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All That's Bright and Gone

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What an amazing feat at writing this book from a 6 year old's perspective!! WOW! So here's what's going on...Aiofe has a mother who becomes institutionalized when she starts screaming at her deceased son in the middle of the intersection, leaving Aiofe to be with her Uncle. She also has an imaginary friend, named Teddy, who is a large teddy bear.

Aiofe's deceased brother, Theo, was murdered, and Aiofe is determined to help her mother by solving what happened. Good thing she has the help of her friend, Hannah, but don't worry, she may be 8 but her father is a police office so they'll solve it, no problem. 

This story goes through the tales of family and mental illness while Aiofe heartbreakingly learns what adults do (lie, fabricate stories, etc). It is very easy to dislike all the adults in this one while your heart bleeds for the children.
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The immaturity, the hopelessness, the feelings of insecurities was powerful to experience as a reader following alongside 6 yo Aiofe in this powerful journey of reasoning.
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Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of Eliza Nellums’ novel, All That’s Bright and Gone, in exchange for an honest review.

Six-year old Aoife has recently witnessed her mother have a mental break-down at a shopping mall and is currently being cared for by her Uncle Donny, while her mother is recovering in a hospital. While living with her uncle, she tries to search for clues regarding the mystery surrounding her older brother, Theo. Her mother talks about Theo as though he is still alive, but Aoife is sure that he has been murdered. To add to Aoife’s confusion, her mother’s boyfriend has started coming around and he claims to be Aoife’s real father. Aoife attempts to navigate her muddled world with the help of her imaginary friend, Teddy, and her eight-year-old neighbor who is an amateur sleuth. 

Nellums has created a vibrant and winning protagonist in Aoife. I think it is hard to craft a believable young child protagonist, but Nellum has nailed it, balancing Aoife’s precociousness with her innocence. Also balanced is the amount of truth that we know from the adults in Aoife’s world, allowing the reader insight to her reality vs. her assumptions. It is a compelling look at a child caught in the middle of adult issues.

Teddy makes the reader wonder if Aoife is headed down the same path toward mental illness as her mother or if an imaginary friend is simply a childhood rite of passage. Teddy resembles a teddy bear and he urges Aoife to act in ways that direct her toward danger. The inclusion of Teddy worked well to make me think that Aoife could be an unreliable narrator, but the uncertainty of it kept me on fence, adding to the mystery of the story.

I throughly enjoyed All That’s Bright and Gone. I truly had no idea where the story was headed, but was gripped from the start. I was hooked by the feeling of uncertainty and that Aoife might always be in danger. There is a great scene with a elderly neighbor that had me really worried for Aoife. Nellums never allows the tension to drop, which keeps the pacing tight and makes All That’s Bright and Gone a quick read. 

Nellums is a gift writer with regard to both prose and plot. All That’s Bright and Gone is her debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading her future works.
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It's always going to be challenging to tell a story through the eyes of a 6 year-old and this is perhaps both this book's biggest strength and weakness. On the one hand, it is utterly heart wrenching to watch a mother break down through the eyes and words of such a young narrator. On the other hand, this naive viewpoint of the world can get a little tedious and make the plot harder to follow - it's a very difficult line to tread and one that has clearly split opinions on this book.

I really liked the plot of this book, but at some points I felt myself not really caring about the characters, especially Aoife. And I think if you don't care for the 6 year-old in this story, you just aren't going to be on board with it. I really liked the story itself and the way it develops as we slowly learn the circumstances that have lead to Aoife's mother's breakdown. I think I would have much preferred this book if it alternated between viewpoints so that Aoife's narrative was interspersed with some of the adults in the story.

I found it a bit far fetched that a child so young could convince herself that if she solves the mystery of her brother's disappearance, she will fix the hole in her family. That her and her friend suddenly become junior detectives was all a bit too much 'Famous 5' for me and my incredulity at this was what lifted me most out of this story. But if you can suspend your disbelief, it's quite clever how the rest of the story is told.

It is worth sticking with this book through until the end, as its not a bad little thriller and there is a pretty decent twist that I have to admit, I did not see coming.

All That's Bright and Gone was released on 10th December 2019 by Crooked Lane Books.

Big thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for the free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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All That’s Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums, was a heart wrenching, but beautiful book told from the perspective of a six year old. The author did a fantastic job capturing the world/situation in the eyes of a young child which made the story that much more captivating. I will say this book was a tough read, but well worth it. It deals with mental illness and murder. 

