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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

All We Had

ISBN: 9781476755205

Publication Date: 08/05/14

Publisher: Scribner

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars Top Books of 2014 Now a major motion picture starring Katie Holmes.

​A stirring debut novel about a mother and daughter who find an unlikely home amid the quirky residents of a small town—“The smart style, crisp narrative, sharp dialogue, and vivid descriptions send a powerful message: there is hope hidden in despair” (Publishers Weekly). For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty.

In their battered Ford Escort, they head east in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where Rita finally lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and make their own family: tender-hearted Mel, the owner of the diner; the aging owners of the local hardware store whose livelihoods are dwindling; and Peter Pam, the transgender waitress who becomes Ruthie’s closest friend.

Into this unlikely utopia comes a smooth-talking mortgage broker who entices Rita with a subprime loan. Almost as soon as Rita buys a house their fortunes change. Faced once again with the prospect of homelessness, Rita reverts to survival mode, and the price she pays to keep them out of poverty changes their lives forever.

Annie Weatherwax has written a stunning, heartrending first novel. “A vivid journey into the dark side of the American Dream...that alternates between black comedy and heart-breaking realism...All We Had is an enjoyable read that takes an important look at economic insecurity” (Providence Journal).

My Review

ALL WE HAD is a winner, and one I would highly recommend. Looking forward to many more bestsellers to come!

A story of loss and love and raw emotions of the heart for a powerful first novel. I loved Weatherwax’s crisp, edgy, and fast-paced writing style. Fans of Fannie Flagg, Beth Hoffman, Joshilyn Jackson, Susan Rebecca White, and Amy Conner will appreciate the humor mixed with tragedy.

I enjoyed the way the author used home ownership as part of the storyline, as apparent these days with all the mortgage fraud, targeting desperate and vulnerable people who are in search of home ownership, making it seem possible to achieve the American dream, when they do not understand the high interest rates and all they have committed to.

“The meek shall inherit the earth, the Bible says, but how many have to suffer first? Where I come from, children are wrenched away from homes. Men are disposable, boys are lost, and women are beaten or killed. Little girls are left quaking at the sight of so much blood. And we blame them when they become less than perfect mothers. The meek shall inherit the earth, but why can’t we just share it?”

Readers will laugh and cry, as Annie uses flawed characters, yet demonstrates how people can touch our lives in so many ways in the least expected places. Readers will love the cast of characters--I fell in love with Peter Pam, Tiny’s transgender waitress! (I want to his/her BFF) and she becomes Ruthie’s salvation with a bond for life.

All We Had is one of those books which remind us, how many of Americans have to live, and survive; desperate and alone with no help, and environments they cannot seem to escape, with little or no opportunities. When one generation cannot break free, sometimes sacrifices are made, and people come into lives which can change the course, as fate steps in for the next generation.

However, the mom cannot be satisfied with just being, she wants more and again continues to make bad decisions and choices when times get tough. When she gets desperate, she shuts down, acts impulsively, and Ruthie has to be the caretaker, while Rita goes in search of another man, to keep them afloat.

Everything about this scene is eccentric and quirky; however, the witty characters offer stability and love for Ruthie, and she hopes they will remain in this town (the first lasting more than six months).

There is a lot of love at Tiny and quirky characters which will make you laugh with their sometimes cynical, sarcastic, witty, sharp tongues, and hearts made of gold, which protect those they call family. (Arlene, head waitress, Mel, the owner, Peter Pam, transgender waitress, and the people in town, Hank and Dotty Hanson, the owners of the hardware store, and even the neighbor across the street, Patti who loves to shop at Walmart and gossip).

At the beginning of the book, the duo head out in their used Ford Escort for greener grass and blue skies. When their money runs out and their car breaks down, in a small town called Fat River, their new life begins at a diner called Tiny.

With her good looks, Rita goes from one man to another and when things do not work out, mother-daughter (Thelma and Louise) hits the road again for the next opportunity, always seeking the good life. Rita has never provided Ruthie with a stable home; however, mom knows her daughter will one day achieve the college education at Harvard, she deserves and hopes for a better life than the one she has known. From evil stepfathers, abusive boyfriends, stealing, going hungry, to mortgage fraud, they have seen it all.

Young mother Rita has never had it easy, from her poor childhood, which carried into her adult life as a single mom, moving from one place to another, living in their car, working endless jobs, and never being able to get ahead or provide for her daughter in the way she wants.

Thirteen-year-old Ruthie, has been accustomed to being the mother in the family; sharp, street smart, and a survivor. From bullying at school, to fighting off her mom’s crazy boyfriends, and finding food and shelter.

Wow, I knew I was going to love ALL WE HAD, when I viewed the cover and read the summary. However, it was so much more, as this dynamic novel, did not disappoint, and exceeded all my expectations.

From a poverty stricken and homeless mother/daughter team, comes a powerful, witty, and heartbreaking debut novel, ALL WE HAD by talented, Annie Weatherwax (her artistic talent most definitely lends her great insight into the human heart with her rich and well-developed characters)!

A special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Now a major motion picture starring Katie Holmes.

Katie Holmes Moves to Director's Chair for Mother-Daughter Story "All We Had"

Katie Holmes will make her directorial debut and star in the mother-daughter drama “All We Had,” based on the Annie Weatherwax novel.

Tribeca Prods. partner Jane Rosenthal will produce with VP of production Berry Welsh. Josh Boone, director of “The Fault in Our Stars,” has come on board to adapt the script.

Holmes optioned “All We Had” in July and Scribner published the book, Weatherwax’s debut novel, on Aug. 5. The story centers on a mother and her 13-year-old daughter, living on the edge of poverty, who find an unlikely home amid the quirky residents of small town America.

“I am very excited and honored to be collaborating with Jane and Josh on this project and look so forward to bringing Annie’s incredible characters to the screen,” said Holmes.

Holmes stars as a vigilante in dark comedy “Miss Meadows,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released in November by Entertainment One. She’s also been filming the Helen Mirren drama “The Woman in Gold.”

Rosenthal’s producing credits include “The Good Shepherd,” “Rent,” “Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers” and “Little Fockers.”

“Katie has such a clear vision for the book’s irreverent, original mother-daughter relationship,” Rosenthal said. “Her passion for the material, along with Josh Boone’s ability to tell stories grounded in the comedy and drama of everyday, will truly bring these characters to life.”

Holmes is repped by Untitled Entertainment, ICM, and Sloan, Offer, Weber and Dern. Both Rosenthal and Boone are repped by CAA. Read More

About the Author

annie weatherwax

Before turning to writing I had a long career sculpting superheroes and cartoon characters for DC Comics, Nickelodeon, Pixar and others. My short stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The Sun Magazine and elsewhere. In 2009 I was awarded the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Fiction and I have written for the New York Times. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, I am currently a full time painter and writer. What is most important to me as an artist and a writer is authenticity of voice. If I had to classify my own voice, I’d call it comic realism. It is a heightened, stylized wryness that often plunges into darkness. It permeates everything I do. Like my visual work, my fiction is bold and colorful with an undercurrent of darkness. ​​ My artistic inspiration comes from many places. My fictional characters are often inspired by paintings—Alice Neel’s portraits are my favorites. And the boldness of Lorrie Moore’s characters have inspired my paintings. Both my painting and writing styles are influenced by the campy melodrama of Pop artists such as James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol. Yet what drives my work most is my voice—a dark and light, frivolous and grave, sardonic and serious sensibility that feels embedded in my DNA. In life, as in art, I cannot see reality without seeing the absurdity of it too. Website Follow Annie on Twitter @WeatherwaxAnnie






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