As the eldest of four females in our family, I know how fulfilling and enriching sisterhood is and how blessed I am to have these women in my life. However, I also am aware of how painful relationships with sisters can be at times. When words are wielded like weapons, they can tear the heart and scar the soul. The people with whom you are closest and share some of your earliest memories can hurt you the most.
The novel, All That We Carried, by Erin Bartels, addresses the love-hate dynamic that sometimes exists between sisters, and yet, even with the heartache and hurts inflicted upon one another, the bond of sisterhood still holds strong.
The story begins with estranged sisters, Olivia and Melanie, whose parents died in an accident ten years earlier. With their loss, the glue that held the sisters together came unbound, and the sisters stopped speaking. However, after a decade of noncommunication, they decide to repair their relationship by embarking on a hiking trip together.
Melanie feels the loss of their sisterhood more deeply than Olivia. A free-spirit, wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve type of person, Melanie desperately wants to repair the rift between herself and Olivia.
Olivia, the elder sister, also wants to cross the divide between them; however, she is more pragmatic and less sensitive than Melanie. The reason Olivia wants to make up has more to do with obligation and responsibility and less on emotion; it is what her parents would have wanted.
As the two sisters journey through the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located in the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they are forced to question their staunchest beliefs and confront their deepest fears. Despite their many differences, the two women eventually realize that they are more alike than unalike and that “the ties that bind” bind them still.