Friday, June 26, 2020

Review: "Stories that Bind Us" by Susie Finkbeiner

In recent years, I've heard a lot about Susie Finkbeiner's writing. I didn't know much about it ... except that it wasn't as romance-focused as I generally like my books to be! But her new book, Stories that Bind Us, captured me with the cover, and I knew I needed to give it a shot.

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.

A snapshot of life. That's what Stories that Bind Us is—a look at several months in Betty Sweet's life. While some unexpected things happen, like the loss of her husband and the appearance of her sister and the nephew she didn't know she had, it's largely just a story about life: its joys, its sorrows, its complexities. And that's what makes the novel beautiful.

One of my best friends unexpectedly lost her husband last year, and I kept thinking of her as I read Betty's story—if my friend had lived in the 1960's, this could have been her story. (Not all of it, of course, but I think my friend would definitely identify with the parts surrounding Betty's husband's death and Betty's own grief and slowly moving back into life.)

This also feels like a very timely novel. Set in Michigan in the 1960's, the story grapples with racism as Betty becomes the caretaker of her nephew Hugo, who is Black. For the most part, they don't face any overt racism, but it's still there under the surface. And Betty sets about examining her own prejudices, as well. After watching Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on television, Betty comes to a realization (p. 309): "... I realized why it was worth the fight. All it had taken was loving someone like Hugo to clear my vision. It should have mattered to me all along." I know Susie Finkbeiner wrote those words well before May and June 2020, but don't they feel like they were written for this moment in history? I think many of us are coming to that same realization: "It should have mattered to me all along."

Obviously, I think this is a special novel. It's serious and a little heavy while still being hopeful, and it's well worth reading. 4-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.

Susie Finkbeiner is the author of All Manner of Things as well as the CBA bestselling Pearl Spence series. When she’s not writing or traveling to speak at retreats or conferences, Susie enjoys lunch dates with her husband, reading with her kids, and drinking coffee with good friends.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell through the Revell Reads program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. I recently read All Manner of Things which was my first Susie Finkbeiner. It will be in my top ten list of this year for sure. I loved it! Not much romance in that one either, but the characters and the family relationships are wonderful! I'll be reading more of hers for sure.

    1. I've heard good things about that novel, too! I'm glad I finally got a taste of her writing. Thanks for stopping by!


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