All That We Carried by Erin Bartels ~ Book Review

January 18, 2021


Author: Erin Bartels
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Pages: 368

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.


I have to be honest I have been stalling to write this review. I had heard so many wonderful things about this author that when Revell had this book for review I jumped at the chance in hopes that I would get picked and I did! Let me start with the good things because my aim is not to speak negatively about an author or even about a book but I do want to portray my feelings on it. After all this is just my opinion on it and as I have said before in previous posts the beauty of a blogger (especially a book blogger) its the vast differences in opinions out there and the beauty of being able to agree to disagree when needed. 

Erin Bartels is definitely a gifted writer. She takes you on journey and definitely paints such a picturesque setting that it's almost like you are there hiking in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan. She did a great job at touching into the emotional part of the story and makes you feel the anger, hurt and frustration that these characters are going through. 

In this story we meet two sisters that have a very fractured relationship. They have not seen each other for ten years, since their parents death. They are extremely different from each other. Olivia has never looked back after leaving her home after her parents death. I found her to be extremely bitter and almost selfish. I know that when you lose a parent in which you think someone is at fault is extremely hard but the author provided some flashbacks about their childhood and her character seemed one of selfishness towards her sister. Olivia definitely carries a lot of burdens and doesn't want help from anyone. On the other hand her sister Melanie is the more empathetic one. She sees the world through rose colored glasses and her belief system is all over the place. She just wants to be happy and make everyone happy and feel good in the process. She is afraid of death which is understandable and feels abandoned by her sister. 

This story is full of what some may consider symbolism. Erin Bartels focuses on that theme of carrying your burdens, taking the right/wrong path which was a great way to do so and tied everything pretty much together but I must admit that this story left me completely empty. When I read a Christian Fiction book I want some type of resolution to the story. I want it to be clear that the end result is leading to a clear belief which is God. There were SO many good opportunities throughout the book to lead these two lost souls into a clearer path into salvation but all the leads fell completely flat. Even the person they meet in the hike Josh which I guess could of been a heavenly messenger/angel or even Jesus although I have a hard time believing that, because once again I think the end of result if that would have been the case would of been an amazing encounter with the Almighty. 

Now don't get me wrong I know books are also meant to be realistic and not everyone has those "come to Jesus" moments but I think that for this book it didn't even give you a definite resolve. Also the ending (and this may be a spoiler) but Olivia is back at the mountain and at the very end I am left aloof. Is she dead? The way it was written seems like it could be but again it wasn't very clear and I was left to wonder. 

Overall, I am not sure that I would pick up another one of her books, especially if her writing is full of allegories and symbolism. It's definitely not my type of writing as it makes it confusing and I would think that for a new Christian reading something like this it may be as well. 

My Rating: 3 Stars/ Liked it but definitely not my cup of tea. 

I received this book from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS (a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, winner of the 2020 Star Award from the Women's Fiction Writers Association in both the debut and general fiction categories, and a 2019 Christy Award finalist), THE WORDS BETWEEN US (a 2020 Christy Award finalist and a 2015 Rising Star finalist from WFWA), and ALL THAT WE CARRIED (coming January 2021). Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine and current director of the annual WFWA Writers Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Erin lives in the beautiful, water-defined state of Michigan where she is never more than a ninety minute drive from one of the Great Lakes or six miles from an inland lake, river, or stream. She grew up in the Bay City area waiting for freighters and sailboats at drawbridges and watching the best 4th of July fireworks displays in the nation. She spent her college and young married years in Grand Rapids feeling decidedly not-Dutch. She currently lives with her husband and son in Lansing, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

Erin is represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. Find her on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, on Twitter @ErinLBartels, or on Instagram @erinbartelswrites.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think Josh had a captive audience, so why wouldn’t he present the whole gospel and follow through? A lot if good questions were brough5 up but she fell short and didn’t provide the answers! I reviewed this on goodreads etc. if you want to see my review.

    1. Exactly!! I wish there would've been some resolution to the story but it just left me completely aloof. I just read your Goodreads review and I completely agree! Thank you for stopping by!

  2. I agree with you as well. I has similar thoughts. I felt that "The Words Between Us" was much better, which was the first book I had read by her.

    1. I am sort of afraid to read anymore of her books if they are going to leave me like this. I am glad that there are others that felt the same as I thought it was just me. Thank you for stopping by!