I was disappointed in Carre Armstrong Gardner’s new book, Better All the Time. Unlike the first book in the series, All Right Here, which focused mostly on one member of the family while introducing the others, this book jumped around from character to character, from point of view to point of view. Gardner was still introducing new and significant characters in the last third of the book. This makes for a frustrating read.
There wasn’t really a story line either. The book just told about a year in the life of the Darling family. And because each member of the family was totally absorbed in a personal aggravation, there wasn’t much positive interaction going on. Gardner assures readers these people love each other, but I just wasn’t convinced. If they’d loved Laura for who she was instead of for what they expected her to contribute, she might not have moved to Arizona or let the family down in other ways. Both Laura and Sephy found relief in distance.
Being self-absorbed is not living a Christ-filled life. The Darling family does not understand this truth. Prayer is not a one-sentence mantra that you say several times a day until you find a way to get what you want. It’s a conversation with God through which you seek His will, His strength, His peace. Giving a stranger—a janitor at a hockey game—your card and telling him you’ll call to offer him a job is not God answering your prayers. Rather it’s the kind of reckless behavior that can get a college-age girl kidnapped or killed. Offering yourself grace, in other words, giving yourself permission to be imperfect, is not the same thing as receiving God’s grace. Personal discipline (with God’s help, not apart from it as shown in this book) is part of Christian living, but it’s not the main thing.
Sephy’s story, of all of them, was the only one that touched my heart. If the book had focused on her and taken her story to its natural conclusion, one I suspect may come in the next book, this novel could have been better. As it was, there were just too many characters all focused on themselves. I can't recommend this read.
Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of Better All the Time in exchange for this honest review.