The Best We’ve Been – Beth Vogt

The Best We've Been by Beth K. Vogt
Series: Thatcher Sisters #3
Published by Tyndale on May 5, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian
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five-stars

How can you choose what is right for you when your decision will break the heart of someone you love?
Having abandoned her childhood dream years ago, Johanna Thatcher knows what she wants from life. Discovering that her fiancé was cheating on her only convinces Johanna it’s best to maintain control and protect her heart.
Despite years of distance and friction, Johanna and her sisters, Jillian and Payton, have moved from a truce toward a fragile friendship. But then Johanna reveals she has the one thing Jillian wants most and may never have―and Johanna doesn’t want it. As Johanna wrestles with a choice that will change her life and her relationships with her sisters forever, the cracks in Jillian’s marriage and faith deepen. Through it all, the Thatcher sisters must decide once and for all what it means to be family.

I don’t typically read women’s fiction.

I am, after all, a thirty-year-old man. I’m not the target demographic. And yet, when the publisher contacted me to ask if I’d consider reading this book, I took one look at the synopsis and I was hooked. This wasn’t romance, although romance was there. It was a great big relational drama that told the overlapping stories of the individual members of a single family.  (My wife: Of course you liked it, you big sap. It’s all about life being story.)

And so, I suppose, I am guilty of enjoying women’s fiction. (It’s like women’s bathrooms…sometimes they’re so much better and uniquely decorated than men’s.) The Best We’ve Been is the third book in the Thatcher Sisters trilogy and focuses on oldest sister Johanna. The first two books deal with the two other Thatcher sisters, but now it’s Johanna’s time to shine—or, rather, be uncomfortably put into the spotlight as she navigates the aftermath of her fiance’s infidelity.

Oh. And she’s pregnant.

To say much more would do a disservice to a deeply-layered story that manages to drop a new reader into book three of three and yet make the reader feel comfortable and at home. The subplots deal with the other sisters and their lives. One is dealing with a rather serious disagreement with their spouse about the future of their lives. The other is navigating the waters of being a baby Christian.

The tendency in relational dramas is to give everybody something dramatic and then intensify it. In a lot of genres, fiction represents reality pushed to the extreme. But The Best We’ve Been avoids kitschy soap-opera melodrama and comes across as real and relatable. The relational issues that Beth Vogt explores are all too common—even if they’re rarely spoken about aloud. It gives us a window to the soul, our own and others, and allows us to safely explore some pretty serious topics.

It’s very much along the lines of shows like This is Us or Parenthood. It’s the story of a family—not a sitcom or a thriller, though the elements of those things can be there. It’s people living out everyday stories, stories that often go unnoticed in real life. The Best We’ve Been forces us to consider the untold stories of our friends and neighbors and even ourselves. A superbly-written character study, The Best We’ve Been will draw you in with its complex and true-to-life characters and leave you pondering your own relationships. That’s the power of Story.

five-stars

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