Cover Image: True Places

True Places

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This book was archived before I was able to download it. I appreciate the opportunity to review though!

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A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses. I have read books that were described this way, perhaps it was a boy, but this one was a bit different. True Places opens with Iris losing her mother in an accident, leaving her alone in the woods. Fast forward a few years and Iris stumbles out of the woods not only starving, but with an injury that must be taken care of. Suzanne Blakemore is rushing through her overscheduled life and comes upon Iris on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She takes her to the hospital and when it is apparent that she is going into foster care until relatives can be found Suzanne and her husband offer to take her into their home. But, can Iris adapt to this materialistic home with two teenagers with issues when she is used to independence, solitude and a minimalistic life.

True Places is not just about Iris and where she came from and how she ended up in the state she is in, but about Suzanne and the Blakemore family. The story is told with alternating points of view. The story focuses on Suzanne and Iris, but also presents POVs from Suzanne’s family – Whit (husband), Reid (son), and Brynn (daughter) so the reader gets to experience the journey and transformation of each character. The characters are a mix of likable and unlikable. Brynn is only fifteen, but she is a mean girl. She is mean to her mother, and awful to Iris. She is jealous and petty. Reid, is dealing with his own issues. He is against the materialism his family seems to crave and is trying to find his place. Whit is a rather selfish man, who expects Suzanne to take care of all his needs and put him first. All this is taking its toll on Suzanne and she needs to find what she is looking for. Iris, helps her do that. Throw in her traditional and ultra-conservative parents, and this family is a mess. Ultimately, each of the characters is trying to find their own way and be happy. While the plot of a crumbling family is one that felt familiar, the plot surrounding Iris’s character was original and I will remember her for awhile. I did become attached to the characters and was hoping that this family could come together and heal. The story is a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the journey and was satisfied with the ending, even though it was not what I was expecting.

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#FirstLine ~ The girl knew before she opened her eyes that Mama was gone.

This book is so speculator. I was just blown away. I was pulled into the originality, the characters, the setting and the dialogue. I was so interested in each and every character because they were all so well fleshed out. I was not sure how this amazing story was going to end. I want to see this made into a movie or a mini series because it is one of those stories that will translate to the big screen perfectly. There are many topics that will both touch your heart and make you think; both about your life and the impact you are making in the world. I am still processing this book because it was just so darn good! A must read and perfect for any season and for all book clubs!

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When Suzanne finds a young girl on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, everything in her perfect world comes to a crashing halt. Iris has been living in the woods for years, and the materialistic world that she stumbles into has her feeling confused and scared.
As Suzanne gets more involved with Iris, she is about to find that many of her long held beliefs are going to be challenged and shaken. While she is attempting to save Iris, it may be Suzanne who is saved instead...

Great book and an interesting read! I was hooked from the beginning!

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True Places was not what I expect and I found myself not that interest in the story. The story starts off intriguing with our main character mother Suzanne who has lost herself in her daily life finds herself driving to nowhere. She finds a girl Iris who emerges alone from the woods and takes her in to live with her. I soon started to question who will save who and I really wanted to see some depth to that. I found the story focused more on the dynamics of the family over the depth to Iris who grew up in the woods. There is a lot of everyday drama here with the family and it overshadowed the depth I was looking for. Iris was such an interesting character and I wanted to know more about her. I found myself distracted and wanting to skip over all the drama. By the end, I just lost interest.

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True Places alternate between POVs of Suzanne, a stay-at-home mom, whose life revolves around juggling tasks for others, and that of Iris, a 12-year-old who has never been raised in modern civilisation. Iris was raised within the state park, a wilderness in the city. One day while driving in the state park, Suzanne found Iris lying unconscious just off the road.

Right from the start, it is glaringly obvious to readers that there’s a stark difference in priorities between these two characters. For Suzanne, it’s getting chores and tasks for other people done. For Iris, it’s basically staying alive. Like every purposeful novel, True Places achieves a major feat that is getting the audience examining their own lives and priorities. We as humans need only so much. The essentials boil down to shelter, food, water, security, and social needs (that can be satisfied by interaction with family members). Where really is the necessity of big houses, pools, designer clothes, and cars? However, the author emphasizes the importance of knowledge through books, which is the only material that is needed.

