Everything We Give is the third installment in Kerry Lonsdale’s trilogy. The first volume, Everything We Keep, focused on Aimee, while Carlos/James’ story was at the center of Everything We Left Behind. The journey of Ian Collins, Aimee’s husband, is showcased in the concluding installment. Once again, Lonsdale delivers a tale of suspense, mystery, romance, and forgiveness, a worthy conclusion to her series above love, love lost, lies, betrayal, and family secrets.
A few months ago, James’ re-emergence and reappearance rocked Aimee and Ian’s relationship. But they have spent the ensuing months trying to get back on track — Aimee is busy with plans to open two more cafes, while Ian has enjoyed successful gallery showings of his photographs and has an opportunity to shoot pictures for a story in National Geographic. Ill at ease, Ian finally realizes what has been troubling him. For years he has carried the guilt of believing that his actions cost his mother her freedom and tore their family apart. He’s been completely estranged from his family for sixteen years and hasn’t seen his mother for many more. He has no idea of her whereabouts and has sworn to himself that he will find her, but never made a concerted effort to search for her.
As he prepares to leave on assignment for the National Geographic feature, Ian knows that he must finally find his mother and make amends. But James turns up yet again with a message from the elusive purported psychic who has intervened in their lives before. Time is of the essence. The assignment will not wait, and the psychic has designated a date and time when she will be available to meet with him — at his childhood home in Idaho. At stake are Ian’s career trajectory and information that might at last bring him peace about his tumultuous childhood. He also stands to lose the one thing he holds most dear: the family he has built with Aimee, and four-year-old daughter Caty.
In Everything We Give, author Kerry Lonsdale reunites readers with Aimee, Ian, and James. As the story opens, James has fallen in love and settled in Kauai to raise his two sons, but returned to Northern California briefly to tie up some old business. That includes delivering a message to Ian from Lacy, the would-be psychic who found James on the beach in Hawaii a month earlier and told him she knew someone who needed her help. Even though they are confident of their love for each other and commitment to their marriage and Caty, Ian has been frustrated that Aimee has not achieved complete closure concerning her relationship with James (his photos still hang in the cafe and Aimee recognizes that she needs to remove them). Aimee is tense, consumed with preparations to expand her successful business. But she is not fully devoted to the venture and questioning whether she is making the right decision. For her part, she is bothered by the fact that Ian has not moved past her interaction with James months ago, despite her having explained it, apologized, and reassured Ian numerous times that she is in love with and committed to him and their family.
Ian realizes that it is finally time to come to terms with his troubled relationships with his parents. But just as Ian is about to leave for Spain for the most important assignment of his career, forces seem to converge in an attempt to derail him. He is determined to accomplish all of his goals, surprising Aimee by moving up his departure date which causes her even more consternation. He observes, “I made a promise to my wife. I’d confront my issues abut my past so that we could move forward together. I would fix my relationship with my mom.”
Through narration from Ian as a young boy, Lonsdale reveals the details of his traumatic childhood. His father, also a photographer, was frequently absent on business assignments. His mother, Sarah, struggled with mental illness — dissociative identity disorder. Sarah’s primary alter, Jackie, is a seventeen-year-old who is reckless, angry, and cruel to Ian, endangering him on numerous occasions. In order to craft the story, Lonsdale conducted research to understand and write about Sarah’s condition from the perspective of her child. Because of Sarah’s instability, Ian became the de facto parent in the relationship, caring for and watching over his mother while simultaneously needing what every child needs — a loving mother to nurture him. Everything We Give is enjoyable and touching on the whole. But Lonsdale’s writing is best in the chapters describing Ian’s harrowing experiences as a young boy, as well as his eventual, permanent separation from the mother he adored.
To love someone unconditionally is to let them thrive, even if that means letting them go so they can run wild and free.
Londsdale achieves just the right tone when exploring Ian’s anger at and refusal to maintain a relationship with his father. She convincingly explains why Ian has spent years blaming his father for their family’s challenges, citing his many business trips during which Ian was left alone for days at a time with his mother. Ian’s father worried that Jackie would emerge and again harm Ian. Ian lived in fear that Jackie would cause his mother to be taken away from him, either because Jackie would hurt her or bring the attention and intervention of the authorities. Lonsdale also credibly details Ian’s adult journey to discover the truth about what happened to his mother as a child — the impetus for her fragile mental state — and his readiness and ability to accept that his childhood perceptions were frequently inaccurate and incomplete. Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder himself, Ian saw his childhood as a “warped version of purgatory” from which he believed he would eventually emerge and make a life for himself. Lonsdale effectively utilizes Ian’s assignment in Spain photographing the Rapa das bestas, the “shearing of the beasts” to illustrate parallels between the tender, mutually respectful, but distant relationship of herds of feral horses and the villagers who care for them with Ian’s journey to acceptance, peace, and forgiveness — for himself and his parents.
Everything We Give is an emotionally satisfying and moving conclusion to Lonsdale’s addicting trilogy. With its publication, she shepherds her readers to a bittersweet milestone — with all mysteries solved, and all questions answered, it is time to bid good-bye to the beloved characters she has created: Aimee, James, Ian, et al. But Lonsdale leaves her characters with secure, happy futures and her readers richer for having joined them on their journeys of discovery.