her place in this already complicated family.

it's not an easy summer. when things come to a head and everything falls apart, it's hard to see how they can come back from that. everything is so broken. but love, when given freely and unconditionally, the kind of love you have for your siblings and parents and those you chose to call family, is all-encompassing and healing. and maybe when everything is put together again, things don't look exactly the same, but maybe it's better.

i loved the last summer (of you & me) and i think people who loved that book, in particular, will love this one. this is different in tone from the sisterhood series, even though that series also tackled some pretty tough subjects. in some ways, this novel feels more adult. but that's okay. it's really just a beautiful story.

**the whole thing together will publish on april 25, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house children's (delacorte press) in exchange for my honest review.

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