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Sun Seekers

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Six-year-old Gracie Lynn has a big heart and she wants to save her grandfather who has a worm in his head - at least that’s what her mom had told her as a metaphor for his dementia. Gracie comes up with a plan and helps her grandfather break out of his nursing home. But what’s an adventure for Gracie is her estranged parents’ worst nightmare.

You know that I'm a fan of books that focus on the relationships between children/teens and elderly people. Accordingly, I assumed that I would love Sun Seekers but unfortunately I didn’t. It was a sweet story but also kinda meh. I think the biggest problem for me was that I didn't like any of the characters. And I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I think the story had great potential, but the execution left me wanting more.

Don’t let my review stop you from reading the book…it definitely isn’t a bad book, it‘s just one I won’t be thinking about again.

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Six-year-old Gracie is a kick in the pants and I adored the chapters told from her point of view. Pitch perfect, fast-paced, energetic stream of consciousness from a lively childlike innocence.
A happy-ending story with a good heart.

The climax of the tale came off a little flat, emotionally speaking, so therefore seemed a little underwhelming and arbitrary.
“Big John’s” tall tales are fanciful and fun.

A novel about healing, trust, forgiveness, and letting go; backboned by the inherent liveliness of childhood.

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Six-year-old Gracie Lynn has devised a plan to break her grandfather out of the assisted living facility where he currently resides. She intends to go on an “adventure” with him and follow the sun, hoping their proximity to it would prevent the “worm” in her Grandfather’s brain from waking up because it’s the worm that makes him forget who she is – the simplistic explanation her mother, LeeAnn has provided her to explain her grandfather’s “episodes” resulting from dementia and sundown syndrome. Gracie loves her grandfather and his tall tales of his “adventures.” LeeAnn is wary of John, a result of a deep-rooted resentment stemming from her childhood compounded by his diagnosis and a few “incidents” in the recent past. LeeAnn, separated from her husband and responsible for her father, is raising Gracie alone and often at her wits’ end, also having to deal with the judgment she senses from other mothers in Gracie’s circle of friends. Her relationship with her sister is also strained and Dan, Gracie’s father, loves his daughter and is willing to share responsibility and help LeAnn if only she would let him, despite having since moved on after she left him on account of his infidelity. However, when Gracie and her grandfather disappear, she is compelled to work through her personal issues with her estranged sister, her resentment toward her husband and her own pain, in an effort to find Gracie and John.

Heartbreaking yet hopeful, Sun Seekers by Rachel McRady is an emotional story about family, forgiveness, grief and moving on The narrative is presented from the first-person perspectives of Gracie, LeAnn and Dan and the author does a remarkable job of weaving these voices into a fluid narrative. Gracie is an endearing character and her love and concern for her grandfather would melt your heart and I thoroughly enjoyed her unfiltered thoughts and reactions to the people and events around her. The author does a brilliant job of depicting the complex relationships and tension between the adult characters and the challenges faced by caregivers and the toll it takes on family members. I can’t say either Dan or LeeAnn were particularly likable characters though I could sympathize with their plight and everything they had endured both as individuals and as a couple. The author weaves in lighter moments in the form of John’s entertaining tall tales. I had mixed feelings about the bittersweet ending but overall, I found this novel to be a satisfying read that will touch a chord in your heart.

