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All That's Bright and Gone    by Eliza Nellums Amazon.com order for
All That's Bright and Gone
by Eliza Nellums
Order:  USA  Can
Crooked Lane, 2019 (2019)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Six-year-old Aoife knows her brother Theo is dead, but sometimes her mama gets confused. Like when she sets a plate for him on the feast of St. Theodore. Or like today in the car when she is yelling at Theo, which is definitely against her own rules. The rule is: it's rude to talk to someone no one else can see. That's why Aoife is not allowed talk aloud to Teddy, her imaginary bear.

Readers first meet Aoife (pronounced Efa) at the hospital where her mother, Siobhan, is being admitted for psychiatric problems. Siobhan and Aoife are rushed there when Siobhan stops her car in the middle of a busy intersection and refuses to move. Aoife's uncle Donovan is called and he and Aoife go home without her. The doctor assures Aoife that she'll be better soon.

But how soon? It quickly becomes apparent that Aoife's idea of soon and Dr. Pearlman's idea of soon are not the same. Aoife sets out to save her mother by finding out the truth about the death of a brother she no longer remembers.

With Uncle Donovan in charge, Aoife's lifestyle changes immediately. While the church has helped with food and some expenses, she and her mother have often been hungry. Embarrassed that so much time has gone by between visits, Donovanís is determined to keep Aoife safe and out of the hands of child services.

This enjoyable mystery may be one of the most unique I've read. Aoife is a treasure and the narration is told entirely from her viewpoint. You get a good sense of Siobhan through Aoife. She is a good mother who is raising a well-behaved, thoughtful child even though she's going through hard times. Siobhan tries to teach Aoife cartwheels even though she's sad and depressed - Aoife finally masters the skill while her mother is hospitalized.

Eliza Nellums has done a wonderful job writing a suspenseful and heartwarming story about family and secrets in a childlike manner. I can't wait to see what her next book will be.

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