The All of It

Thursday, October 17, 2013


When Ann Patchett spoke in Indy a couple months ago she was asked to recommend a few books. The first one she suggested was The All of It. She said it was the book that made her want to become a bookseller. She found her copy in an old used bookstore and blew through it in one sitting. When she tried to get another copy to pass along to a friend she realized it was out of print. She felt so strongly about the book that she was able to get it reissued and back into print. That’s a pretty powerful recommendation! So when I visited her bookstore in Nashville in September I knew I had to pick up a copy.


The All of It
by Jeannette Haien
★★★★☆

The slim novel doesn’t even clock in at 150 pages; it’s almost more of a novella. Set in Ireland, the book tells the story of a man confessing to his priest on his death bed. He tells the priest he has a secret but before he can unburden himself he passes and it’s left to his wife Edna to tell the “all of it” to the priest. What unfolds in the following pages tugs at the heart and mind in powerful ways. Through the priest we find ourselves in the role of both friend and confessor to the dying man and Edna.

The story is brief, but it packs a punch. It makes you think about your feelings on guilt and judgment and second guess your initial reaction. You question the role circumstances play in our lives. It’s an odd book, a whirlwind of information that leaves you processing it for days.

BOTTOM LINE: Short but powerful; this intimate story is one of survival. Find a copy if you get a chance!

"Dead faces," she said whitely, "they're all the same. They don't, I mean, tell of the person as they were alive."

"... in this life it's best to keep the then and now and the what's-to-be as close together in your thoughts as you can. It's when you let the gaps creep in, when you separate out the intervals and dwell on them, that you can't bear the sorrow."

*Photo of me getting my copy at Parnassus Books in Nashville. 

8 comments:

JoAnn said...

If you and Ann Patchett both recommend it, then it definitely belongs on my wish list!

annieb said...

I agree with JoAnn and have just ordered it. I am also reading In Harms Way after seeing it in your currently reading list. I am about half way through and it is so good. Non-fiction at its best.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

JoAnn - Patchett has pretty incredible taste!

annieb - I hope you enjoy it. It's different from anything I've read before. I'm halfway through In Harm's Way too and I'm completely hooked! We'll have to compare notes later.

Bybee said...

I love how Ann Patchett uses her powers for good!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bybee - I do too. Instead of putting things or other genres down, she spreads the love for unknown books!

bkclubcare said...

I do love a short book. Except I read it weeks before book club so I have to keep it fresh in my mind til then. Thanks for the tip!

bkclubcare said...

Thanks for the sug! Great book, fun read. I really liked it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bkclubcare - So glad you liked it! I make the same mistake before book club all the time. I have to go back an re-read my review so I remember my thoughts.