Many thanks to Alcove Press and NetGalley for the digital review copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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Riveting, with rich characters and poetic prose. A good debut.
Many thanks to Alcove Press and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Sun Seekers, by Rachel McRady, is a novel that shines a light on fractured families, healing, and the resilience of childhood. It's a mixed bag, offering a heartwarming adventure through a six-year-old's perspective alongside the messy struggles of adults grappling with grief, resentment, and forgiveness.
• Gracie's voice: The story shines brightest when narrated by Gracie Lynn, a six-year-old with a big heart, boundless curiosity, and a knack for observation. Her innocent perspective offers insightful commentary on the complexities of the adult world, making her a truly endearing character.
• The power of family: Despite their flaws, the Abernathys are drawn together by a crisis, forcing them to confront their past hurts and navigate the path towards healing. This journey of forgiveness and reconnection is a core strength of the novel.
• Big John's charm: The fantastical stories and tall tales spun by Big John, Gracie's grandfather, add a touch of whimsy and magic to the narrative. His dynamic with Gracie is particularly heartwarming.
• Unlikable adults: While Gracie's innocence is captivating, the adult characters often come across as unsympathetic. LeeAnne's constant resentment and Dan's impulsive actions can be frustrating, making it difficult to connect with them emotionally.
• Uneven pacing: The story switches between perspectives, sometimes jarringly. Gracie's chapters flow smoothly, but the adult narratives can feel bogged down by introspection and exposition.
• Suspension of disbelief: Some aspects of the plot, particularly involving Gracie's actions and understanding, require a significant suspension of disbelief.
Sun Seekers is an emotional journey that explores the complexities of family relationships. While the adult characters might not be universally endearing, Gracie's innocent perspective and the exploration of healing and forgiveness make it a worthwhile read for those seeking a heartwarming story with a touch of magical realism.
If you enjoy coming-of-age narratives and stories about the power of forgiveness, Sun Seekers might be worth checking out. However, if you prefer characters you can easily root for and a plot that adheres strictly to reality, this might not be the best fit.

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Gracie Lynn is a spunky and inquisitive six year old, who, in many ways, is wise beyond her years. Sick of being told she’s not old enough as an answer to all of her questions and concerns, Gracie finally decides to solve her own problems. This is how Gracie comes up with the plan to help her grandfather to escape the “worm” in his brain, and the nursing home he lives in.

See, in an attempt to help Gracie process what was happening to her grandfather’s brain, Gracie’s mother, Leann tried to simplify his condition- explaining it away as something that happens when the sun goes down. But this explanation soon backfires when by six year old logic, this problem has a simple solution- just keep chasing the sun.

Naturally, after successfully convincing her grandfather to go on this adventure, her family that’s left behind is in panic mode. Now Leann and her estranged husband, Dan are forced to put their differences aside for the sake of securing their daughter’s safety. Soon everyone realizes the consequences of their actions, but the bigger question remains- can they find a solution, and each other, before sunset?

Sun Seekers is a gorgeous first novel by author, @rachelmcrady. It’s a beautifully written tribute to varying aspects of loss- a spouse, a parent, and one’s own innocence. McCrady also does an excellent job at writing tender situations through the eyes of her characters. In particular, I believe readers will be taken by Gracie’s voice and her journey, as well as the delicate aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and its effects. I’m not sure why this book isn’t getting more hype, but consider this your official directive to seek out Sun Seekers, a bright debut from an author I’ll for sure be keeping an eye on.

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I really loved the premise of this book, but I could not connect with any of the main characters. All of the adults were whiny and self obsessed. While it shed light on what it is like to care for someone with dementia, it seemed like grief and potentially postpartum (though never mentioned) were something the main character should have just gotten over. I liked Big John’s stories and Gracie’s point of view, even when a bit mature for a six year old!

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Thank you Netgalley, Alcove Press and the author Rachel McRady
The story how little six-year-old Gracie is trying to save her grandfather from a worm which is destroying his brain. Gracie is convinced that they are always in daylight then the worm will not come back into her grandfather's brain.
She plans an adventure for her grandfather and her.
I really enjoyed this novel of family, love, family dynamics, and aging.
4 stars

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A heartfelt and charming family drama debut. A five star read is always great way to kick off my 2024 reading. Highly recommend.

I loved Gracie Lynn's POV. She's a bright, observant six year old but she still is a little girl trying to figure out the world around her. After hearing her mother talk about her grandfather's dementia and sundowning, she concludes that if they just outrun the sun, her grandfather will be fine. So she plans a way to break her grandfather out of his assisted living facility. She knows her mom will not go along with the plan but she also leaves her detective notebook behind so her mom will know they are ok.

Rachel McRady created some wonderful characters dealing with complex relationships full of grief, insecurities, and many past hurts and resentments. The positivity and youthful naiveté of Gracie Lynn balances all the things the adults are dealing with, avoiding, or trying to move past.