Would highly recommend.
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Six-year-old Aoife and her mom set out for the mall, but never get there, as her mom suffers a nervous breakdown en route.  Such is life for Aoife.  Her mother is hospitalized and her Uncle Donny steps in to take care of her.  Among the many things that Aoife wonders about is, when will her mother come home and what happened to her older brother Theo?  She remembers him well but when she asks about him, her mother gets very upset and Uncle Donny is vague and evasive.  There is no father in Aoife's life, and she relies on prayer to her favorite saints to help her when life gets too difficult.  

An exceptional book, written entirely from Aoife's point of view.  This book will grab you from the first page and you will likely think about it long after you've finished reading it.  It is a sad but entertaining and delightful story, and you will love this bright, inquisitive little girl.  Very strongly recommend.

Thank you very much to Netgalley, the author Eliza Nellums, and the publisher Crooked Lane Books for the free ARC I received for my honest review.
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Oh this heartbreaking book. I just couldn’t put it down. What is it about a book and children. There were definitely triggers, but I would definitely recommend this one.
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I received an ARC of All That's Bright and Gone in exchange for an honest review. This book was actually published this past December. I don't know what happened to my ARC of this book. I was unable to find it on my device, so I got a copy from another source to complete my review. What a sweet story. Aoife is a six year old girl who's family is in crisis. Her mother had a mental breakdown and is now hospitalized. While Aoife does not understand all that this means, she is sure that her mother will be able to come home if Aoife can only find out who killed her brother, Theo. I loved the innocence of reading this through Aoife's eyes. As Aoife discovers so many different things about her family, we learn what is really going on in her family.
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Telling any story through the eyes of a child is difficult; add in mental health issues, single parents, lost children, and financial constraints suddenly you've got yourself a pretty tragic story. Consider this your warning, All that's Bright and Gone is an amazing read; but it's darker and not necessarily a feel good story. That's not to say it's all bad; but overall you're likely to feel sadness through most of it. Eliza Nellums brings us the story of a child (and her imaginary friend) coping to handle her mother's mental illness, the loss of her older brother, and childhood in general. 

Children Are Innocent
At the heart of this story is Aoife, a 6-year-old, who doesn't quite understand: the things going on around her, why she gets in trouble for talking to her imaginary friend, and that frozen chicken nuggets in the microwave are perhaps not a sustainable food for weeks on end. Right from the get go we realize that Aoife is a strong, resourceful little girl, who hates when adults say her name wrong. Her obsession with her name really struck me as genuine and conveyed the way children think well. Many times we are reminded that Aoife doesn't understand adults, health care or society the way we do. She is confused: why her Mom can't come home, scared for herself (and imaginary Teddy), and yet curious about her brother's death (whom no one will talk about). 
The only criticism I might have is that Aoife sure is good at eavesdropping, or has the hearing of a superhero (lol). She is often found to be in just the right place to hear the adults talking. This is obviously a way for Nellums to easily convey the story to us without Aoife understanding what is said. But it does happen a few too many times for my liking. 

Mental Health
This is a very poignant story portraying how mental health hurts surrounding the inflicted person. There is no ignoring it when down days happen, and there may be no reason why things strike someone the way they do. From the neighbour to Uncle Donny to (of course) Aoife herself; we see the drastic effects that the mother has on herself and those around her. 

Twists and Turns
It might seem obvious what some of the twists and turns will be from the get-go. But I bet by three-quarters of the way the average person is so enthralled with Aoife and her perspective that they forget that her narration is from her eyes; and therefore may not be truly true. Anytime a child is the storyteller the reader needs to remember that they are unreliable. Aoife's voice is so strong at times that I would completely forget that her accounting of events or experiences weren't necessarily the truth. If you allow yourself to get lost with Aoife I think the twists and turns will hit you, like they did me. 

Lies and the End
This is a wonderful story that reminds us that little kids always want their parents; even when said parent is ill or dangerous. All That's Bright and Gone brings out the darkness that many families try to hide and puts it on display smack dab in the middle of the street. Nellums does a great job of showing why we should always try to be honest with children. That lie, you think might keep them safe, may one day backfire. The more we lie to children the more we skew their interpretation of the world. Usually it's just best to tell the truth. Even when the truth is difficult, messy or undesirable. Nellums shows this so well by the end of the novel that I felt, as someone who tries to tell the truth to kids, that I wasn't doing enough (and I am not a parent) for the children in my life. And so I leave you with one of the (many) comments Aoife has about adults: 
"Now that Dr. Pearlman pointed it out, grown-ups really do lie all the time."

