The Names They Gave Us
by Emery Lord
Publication Date: May 6, 2016
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Obtained Via: I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for consideration of an honest review.
View at the Traffic light:
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, 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?
This book comes out tomorrow. On Wednesday of this week I’ll turn twenty-six. And ten years ago, on my sixteenth birthday, I learned that my mom’s cancer had come back. Obviously, this book was not published for sixteen-year-old me, but it sure felt like it while reading, even though this is not really a cancer book. The cancer is there, and it’s present, but it’s much more about Lucy coming into her own, figuring things out, and realizing where coping with what’s happening to her mom comes into that.
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Emery Lord’s books, but this is hands-down my new favorite. No contest. Lord has always been a good writer, but I feel the prose was even better than in her previous books, and there’s just something about her characters that makes me effortlessly root for them in all their complicated glory. Lucy was a great main character too, albeit a little less abrasive than I was expecting from having read Emery Lord’s other characters. I loved the faith aspect of the book. It is by no means a religious book, but it is a book with religious characters and seeing Lucy grow and be challenged in that way was excellent. I loved how it wasn’t like Lucy’s faith had a challenge and everything was fine by the end — Lucy is still in a lot of internal turmoil by the end of the book, but has found love in so many new ways that I left the book knowing she would be just fine.
As for the plot, I think the synopsis does a good job of summarizing the book. Lucy is used to working every summer at her parent’s bible camp, but because of Lucy’s struggle with her mom’s cancer coming back, her mom suggests that Lucy work at Daybreak, the camp for kids who have undergone some sort of trauma that sits only a little over a mile from Lucy’s normal bible camp. When Lucy’s boyfriend “pauses” them, Lucy reluctantly agrees. It’s hard at first, and Lucy has to fight through her preconceived notions and judgements. Over time, she comes to care for her campers, make friends, and find someone she actually clicks with romantically.
Once again, Lord writes relationship development so well. I have yet to read a book in which I don’t like the relationship. I’d say that the romance is actually a lesser focus than in some of Lord’s other books, but it’s still an important part of the plot. The Names They Gave Us is a very internal book — so much of it is about Lucy coming into her own and coming to accept who she is, not the girl she’s pretended to be.
Lucy might be my favorite character, but honestly all the characters in this book shine. Lucy’s relationship with her parents is fantastically written. They’re rather close, but that doesn’t mean the family dynamics aren’t without their struggles, some of which are there from the start of the book and some that come with revelations later on. I also loved all the Daybreak staff, though my favorites were Anna, Lucy’s friend, and Henry, the love interest. Every character was great and I couldn’t get enough of this book. Even though I got closed to crying a few times, it didn’t leave me feeling sad, but rather hopeful for Lucy and the rest of her story.
A new favorite from Emery Lord, which is saying something since I have yet to rate one of her books less than 4 stars. An incredible look at faith, love, and family. I’d recommend it to anyone, but especially for those who like The Start of Me and You. 5/5 cupcakes.