Personally, I’m not liberal in thinking we don’t need everything we have at the moment. Not everything has to go. There’s value in nonessentials in our lives. The closest example is books other than non-fiction and the communities such as ours. For some people, this means lots of resources e.g. physical books that require cutting down trees, money to buy books, raw resources for our reading devices (kindles, kobo, other e-readers), and electricity to power them. Nevertheless, the point stands that if we don’t have all this, we could still live a satisfying life. We just don’t know how to because we’ve never had to do so. All I can do right now, after reading this book, is make sure my choices don’t cost mother Earth more than it should by cutting down on the excessiveness and choose what is truly valuable for me.

I think an area of improvement that the author can explore is a character’s way of thinking or responses. I noticed that sometimes Iris’s dialogues raise question marks because they’re not how I expect them to be. Sometimes, it’s not what I expect from someone who has been separated from civilisation all her life. Other than that, I honestly have no complaints for this novel.

For me, True Places is an outstanding novel that examines the priorities and materialistic culture of our modern world.

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True Places is one of those lyrically written novels that everyone raves about - a la Where the Crawdads Sing - unfortunately, I am someone who relies more on plot and pacing and for that reason, True Places was really not my favorite. I will definitely try Yoerg again in the future but maybe one of her less atmospheric novels.

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It took me a little while to get into this book, however once I did, I was unable to put this down. A girl lives in the wilderness with her family until her dad goes away and her mother passes away. She is taken in by the family of the woman who found her. The family and the girl are transformed in ways that they never believed possible as the girl becomes familiar with life in the home setting. I love that this book is filled with a great deal of emotion and heart. Thanks for the ARC, Net Galley.

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True Places is a interesting storyline and the author has done her research on that period of history. The book is well written.

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True Places has a good plot, but I just couldn't get invested in the characters. I did finish the book and its a nice story. I liked it. Just didnt love it.

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I enjoyed this book for the plot although the characters were sort of, meh. I think that was probably part of the point, but I prefer more from characters, someone to latch onto as a character you feel inclined to rally behind. Despite that one point, this was a good book and I would recommend it to others as a decent story.
For me, 3 stars is "it met expectations but probably wasn't above that and won't linger".

#TruePlaces #NetGalley

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Hauntingly beautiful, sad and poignant story. The writing is gorgeous and evocative. I really enjoyed the way the characters impacted each other.

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Thank you Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC in return of my honest review. .

This is a new to me author amd I’m so glad I have more books to nw add to my TBR list.

I really enjoyed this book about a turn of events leading a mother to question what she wants in life. I loved the writing style and the descriptions within.

Thank you for the opportunity to review this great book.

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I received an ARC of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for my review. Many other reviewers have gone into great detail about the plot of this story so I won’t focus my review on the plot. This novel was strange for me; it was good enough for me to read it very quickly but I didn’t like any of the characters! Usually I have to have some level of involvement with the characters before I can truly enjoy a book. However, many of the other reviewers disagree with me, so maybe I’m in the minority on this review. Good plot-just wished I like this one more!

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In ‘True Places’, Sonja Yoerg has written a book that unfolds in dual storylines, and then dual perspectives once the storylines merge. First we meet Iris and see her struggle to survive alone in the backcountry of North Carolina after her mother dies and leaves her with a one-room cabin and excellent survival skills. Then we are introduced to middle-aged Suzanne Blakemore who is trying to gain some control over her life. Her day is scheduled down to the minute, and she is pulled in many directions as an archetype suburban Soccer Mom.

Suzanne was escaping her relentless schedule for an afternoon when she stumbled across an ill and starving Iris in a parking lot off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. She rushes Iris to the hospital, but can’t get her out of her mind. She eventually convinces her husband to let them become foster parents for Iris while the police look for any family that she may have. This is when the true culture clash begins. Iris does not fit in with the other two teenagers in the family. She’d prefer to sleep outside, and is very disturbed by all the noise and huh-bub that comes with modern life.

Suzanne continues to be a doormat for her husband and teenagers. She lets her bratty daughter treat her horribly. Pretty much everyone in her family treats her horribly. This lady needs to grow a backbone. Iris struggles to adjust to the family; and to her exile from the wilderness. She spends most of her time alone in her room. With this family, I didn’t blame her for isolating herself.