I look forward to reading Rachel McRady's next book.

Thank you to Alcove Press and NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this novel. I required to disclose this in my review.

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3.5 stars--Sun Seekers is the story of a family, with 6-year-old Grace, her mother LeeAnn, and father Dan as narrators. The family is broken, Dan now has a new family, LeeAnn is tired, and Grace wants to save her grandfather, John, from the 'worm' (dementia) that is wrecking his brain. When Grace and her grandfather leave the home to chase the sun, it rings both her parents together to find the pair as they go on an adventure.

I enjoyed each of the perspectives as they told the story, both present and past. I felt like one theme of this novel was how not communicating with those you love can cause so much heartache and contribute to the disintegration of family relationships, and I felt a lot of empathy for each of the adults in the story. I did think that the nursing home's response (or lack thereof) to the disappearance of John and Grace was a bit unrealistic, and the PTA response verged on silly, as well.

Overall, I would recommend Sun Seekers as a good family relationship story, with multiple perspectives. Be aware, the book does not give an especially encouraging view of dementia and John's story is left largely unresolved.

Thank you to Netgalley and Alcove Press for the digital ARC of Sun Seekers by Rachel McRady. The opinions in this review are my own.

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Not my typical book that I enjoy but I really did like this story and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys good stories.

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I loved Gracie, the 6 year old granddaughter, who tries to save her grandfather. Didn't love Gracie's Mom and Dad. Felt sympathy for them as they searched for their daughter, but both were rather unlikeable. The book did give more insight into what it might be like to worry so much about finding your daughter. I did finally find something to like about the parents.

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I saw that this was for fans of Parenthood so I figured it would be right up my alley. Sadly, it missed the mark. The story is told from the points of view of six-year-old Gracie, her mother LeeAnn, and her father Dan. While I appreciated what Gracie’s character was trying to accomplish, it just didn’t seem believable to me. I was never fully invested in the characters and found myself annoyed most of the time. I think the story had great potential, but the execution left me wanting more.

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3.5 ⭐️’s
This book had so much potential, while there were some cute and some heartbreaking scenes, I felt like it missed the mark in some areas. A domestic drama that does touch the heart, but some of the book was just plain silly (the search party) as the reactions weren’t what they should have been and it took on a ridiculous feel. The ending was done well, but the storyline didn’t always ring true. Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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Leanne Abernathy has a lot on her plate she is raising precocious six year-old Gracie she also shoulders most of the care for her daddy big John who is now in a home due to his early onset dementia. Unlike Leeann and her sister Sarah Gracie is enamored with her grandpa big John, as is most of the town of Redding South Carolina. Big John was kind harded and always seemed to have a story that made the normal fantastical but him and his daughters relationship is fraud with anger. Instead of explaining to a four-year-old Gracie that her grandpa had dementia with the side effect of sundowners syndrome Leanne told her he had a worm in his head that woke up at night and that’s why grandpa did not act the same when the sun went down. This is also why Gracie came up with the idea to go on one last adventure with grandpa they would get in his old El Camino in drive to chase the sun that way his worm would never wake up. It will take Leeann losing Gracie and the dad she believes she doesn’t care about to learn lessons she never would have known otherwise. This book is told from different points of view sometimes Gracie sometimes Leanne and a couple of times Gracie‘s dad Daniel but every POV pushes the story forward and comes together to make it a great story. I will be honest and say I connected with Lee Ann unlike any character I have read about before because her relationship with her mom and dad seem to mirror my own and I know how it is to feel slighted and cheated out of a parent and yet have others tell you what a great parent they are. Just like Leanne I too recently lost my father and although our relationship was much better the last few years of his life I still could totally get what Leanne was going through. They say out of the mouths of babes in this book is a great example of that Rachel McRaedie has a great writing style and one I thoroughly enjoy. I am getting tired of reading in Books where people can’t talk about hurts that happened years before because they get choked up or they find out devastating news and it throws their equilibrium off a bit this is not the way real people act at having to hold on to furniture to help you stand up, if that was the way the world reacted to trauma nothing would ever get done but I know this is entertainment and hyperbolic is the law I think I just get tired of all the unrealistic reactions from these characters. I get when it’s apropos to the plot but sometimes the character reactions are just out of the box and ridiculous. HavingSaid that this is still a great solid read and one I thoroughly enjoyed love little Gracie because it can’t be easy to grasp the thought process of a six year old and I think the author did an admirable job. Sorry for the rant. I want to thank Al Cove press and Ned Galley for my free Ark copy please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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Thank you to Alcove Press and NetGalley for an advanced e-copy of Sun Seekers by Rachel McRady.

