Saturday, May 2, 2015

Better All the Time - The Darlings 2 - by Carre Armstrong Gardner


I really enjoyed this story about a big, loving family and the various lives they lead.  I was a bit lost at first because I hadn't read book one so it just took a little bit to get the characters straight, but I liked how these siblings were so different from each other.  Sephy Darling is going to school to become a nurse and works besides, so she's used to discipline in everything except her weight.  She's struggled with being overweight for most of her life and is finally ready to do something about it.  She gets frustrated, however, with fad diets and feeling like a failure, not to mention being hungry all of the time!  Will this be the change she needs or is there something deeper at work?  Her sister, Amy, has gotten a job starting a new community arts program and she's feeling a little overwhelmed.  She becomes so focused on it and can't understand why others aren't working as hard as she is.  Nothing can get in the way of her vision, except for maybe the contractor she hasn't seen in years.

Their sister Ivy and her twin Laura seem as different as night and day.  Ivy is married with adopted children, busy being a new mom.  Laura has separated herself from her family and moved to Arizona from Maine.  She felt stifled there and wants to make her own decisions. She finds herself at a church when she has trouble making friends or meeting men and ends up liking it there even though she doesn't have much room for God in her life.  She wants to be in charge.  Meanwhile, their brother David seems to be ready to settle down and starts to be interested in a close family friend and their parents have big news looming on the horizon.

I really liked how we got a little bit of all of the siblings' stories.  Sephy and Amy were the main leads and I liked both of them, but had a harder time relating to Amy's workaholic tendencies.  Sephy, however, is a people pleaser and I know I struggle with that a little bit.  I, too, have struggled with not being able to eat whatever I want and trying to eat healthy, so I could understand the frustrations of trying to have willpower while seeing others eat what you want to eat.  It was fascinating as she delved into the causes of her overeating and the true root of the problem.  I'm excited to see where the story goes for her in the next book with a possible love interest!  It was interesting to see Mitch, the contractor, come back into Amy's life after years away and their dynamic.  I felt frustrated with some of Laura's past and present decisions and I hope we see more of her in the next book to get her story resolved.  There's also some cute parts with their cousin Bailey that I hope continue in the next book, too.  I liked the little hints of romance in each of the story lines.  There are some tough issues mentioned in the story, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and infidelity, but it's not a gritty story and these are more background information than in-your-face problems.  There's also a minor gay character which you don't see often in Christian fiction.  The characters felt real and imperfect, very human.  It felt unclear whether some of the characters were Christians or not.  There's talk of prayer and Laura attends a good church.  I appreciated a frank conversation Laura had with a love interest about where she stood on God and his response.  I would highly recommend this well-written story if you like romance or contemporary fiction!

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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