Suzanne eventually has an epiphany, and makes some moves to change her life. She takes Iris on a road trip, and together they cobble together a tentative relationship. They work together to try to solve the mystery of what happened to Iris’ father. They return to undeveloped forests, and with great relief, Iris finally finds herself in her element again. But will the change last? Can the family make the adjustments that they need make to in order to allow everyone to live more autonomously, and find their true place? I’ll leave that for the reader to discover.

I’m giving Iris’ portions of the book 4 stars. Suzanne’s story (along with the story if her kids and husband) only rates about 1.5 stars in my opinion. I’m splitting the difference and giving the book 3 stars due to the uneven ride.

‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; the publisher, Lake Union Press; and the author, Sonja Yoerg; for providing a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Note: This was also an Amazon Prime First Reads choice.

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Suzanne is a devoted wife, mother, and daughter. She does all the things expected of her, yet she is living a half life. A life where she was lost a long time ago in the midst of all the chaos of expectations. In a moment that is purely out of character, Suzanne tosses her over-scheduled day to the wind and drives up the parkway, if only for a little while. It is when she stops that her world as she knows it changes.

Iris is a girl of the woods, never having experienced the world has we know it. Her parents opted for off-the-grid living for her and her brother, Ash. Her father and her brother disappeared six years prior, and three years after, her mother died in a tragic fall leaving Iris alone in the forest. But now, Iris is sick and needs help beyond the comfort of her forest home. And, then Suzanne arrives...and changes everything...will she ever be able to return to the woods again?

A beautiful story that focuses on the personal reflections and journeys of Suzanne and Iris to discover their true places in this world. Both of this world and not...connected by the forest and longings for something that seems just out of reach. Is it all or nothing, and no in between?

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The first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful cover that reminded me of where I live and various places that I’ve grown up. Once reading the description of the book and the author, I realized that it appealed to me because it is home. Set in the gorgeous Virginia mountains, this novel is about a wife and mother named Suzanne who, one afternoon, finds a sixteen-year-old girl alone, sick, and starving along the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. After taking the girl to the hospital and speaking to the police, she finds herself compelled to visit the girl, who she learns is named Iris and continues to check on her progress and whether any family has been located. In the meantime, Suzanne is becoming less content with her “perfect” and orderly life of taking care of her home, her husband, her teenage children, and the countless commitments within her day-to-day life. When no relatives are located and it appears that Iris will go into foster care, Suzanne goes to her husband and convinces him to let her bring Iris home with them. Iris’ presence quickly illuminates the dysfunction and struggles within Suzanne’s household and leads to changes for everyone in the family.

I am going to try my best not to ramble forever about this novel, but it was truly outstanding. Whether in Asheville, NC, Roanoke, VA, or a million places around and in-between those areas, I have spent the majority of my life living near and spending time on the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the things I love about my house is that I can easily see stretches of the parkway from my kitchen window and it’s about a ten-minute drive to hop onto the parkway from here whether I had up the mountain towards Floyd or if I head towards town. With that being said… I already know what this area is like, especially from the Peaks of Otter area and south through Virginia and into North Carolina. Yet, the author’s vivid imagery and beautiful writing made it all feel new again. The sights, smells, sounds, temperatures – all of it – jumped off of the page and transported me to endless adventures and experiences in that area.

Other than the setting, what I truly loved was the raw honesty that Yoerg put into Suzanne, her family, and Iris. Suzanne already knew she needed changes in her life. It was her inner thoughts screaming out to her that led her to the parkway that day in the first place. She knew that things needed to change, despite their family appearing to run beautifully like a well-oiled machine. Her daughter Brynn made me cringe countless times with her smart mouth and entitled attitude. But her brother Reid sparked feelings of sadness and frustration for him as he struggled to connect with his father while also struggling to figure out who he was and wanted to be in life. Then there was her husband, Whit. I’m still not sure how I feel about him, although I didn’t dislike him, exactly… His concern over work, money, power, and impressing the masses certainly took precedence over his family, yet when he was home and with them, he seemed to genuinely want to connect, except with Reid, who he just didn’t understand.