What it’s about:
LeeAnn Abernathy is tired. Caught in the "sandwich season" as she cares for her 6-year old daughter Gracie and her aging father who has dementia, each day is a struggle. LeeAnn has suffered tremendous loss during Gracie's lifetime, including separation from her husband and Gracie's father, and the death of her mother. Additionally, she is estranged from her only sister and sibling, and has been left by herself to make the decisions regarding their father's increasing need for care. However, she finds a tremendous bright spot in her daughter, and will stop at nothing to be sure she grows up happy, healthy, and whole. Gracie is an extremely bright and bubbly first grader, whose curiosity knows no bounds. Even though her mom has never been close to Grandfather, he and Gracie have formed a tight bond and she loves hearing his incredible stories. Her mom does her best to explain how the effects of dementia are affecting Grandfather (Big John) by describing it as a "worm" that is eating his brain and comes out at night to do its damage (sun downing). When Grandfather has an "incident" involving her, Gracie decides to come up with a plan for the two of them to escape the nursing home and chase the sun so the worm can never come out again.

What I loved:
This story hit very close to home because my own father suffered with Alzheimer's, and I am all too familiar with the effects of this terrible disease. When McRady describes the change in Big John's expressions and his various episodes, she is spot on as to what we witnessed during the last year of my dad's struggle to live with his debilitating illness. I felt LeeAnn's struggle as she tries to manage motherhood, work, and being a primary caregiver. Although my own child was in college at the time, he was very close to my dad, and it affected him in many of the same ways as Gracie. McRady has captured a family in peril from a lifetime of the things that can go wrong. She makes a strong case for the importance of being vigilant regarding mental health and dealing with the ghosts of your past, especially to prevent toxic familial cycles from being repeated. I do wish she had resolved the ending differently with Big John. That particular outcome was a little odd for me, but overall, this is a very good family drama that will give you all the feels.

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Big John Abernathy -perpetual yarn-spinning, tall-story telling life of the party - is languishing away in a nursing home when his granddaughter, six-year-old Gracie, busts him out with her mums stolen car keys and a daring plan to go on one more adventure, to chase the sun so that the "worm" in his brain she thinks makes him mean and confused stays away. But Big John has dementia, sundowners, and the threads of his life get muddled as he and Gracie visit his favourite places one last time.

Meanwhile Gracie's mother, Lee-Ann is frantic with worry as she searches for her missing daughter, but struggles to bring herself the accept the help of her ex and the gossiping PTA.

Told through the alternating viewpoints of Gracie, Lee-Ann and Gracie 's estranged father Dan, Sun Seekers tells the story of fractured families. As Lee-Ann and Dan frantically search the town for any sign of Gracie, we learn more and more of the struggles Lee-Ann has faced as a single mum in a small town, the toll it had taken on her mental health, the reasons why Dan left, and why Lee-Ann has the troubled relationship with Big John.

Its a story of loss and of heartbreak and redemption and forgiveness. A story of lies and memories. A story of walls and loneliness and the village we need when we tell ourselves we will be fine all alone.

Gracie 's chapters are exceptionally well written from the POV of a 6 yo trying SO HARD to do the right thing without the full understanding of the situation. Dan and Lee-Ann's chapters are cleverly crafted and filled with remorse, venom, loss, and regret as their own story unpacks and trauma forces them to reassess their roles in the past.

Sun Seekers brought me to tears. Its a powerful story and a stunning debut novel.

