Disclaimer: I voluntarily received a copy of All Manner of Things, by Susie Finkbeiner, from Revell. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 3/5
All Manner of Things takes
place during the Vietnam War, and while the main character has a brother who
joins the army, and certain details of the culture of the time and the negative
attitude towards the war is shown, there’s so much more to the book than just
that. There’s also the theme of war in general, and how it affects
people—Annie, the main character, has a father who was left with PTSD or
similar after the Korean War, and abandoned the family while she was young.
After the brother leaves to go to Vietnam, he gives her information about where
her father is, starting a chain of events that leads to the father coming back
into their lives, but not particularly nicely or neatly. The way Finkbeiner
handles the way the family navigates the reappareance of a long-absence father
is very well done.
Finkbeiner also includes aspects of the Civil Rights
movement as well, though not too much. Annie starts up a friendship with a
black man, David, and while everyone seems okay with it, it’s very clear that
David is considered an outsider. Overall, I enjoyed the fact that Finkbeiner
didn’t make the novel as dark and angsty as it could have been. It was a very
light, wholesome novel, despite the sad parts.
All Manner of Things is
very carefully and cleverly constructed. The characters have great voices,
especially the three children (well, technically two are young adults): Mike,
Annie, and Joel. The mother is perhaps the flattest of all the characters, but
everyone’s interactions are all very well done. The letters in between each
chapter are also really good at communicating tone and atmosphere.
I really enjoyed All Manner of Things, so I debated for a while whether to give a 4
rating or not. However, in the end I felt the book was missing something. It
was just one step away from being entirely engrossing. As it was, I enjoyed it,
but I didn’t feel absorbed by it. I was able to put it down easily and walk
away. It was just missing some sort of connection for me. I’d probably
recommend it to other people, but it didn’t have the sort of pull that would
make me come back to it again.