cover image We Hope for Better Things

We Hope for Better Things

Erin Bartels. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3491-6

In this powerful first novel from Bartels (after story collection This Elegant Ruin), a successful journalist must weigh her desire for uncovering the truth against the collateral damage of revealing family secrets. Elizabeth Balsam believes she is on her way to making headlines with an incriminating story about Judge Ryan Sharpe’s involvement in the 1967 Detroit riots when she is suddenly fired from the Detroit Free Press after it’s revealed she used an assumed identity to investigate the judge. Without a job, she is confronted by a mysterious man claiming to have photographs of the riots, which he says belong to an aunt of Elizabeth’s whom she has never met. Elizabeth agrees to deliver the photos to her aunt, believing the photos will be her ticket back into the story she has been trying to write and her career as a journalist. After she tracks down her aunt Nora at an old farmhouse outside Detroit, Elizabeth discovers the true history of the Balsam family and learns that box of photos contains something far more life-altering than her story about the riots. As Elizabeth and Nora pore over the photos, stories of forbidden love, war, racism, and sacrifice emerge, and Although Elizabeth isn’t the most devout person, she begins to see the destiny involved in her reconnecting with her aunt and must make the hard decision of whether to pursue her career or leave her family’s dark history buried. Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family. (Jan.)