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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This was a very quick read and told from the perspective of 6 year old Aoife.  I was drawn in from the beginning and enjoyed following the family through their crisis.  I was shocked at the ending and didn't see it coming.  I did know there was something off about the neighbor but didn't guess what it was.
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This is a beautiful heart wrenching story written through the eyes of a six year old. Any time an author can capture the innocence and whimsy if a child in writing it is a beautiful thing! This was no exception.

This is a great debut novel about the resilience and curiosity of children, and the strength of family.
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Touching story about the bond between a mother and daughter, mental illness and a family in crisis.  The story is told from 6-year-old Aofie's point of view - her confusion about why her mother is in the hospital and the mystery of what happened to her brother Theo.  I enjoyed seeing the story from Aofie's eyes and found her very charming and wise beyond her years.  
Thank you to Eliza Nellums, Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the ARC of this wonderful book!
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Unfortunately, after multiple tries I just could not get into this story like I was hoping. I have to DNF this one.
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The mystery of All That’s Bright and Gone is a little thin on the ground at times. I often found myself catching onto things a little faster than the narrator. But the narrator is a six-year-old child, so that’s probably to be expected.
You can tell that Nellums put a lot of effort into making Aoife, our six-year-old protagonist, as true to life as possible. Unfortunately, this means that All That’s Bright and Gone’s main attraction is the age of its protagonist, which sometimes limits the level of storytelling.
This book is a quick read but packs a huge, emotional punch. It harbours a couple of twists that aren’t massively overdone which is refreshing. It’s a quick read and Nellums has created a neat set of characters that you really connect with. 
The book is sweet enough, and the characters are well-crafted to give Nellums credit, but if you’re looking for a gripping mystery or thriller, I’d look elsewhere. Our narrator really limits the scope for a seriously intense novel. Though it does have its white-knuckle moments, this novel is mainly about finding the truth and what it means to be a family.
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I thought the premise of the book was interesting but the book was just okay for me.  It was kinda heart breaking at the end and I really just wished the mom had talked to her child.   I am glad that I read the book.
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A sad and beautiful well crafted tale of family, love, mental illness and a child’s bond with her mother. Through the eyes of a little girl, we see how she understands the world around her and how she tries to find out the truth about her brothers death to help her mama get better and come home. Definitely emotional and eye opening to see how children perceive what’s happening in their lives. Really well written and intriguing.
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I really enjoyed this book and liked the fact that it was told from a child's perspective. Not many books are told from the child so that was intriguing and held my attention through out the book. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for something different.
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This was a good read. I wasn’t sure about it at first with the perspective being told from a child. However, once I got into it I couldn’t put it down.
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Aoife is six years old and has an invisible friend, Teddy, who is a bear.
She is able to talk to her imaginary friend as she negotiates through life after her mother's emotional breakdown.
While her mother is hospitalized, her Uncle Donny comes to stay with her.
Aoife feels that the only way her mama will get better and come home from the hospital is if she can find out the truth about her older brother Theo's murder.
We are able to glimpse at life through the eyes of a child and her perspective.
With the help of her best friend Hannah, and her make believe friend Teddy, Aoife examines clues that she comes across, to find out what really happened to her brother.
This sweet, authentic look at mental health issues and family ties charmed me.
The story captured the feel of Aoife's youthful innocence and had me cheering for her success in reuniting with her mama.
Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for the e-ARC via NetGalley.
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This was an interesting book. Told from 6 year old Aoife's point of view, we learn about her mother's mental illness, the struggles of her family, and the loss of her brother. Aoife isn't exactly an unreliable narrator, but definitely one with limited understanding, which makes the story all that more interesting.
Because the story is told from a child's point of view, the narrative is honest, innocent, and can often make interesting leaps. Aoife knows that her brother is dead, does not question her mother's strange behaviour, and has an imaginary friend.
Nellums does a great job of getting into the head of a six year old. The writing feels authentic and not at all condescending. I found myself drawn into this girl's world, trying to solve the mystery with her. As an adult reader we can see how Aoife is interpreting or misinterpreting some of the adult behaviour and this definetly adds to the tension and suspense of the book. We, like Aoife, just want to find out what really happened to her brother.
Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the review copy.
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