All That is Sacred
Red Adept Publishing (2023)
Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (05/23)
“All That is Sacred” written by Donna Norman-Carbone is a stirring, thought-provoking piece of literature that I can only describe as art. At one time, Lynn and her four best friends were a mismatched bunch of teens who bonded over their love of beaches, E.T., and eighties’ music. Nineteen years later, the girls are all women with adult lives, husbands, children, and careers of their own. Sadly, they’ve all lost touch; in spite of the promise they all made to remain sisters forever, some of them are little more than acquaintances now. Lynn regrets the way their close bonds of friendship have faded, even as she struggles to maintain a connection with her husband, Scott, who works too much. She wants her life and everyone in it to be perfect, and decides a private getaway with Scott can help mend her marriage. Unfortunately, Lynn and Scott get in an accident and Lynn doesn’t survive. How can she find peace after death when her friends, family, and two young girls are all so fractured? Can her death somehow be the catalyst to bring them back together again?
This book was enormously moving. Losing friends and the people we love is probably the most relatable thing we all go through as humans. This book seeks to make sense of why such terrible things can happen to us when we least expect it. I enjoyed how the author explored such deep themes of life and death, meaning, heaven, purgatory, predestination, and loss. Each of the female friends has a relatable problem: Jules shared a secret she was ashamed of with a friend she felt betrayed her, Helene moved to France and missed many important events, Riley struggled with addiction and bad relationships, and of all Lynn’s friends, Annie seemed to be the only one who made an effort to stay close with Lynn, Scott, and their daughters.
The most memorable scenes for me were definitely the experiences Lynn went through in the wake of her accident. All of her confusion, the new scenery, and poignant feelings, were very visceral. As the story went on, each of Lynn’s friends explored memories from their lives and what went wrong for each of them. I liked being privy to how each friend responded to her loss and reflected on what happened to tear each friendship apart as they came together over their loss. It was an emotional, cathartic journey that was both sad and satisfying at the same time.
The author is an incredibly gifted writer who has definitely taken the time to polish her craft. I can’t even do justice to her talent with this review. You just have to read the book for yourself to understand. I only know that the journey she took me on was very touching and emotional. I found myself tearing up, feeling frustrated, annoyed, or broken, much like the characters. The author helps you experience their reality as if it were your own. This book deals with some very mature topics, like marriage, virginity, motherhood, and death. As far as objectionable content, there was infrequent profanity, Ouija board use, and some suggestive material throughout, so this book is only suited to an adult audience.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to process their grief and find closure to whatever it is they’ve lost. I found this book to be a comfort at times as Lynn’s perspective in the afterlife seemed like it could be a very plausible one. If you want to choose this book as a topic of discussion, there are written prompts at the back that help you engage with and think deeply about the material. All in all, this is a beautiful story that is packed with satisfying thoughts and feelings that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.