All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin opens with a stressed-out Kathleen Seymour. She’s just lost her job, and her daughter, who has always been given everything she ever wanted, has been caught shoplifting. Advised by a counselor to try to connect better with her daughter, Kathleen decides they should go on a road trip back to where she grew up, where she has not been for thirty-five years.
On the way, Kathleen opens up about her own dysfunctional, poverty-stricken childhood that she had kept carefully hidden, with a thief for a father, a mother with little energy and interest, and a Communist uncle.
Conversations with friends and relatives along the way also reveal to Kathleen much she didn’t know about her own mother and grandmother’s lives. Each woman had left home trying to escape her family or situation, each faced stumblingblocks and sorrows, and each made mistakes with her own children. Will they ever find “all they ever wanted,” or are their sins past forgiveness?
Truly each person has hidden sorrows and struggles, and we need to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). And, truly, God’s forgiveness is available to all who will accept it and believe in His Son, Jesus. And, truly, we all have enough of our own sins and foibles to deal with that should keep us from judging each other. And we all need to seek God’s will for our lives rather than navigating them on our own and making a mess of things. I was thankful for those emphases throughout the book.
Some readers would want to know that one of the women fell into extramarital sex, but nothing is explicit, and that does happen. It’s a believable part of the story, not there just for titillation.
Though it’s a good story, it’s not my favorite from Lynn. I’m having a hard time putting my finger on exactly why. It was a little disjointed with the back-and-forth timelines between the women. The next to last chapter, while good, and resolved in the ways I would have hoped, yet containing some surprises, seemed just a little too…pat, maybe. There were a couple of places I disagreed with the theology a bit. But none of these were big enough that I wouldn’t recommend the book, and I especially liked the last chapter.