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The Sum of All Things
Homeless and addicted, Wren wants to be alone. But the women chattering in her head insist that she must fulfill her destiny. She knows the ghosts are crazy to think that one small person can finally give voice to women, inciting lasting change in the patriarchy. She would prefer to continue using drugs to silence the voices. But an unwanted pregnancy complicates her plans. Alex has sacrificed having children to forward her career, but as she approaches fifty, she begins to feel that her existence is shallow. Tired of carefully watching her every move and choice of words for fear of men and their apparently uncontrollable urges and power needs, she walks out of her job. Recklessly, she invites Wren, the woman she has seen panhandling near her office building, to live with her. Wren finds herself welcoming the nurturing Alex readily offers, giving her the courage to finally explain to another person what, or who, haunts her. Alex has quietly tolerated many injustices at the hands of men but is astonished to find it’s nothing compared to what Wren has endured. In a life-threatening situation, Wren must either claim her fate—a life that has been planned out for years before her birth—or abandon her baby into the world that has been so cruel to women. The Sum of All Things is a powerful novel that discusses the gender dynamics which have played out across the globe for centuries. With clarity and passion, it does not shrink from the truth women want men to know.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: In many ways, this story is a heartwarming tale with a happy ending. However, a few details seem to be missing for the plot to be completely understandable, such as: when she hears women's voices, what is Wren suffering from?

Prose/Style: This novel is well written. There are few omissions or hazy moments, and the narrative is clear to follow.

Originality: The book’s premise is highly original. There may be no other book with this same plot - a comfortable, middle-class, professional family taking in an unknown homeless woman on the basis of strong eye contact. Readers will be curious to watch the plot unfold.

Character Development: Alex's character is well-developed, although almost too nice to feel authentic. Likewise, the same can be said of her immensely understanding husband. Wren, however, remains a bit of a mystery -- again, why does she hear these women's voices? What is her psychological status, knowing her background of no family, and possible abuse and rape? Is she truly mentally ill, or is she brilliant and wise despite her circumstances? The novel may be better served by illuminating some of this ambiguity.

Date Submitted: July 18, 2019

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