Book Review: Everything Is Just Beginning

31 Jan

I don’t usually look at other reviews before writing my own. I don’t want to cloud my thoughts or inadvertently steal other’s ideas. You know like writing a song and using a sitcom jingle. 😉 Does that last statement intrigue you? Now you know you have to read Everything Is Just Beginning. The newest novel by Erin Bartels is a mix, just like the musical styles of the band main characters Natalie and Michael put together. It took me a bit to get into, but I sure am glad I read this book. It will be with me for a while.

Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he’s not sure he’ll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year’s Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It’s for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . . 

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989–as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible–Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures. 

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs–if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

ERIN BARTELS is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words Between Us, All That We Carried, and The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

You can find her on Instagram @erinbartelswrites and Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor.

My Impressions:

Everything Is Just Beginning by Erin Bartels kind of defies definition. Set in 1989, it could technically be an historical novel, yet while there are plenty of references to the era, it’s more supportive than a main part of the book. It could be a coming of age story, since Michael, the voice of the book is young and certainly grows up a lot. It could be a love story as Michael and Natalie go from friendship to maybe something more. But I think above all it is a good story well-told. Music is the central core — Michael wants to be a rock star and takes advantage of a party invitation to get gain connections. What he actually gets is connectedness. The relationships in the book are beautifully spotlighted in the quest for getting a band together. But it’s not a novel about the band. It’s a novel about lives lived with purpose or not. Brokenness in many forms is discussed, along with the grace extended to give those who are broken a place to heal and grow. To offer up forgiveness when none is deserving. Now, I am not really a music person — I can’t carry a tune or read music. I often listen to talk radio over the music channels. But Bartels pours so much of the emotions found in music into this book. Including the lyrics of the songs within the narrative exposes the depths of Michael’s soul, of Natalie’s grief, and gave me an understanding of their stories, that prose could not convey. It really, really works, creating a touching story to think about long after it is finished. And if you are a music person, you will be thrilled with the QR codes in the back of the book that let you in on some playlists and the music played by the band. I’m even going to check it out 😉 .

While Everything Is Just Beginning started out a bit slow for me, I am so glad I kept at it. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough towards the end. Complex characters and beautifully fleshed out themes make this one a highly recommended read.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

2 Responses to “Book Review: Everything Is Just Beginning”

  1. Gretchen January 31, 2023 at 9:26 pm #

    Even though it started out slow, it sounds like there is a lot to like. I have enjoyed other books written by Erin Bartels and she does create memorable characters.

  2. Cindy Davis February 1, 2023 at 12:37 pm #

    I will be reading this one soon. Thanks for the heads up on a slow start.

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