Stories that Bind Us – Susie Finkbeiner

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner
Also by this author: The Nature of Small Birds, The Nature of Small Birds, The All-American
Published by Revell on June 2, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Historical
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Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next. She couldn't have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

There’s great power in a good story. Stories bring us together, help us find common ground, take us on a common journey. In Stories That Bind Us, Susie Finkbeiner weaves a compelling relational narrative about the lives of various people and their intersection. Often, fiction writers take the liberties of fiction to push stories to the upper limits of credulity. Suspense, thrillers, mysteries, and such do this in a way that provides escapism from life-as-normal. Romance, too, often stretches the imagination to entertain, thrill, or titillate.

There’s something comforting in the type of novel that simply presents life as it is, full of its own type of loves, losses, and surprises, and reminds us that these stories—so often the stories of our lives—as also worth telling. Stories That Bind Us is ostensibly about Betty Sweet, who builds a relationship with her five-year-old nephew soon after her husband’s death and her sister’s institutionalization, but it’s also so much more.

It’s Betty’s relationship with her husband, Norman.

It’s her relationship with her in-laws, who run a local bakery.

With her sister, Clara.

With Hugo, the nephew she didn’t know she had.

It’s Clara’s relationship with her mother and the shared chains of mental illness.

It’s the relationship of a biracial five-year-old in the racially changed world of the 1960s.

And still more.

Finkbeiner handles the issues of mental illness and racism with respect to both modern sensibilities and 1960s accepted culture. While neither of these issues rise to the forefront of the story, they are indelible factors that influence the narrative and add depth and uniqueness to the story.

Usually when I say things like “nothing really stands out,” it’s not a compliment to a book. It is to this one. Stories That Bind Us reads like real life, reminding us that life itself is story and the loves and losses common to us all are worth being told and remembered. You immediately feel at home with the characters, invited into their lives as you see the stories between them play out.

Betty’s relationship with Hugo, her biracial nephew, takes center stage as her sister is committed to an institution and Hugo is left in Betty’s care. It’s quite the shock for a childless widow to suddenly need to learn to parent a five-year-old boy. He has questions she can’t answer. He must deal with problems she can’t fathom. He has a perspective that she’ll never be able to fully see. But it’s Story that brings them together, earns her his trust, and proves her love. Stories That Bind Us is a comforting, beautiful work of art that invites us to consider our own narratives as something worth telling as well.