For readers who loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, or The Shack.
“People walked up the front steps of the funeral home, preparing themselves to see the grieving orphaned children of the woman who passed, but what did they find instead? The youngest orphaned child was snacking on a Quarter Pounder with cheese, drinking a medium Diet Coke, and laughing in a chair with her friends.”
In this fresh, poignant novel, Always There, Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse being worlds and lifetimes apart?
Eastman’s honesty explores the tragic ending to a mother-daughter relationship, revealing the pain a motherless daughter experiences. The two vantage points allow the reader to find a connection with the mother and/or the daughter, personalizing the loss that a dying mother and grieving daughter often face. The novel portrays the truth behind the death of a loved one, while glorifying the mystery of Heaven, proving that love does not die when a person does. The channels of love are still open, going in both directions. Love goes on when life does not. The novel bridges the tragic with the comedic, giving audiences a lighter, more enjoyable, sentimental read. You will laugh while you cry, and cry while you laugh, but in the end, you’ll hug your loved ones for dear life.
Maybe everyone was right; maybe since it was my house, I should make it look like my house, not like my parents’ house, not like the house I’d grown up in, not like the house both of my parents died in, but my house with my own style and décor, with a touch of vitality and more color. The wallpaper in the kitchen was hideous, orange and yellow, straight from the Seventies. I got up and walked into the kitchen and pulled a small piece of the paper from the wall. It hit me hard, changing this house, stripping this wallpaper, packing up Aunt Lila’s mementos of a lifetime was the ultimate farewell. Ripping that paper off the wall, crumpling it into a haphazard ball was too horrifying; it was letting go, saying goodbye, moving on, alone, without the people I loved most in life. How could anyone ever be expected to do such a thing? It wasn’t like I’d ever be able to smooth the paper back out and put it right back where it belonged, on my wall, surrounding me, keeping me safe within my home, with my memories and family. But honestly, it wasn’t like I could smooth out my past either and surround myself with those I loved ever again either. My security, my “wallpaper,” had been stripped and thrown out a long time ago.
“…amazing and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s an experience.”
That’s exactly how I feel about this book. It should come with a warning though – Do not read on your lunch break!! Ten pages in and I was crying like a baby! Even now, just thinking about the story, I’m getting teary-eyed. But my heart is also SO happy and I’m smiling through the tears.
I felt so many emotions when reading Always There…but above all, it was LOVE and HOPE. Always There is beautifully-written; weaving the story together from two different POVs and imparting an amazing message. I found myself laughing out loud several times at Shelby’s inner commentary on life, such as when she took her niece to a movie and got her ears pierced. Perfect aunt right there!
I loved how there were so many parallels drawn throughout the story and in such a subtle way that it all felt ‘right’ as they all unfolded. I know this is a book I will carry with me for a very long time. Thank you, Carol, for sharing it. I’m going to go hug my mom and dad and the rest of my family now! xo
Carol Ann Albright-Eastman is a wife and mother of four, crazy, adorable, incorrigible, intelligent, kind, and athletic children. She’s taught high school English for fifteen years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from The Ohio State University, a teaching license and a communications minor from the University of Akron, and holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Akron.
Eastman spends the majority of her time grading papers, reading, but not as voraciously as other “indie” authors and their devout followers, watching her sons play baseball (or whatever seasonal sport they’re in at the time), negotiating futilely with a toddler, and falling deeper in love with her husband every day. Eastman is a motherless and fatherless daughter, but a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t think of them.