Hi guys, I’m delighted to be part of the Canadian blog tour for THE NAMES THEY GAVE US by Emery Lord. As some of you know, Emery is one of my all-time favorite, auto-buy authors. I love her so much that I hosted a week-long celebration of her work a few years ago!
For this blog tour, I got to ask Emery one question, and I’ve also got a review of this wonderful book. Check it out.
The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr
Also by this author: The Start of Me and You, Open Road Summer, When We Collided
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Publication date: May 16th 2017
Source: ARC from Raincoast Books (thank you!), Purchased at Chapters Indigo
Format: ARC, Hardcover
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom's cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend "pauses" their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn't sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord's storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life's biggest challenges.
Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
THE NAMES THEY GAVE US was a unique and personal read for me, and as a result, this is a very difficult review to write. I’m going to touch on two personal experiences I had with this book, and then the rest, the more objective stuff, will be in the Bonuses.
Anyone who knows me and this blog knows how much I love Emery Lord’s work. Every book of Emery’s speaks to me in a different way, but always like a friend who is painting a moment that I know I’ll remember. This one encapsulated several moments of my teen years, as well as many moments of the last year where I felt like I was losing faith in humanity itself.
Lucy is the daughter of a pastor, a church kid, someone who believes and is on a path. And of course, that path gets derailed by something big – her mother’s cancer coming back – and she’s left reeling. To add to that, her boyfriend hits pause on their relationship, and her mother asks her, unexpectedly, to work at the secular camp for troubled teens for the summer, instead of their usual church camp.
When I read the synopsis for THE NAMES THEY GAVE US, I was immediately both intrigued and a little apprehensive. I know some of you were, too. Is this a “God” book? Is this a “cancer” book?
The first thing I’m going to tell you is that it isn’t. Both God and cancer play into the book, but it’s as much about discovering one self and one’s family – immediate and otherwise – as it is about those things. So PLEASE, if you’re hesitant, DON’T WORRY. Emery will see you through.
That said, I do want to take a second here to tell you where I came from with this book.
I grew up in a Christian family, and spent all of my childhood going to church and church camp, and most of my early teen years being super into youth group, and trying to live a Christ-like life.
It’s a part of my life I don’t talk about very often, because as much as it was a huge part of my life, it’s also a part that I occasionally resent because I never knew at that time whether religion was my choice, or a family choice. And I spent a LOT of my teen years trying to figure out what I believed in, and coming to terms with that.
So for me, Lucy’s journey to understand her own faith and belief really resonated with me. Trying to find and understand those big things in life – whether there’s a higher being, whether we can believe in ourselves and others, and why crappy things happen to good people – I feel like that’s something we all go through, and we all experience, especially in our teens. That part of this book is universal. And Emery explores it with the exquisite rawness and realism that only she can do.
All that said…you guys, this book is not just about faith.
It’s about new experiences, and joy, and fun as well…all packed into those beautiful summer months where anything seems possible.
Usually, I’m the kind of person who reads books as quickly as I can. I’m a slow reader, so with almost every book, I’m racing through. Enjoying the journey, but yes, racing to the end. And usually, with a really great book, I just can’t stop reading.
But The Names They Gave Us was a very different reading experience for me. Instead of my usual can’t-stop-won’t-stop approach to reading, this book felt different. It had pauses. And in those pauses, I savoured each and every word. I thought about myself and what I believe in. And I treasured the time I got to spend with Lucy, with Jones, with Lucy’s parents and Anna and Keely and Mohan.
It’s quite something when a book makes you change your habits, makes you slow down and savour. I read The Names They Gave Us in a span of several days, sometimes only reading a page or two, other times several chapters. And every time, I came away with a feeling of joy, whether from the prettiness of the words, the rightness of the descriptions, or just those moments when you know that a book totally, completely gets you.
Summer Camp: I never went to an extended sleepover camp as a kid, but I did have quite a few church retreats and weekends in cabins. And I remember the idyllic settings of lakes and trees, of group activities and making friends and doing everything from brushing teeth to cafeteria meals to bonfires together. Emery makes those memories come rushing back in this book.
A+ Friend Group: This could also be the “Kick-Arse Secondary Characters” category because every. Single. Friend that Lucy makes is so unique and fun and I just loved them. I want to join this squad.
Diversity: From Lucy’s friends to the kids at the camp, there’s diversity in every shape and form in this book. And I really liked that it wasn’t tokenism – it’s done right because it’s just there, like the people we see every day.
Family Matters: I can’t even tell you guys how much the family stuff in this – especially the mom stuff – touched me. Hug your parents extra tight tonight, guys. That’s the kind of book this is.
Story Within a Story: This book has a fable of sorts that will make everything clear. No spoilers on this, because it’s important, but the tree on the front cover? That’s a thing.
Heart-Squeezing Romance: You want swooning? I promise, there’s a romance that will take your breath away and give you all those first kiss butterflies. And it’s with a musician, which is so my kind of romance.
A Different Kind of Strength: Emery isn’t afraid to look things in the face, even if some of her characters are. And she’s not afraid to show characters who aren’t the biggest personalities, who aren’t fierce or strong in the conventional sense. They are, however, strong enough to deal with both the everyday work of mentoring and being counselors to kids who are from some really troubled backgrounds, as well as their own crap. It’s really empowering, honest, and a reminder for all of us that what we live through – the baggage we carry every day – makes us better and stronger and who we are.
Book Theme Song:
I’m not even going to try to choose a single song when Emery has a whole playlist inspired by this book. Enjoy (faves are Love & Affection by Matt White, La Vie En Rose, Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes, Coffins by Misterwives, and Skeleton Heart by John Heart Jackie).
The Final Word:
THE NAMES THEY GAVE US is my second favorite of Emery Lord’s books (the first is still, and probably always will be OPEN ROAD SUMMER). It’s the perfect blend of depth and feeling, lightness and joy. Even though it deals with weighty, sometimes sad issues, Emery has packed so much heart and love into the moments between the sadness, reminding us that they really are two sides of the same coin. Sadness and joy have to go together to make all the special moments that much more special.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of summer camp, the weight of working, the joys of new love, the brightness of new friendships, the darkness of watching people survive, the strength of family, and the pain and acceptance of life.
What is your favorite line you’ve ever written, and why?
Emery: Oh gosh. I guess I measure by sentences that, looking back on them, I feel like, “Yes. That is exactly what I was trying to convey.”
In the case of NAMES, I think that’s this bit, which is kind of the crux of the whole book for me:
I say a final prayer, this one in gratitude that there are people in the world who will protect kids with a fire that makes them sprint after cars, fight systems, curse with rage.
It’s enough to make you believe.
Maybe not in symbols; maybe not in gods. But certainly in people.
Tiff: This is one of my fave lines in the entire book – it really does say everything I believe in as well. Thanks, Emery!
THE NAMES THEY GAVE US is out in bookstores now! Will you be reading it? Are you a fan of Emery’s? Did you ever go to summer camp? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to visit the rest of the stops on the blog tour!