Then there is Iris, whose character had been through horrible circumstances that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, especially a child. She survived on her own in the woods for years, was terrified once brought into “mainstream society,” and struggled in making connections with her new family. The past weighed heavily on her, she fought demons constantly and found it difficult to be happy in her new environment when none of it made sense to her. The need for cell phones, all of the noise, huge homes with tons of rooms and multiple levels, refrigerators and pantries stuffed full of so much food that it could never be eaten before spoiling – she didn’t understand the necessity for so much “stuff.” Iris had lived a simple life in the woods with her family, and then on her own, making it nearly impossible to acclimate to the materialistic ways of her new life.

The main theme of this novel is not just about finding a girl who had been living in the woods. True Places represents the things, places, people who bring our lives joy and give us purpose. Our true places are what make us feel whole, that motivate us, and that we will fight for. Not everyone will understand or accept some of Suzanne’s actions in this novel, which is unfortunate. However, I hope that everyone that reads this novel will recognize what a wonderful gift it was when Suzanne found Iris that day, and Suzanne’s persistence for a different life and a different destiny was the most incredible gift she could have ever given her husband and children, as it motivated them to figure out their own true places. Bravo to this amazing writer and a book that truly touched my heart and soul.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

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This was truly a wonderful story of family, personal growth, and rediscovering someone lost a long time ago - you. I've read all of this author's books, and she always delivers a well-written story with depth and compassion.

This novel is about Suzanne, a mother and housewife doing her best to keep her busy, self-absorbed family members going. Her personal savior is Iris, a teenager who has been discovered to have lived her entire life outside of society, holed up with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Iris has never experienced any form of modern living, having been brought up in an "off the grid" existence where technology of any form is eschewed. Suzanne discovers Iris, alone and sick along the highway, during a mini-midlife crisis and bonds instantly with the young girl. What follows is how the two come together as each examines their pasts and discover how to blend a family like no other.

I'm not familiar with the Blue Ridge Mountain area, but Yoerg's description of this lush setting allowed me to clearly visualize the rough, wooded wonder throughout the novel. Her vivid descriptions brought the sounds, smells, and sheer beauty of the backdrop to life for me as a reader. I was also delighted with her explanations and descriptions of the plants and trees in the mountains, and how they came to play an extremely important role further in the book.

A lot of pivotal relationships are shared and examined throughout this story. Readers will quickly recognize the angst that still exists between Suzanne and her parents. Suzanne and her husband, although truly in love, also have their share of problems, not the least of which is how taken for granted Suzanne is. Her children both have teen issues, with the daughter a self-absorbed snot who is seeking attention in all the wrong ways and a son who is locked into a permanent battle of wills with his father. In the midst of all this is Iris, who is trying to adjust to her new environment, baffled by so many things we take for granted in our modern lives. Throughout the novel, I hoped with my heart that somehow, Iris would be allowed to go back to living safely in the mountains, but I loved how Yoerg drew such a heartfelt resolution to everyone's relationships. I wish some things had been drawn out more, but there were no dangling strings or things we were ledt to wonder about. I was quite happy with how this story ended.

I appreciated how in depth the author went in creating the main characters, and spent time explaining the motivations that drove their actions. At no time did I wonder what a character was up to, or wonder why they were making bad choices. Yoerg didn't create bad situations just to make the story more exciting, she did it to explain the characters and keep the storyline moving in a perfectly paced manner. She didn't insert fluff to make her book longer, and some of the resolutions weren't of the cookie cutter variety. They were realistic, which I appreciated.

Reading this novel made me carefully examine some parts of my life. Is my family happy? Am I happy? Can I book a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains soon?

I recommend "True Places" to fans of Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks, and Kristin Hannah.

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While I had a difficult time connecting to any of these characters, I did appreciate the underlying message of this book. It also made me take a step back and look at the “busyness” of my own life and the effects it may have.

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Thank to NetGalley for the ARC ecopy for my Kindle.
A perfect family on the outside but behind closed doors, it's not so perfect after all.
Told mostly from the mother's point of view, Suzanne is the perfect wife and mother but something is missing in her life. Taking a drive to get away from everyone and everything, she comes upon a young, dirty, and sick girl, By rescuing Iris, Suzanne begins to realize just how empty her life is. She begins to wonder what are her priorities, And by putting everyone else first and their needs and wants first, is she loosing who she really is?

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