c.2014, Wm. Morrow $26.99 / $33.50 Canada 432 pages
Everything’s gonna be alright.
You tell yourself that a dozen times a week. Something lost? It’ll be alright. Deadline missed? It’ll be fine. It’ll work out, it’s okay, you’re all good.
Keep repeating it, and maybe that’ll make it so. But, as in the new novel “All I Love and Know” by Judith Frank, it won’t make it easy.
It wasn’t until they were in the middle of their flight to Tel Aviv that Matt Greene had time to process the phone call that came the day before. He remembered dully that he’d been the one to break the news to his partner, Daniel, that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law were dead by an act of terrorism.
When they were younger, Daniel and Joel were nearly opposite: Daniel was the quiet twin, while Joel was the center of attention. There’d always been rivalries, of course, but Joel was supportive of Daniel’s sexuality, and Daniel was overjoyed when Joel married Ilana. By the time six-year-old Gal and baby Noam were born, he and Joel were getting along better than they ever had; even so, Daniel was surprised when Ilana told him that she and Joel wanted him to raise the children, should anything happen.
But Daniel wasn’t sure how he’d do that now. He and Matt were a couple, but he wasn’t sure if he loved Matt enough to co-parent with him. Matt had strong political ideologies, which also bothered Daniel, since he was committed to raising Gal and Noam with a love for Jerusalem – but first, they’d have to weather a court battle against the children’s maternal grandparents, then a slow separation from the only home the kids had ever known and a move to Massachusetts.
Matt was excited about the custody arrangements. It would mean big changes for them all, but he grew to like his stay-at-home-dad status. Yes, Gal was having problems at school and Noam was behind in his development, but those were things he and Daniel could take care of.
Until they forgot to take care of their relationship…
Heartbreaking. That’s one word that describes “All I Love and Know.” Also: desperate and urgent. And long. Very, very long.
Indeed, author Judith Frank packs between these covers a story that spans well over a year, and it can feel like it, too. Just when you think you must be near the end, another thread begins anew. There are also three or four surprisingly (for a book like this) explicit scenes here that I wasn’t expecting.
So why, then, did I bother to finish it?
Because it’s good. Frank describes the depths of grief so keenly that it’s hard not to feel it in your own gut. When her characters find self-capability that they didn’t know they had, we’re delighted, too. And when clashes happen, we take sides.
Those are all signs of a decent book with a slight case of newer-author-itis, and that’s something most readers will find forgivable – because, overall, “All I Love and Know” is a pretty alright book.
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