~Many thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ~

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Sun Seekers is the first novel by American author, Rachel McRady. Grandfather has had the worm in his brain for two years: Gracie Lynn Abernathy knows it’s why he had to leave the house where Mama grew up, where they have lived since Daddy made a big mistake three years ago, and go to live in the home. The worm only wakes up when the sun goes down, so Gracie, almost seven, has a plan for fooling the worm. She and Grandfather will go on an adventure, in his 1985 Chevy Impala: they will follow the sun.

Dan Clarmont knows most people in Reading, South Carolina see him as the villain of the story of his broken family, something he truly regrets, and he knows the fact that a sleep-deprived and grieving LeeAnne refused his help with baby Gracie, excluded him from her care, is no excuse for seeking solace with Ashley, but he really wants a bigger part in Gracie’s life. Turning up at her swim meet without warning LeeAnne probably wasn’t the best idea; more unfortunate that the (now-married) predatory woman he dated only once in high school latches onto him right then.

LeeAnn Abernathy seems to be a damaged soul, full of resentment that prevents her from enjoying life: she resents the alternate days visits to the man who was such a poor parent; she resents her not-quite-ex-husband’s life with his girlfriend and new baby son; she resents her boss’s demanding and condescending attitude; she resents the clique of critical PTA moms who seem to take malicious pleasure in her every misstep; and she resents her older sister Sarah’s perfect life with her lawyer husband.

Augmenting her resentment is the grief over the loss of her beloved mama the day Gracie was born, Gracie now being her only true joy. And on this hot June day, Gracie and her demented grandfather are missing, and she will have to ask for help.

There’s nothing like a crisis to crystallise emotions and launch epiphanies, and each of the adults dealing with this terrifying ordeal has their own. Both the adult narrators spend a lot of time analysing their emotions and feelings; their behaviours, like social media hate-stalking and avoiding confrontations, don’t make them very likeable or easy to connect with.

Often, in spite of her tender age, Gracie shows more maturity and insight than her parents: “Grown-ups never think kids can hear them” and “Necessary lies are for when you don’t want to upset people. I never want to upset people, so I’ll probably have to tell many necessary lies”

Gracie’s take on her grandfather: “I don’t know why everyone says I’m so sweet for visiting Grandfather. He is the most interesting person I know” is very different from that of his daughters: “a washed-up fraud with great dreams and zero follow-through. Big John was always in search of an audience. I didn’t want to be another faceless member of his congregation, my worth only measured in my reactions. Sometimes I wanted him to listen to me, to care about my stories, my life. But that never happened.”

Where LeeAnne comes across as whiny, Gracie Lynn is a delight: she has an espionage notebook to note down clues, because “To a spy everything is a clue. And since I’m not old enough to know things yet, I’ll try to figure them out by putting the clues together”

Gracie is expressive: “Grandfather says I can’t let fear run my life, but sometimes it feels like fear is hugging me. When I feel fear I feel other things too, things that come out of fear’s belly. When I feel fear, I feel panic and I feel pain because when I am afraid I bite my bottom lip… I want to scream, but I’m too scared. Fear has my voice in her belly.” Some aspects of the story (eg the driving lesson) definitely require suspension of disbelief. An adequate debut that will resonate with some.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Alcove Books.

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I wish I had known this would be told, in one part, by a six-year-old; I would not have requested it; it’s not a point of view I can connect with. The other two narrators, however, were not much better. LeeAnn is the most unlikeable, selfish, martyr wannabe, that just grated on my nerves. I get she feels wronged but her inability to forgive is ruining her. Even when she is distraught about the fact that her daughter is missing, it’s all about her. The only things I enjoyed in this story were the fantastical stories that Big John shared and his relationship with Gracie. This story was just not for me.

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I received a digital ARC from Alcove Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

This story is sad and hopeful at the same time. Six-year-old Gracie tries to help her Grandfather get rid of the “worm” in his brain by taking him on an adventure. The “worm” is Dementia and SunDowning Syndrome, and Gracie is convinced that if they chase the sun the “worm” will stay asleep.

The story is told through multiple points of view; Gracie, her mom Leanne, and her dad Dan. With each chapter, we learn more about the family, and what led to these events. I found each character relatable, and found myself getting emotional throughout the book.

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