Review: We Are All That’s Left by Carrie Arcos

36106979*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: We Are All That’s Left

Author: Carrie Arcos

Publisher: Philomel Books

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 9780399175541

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Zara and her mother, Nadja, have a strained relationship. Nadja just doesn’t understand Zara’s creative passion for, and self-expression through, photography. And Zara doesn’t know how to reach beyond their differences and connect to a closed-off mother who refuses to speak about her past in Bosnia. But when a bomb explodes as they’re shopping in their local farmers’ market in Rhode Island, Zara is left with PTSD–and her mother is left in a coma. Without the opportunity to get to know her mother, Zara is left with questions–not just about her mother, but about faith, religion, history, and her own path forward. As Zara tries to sort through her confusion, she meets Joseph, whose grandmother is also in the hospital, and whose exploration of religion and philosophy offer comfort and insight into Zara’s own line of thinking.


We Are All That’s Left tells an incredibly moving story about a family scarred by war–from years ago and even now in the present day. Zara knows so little of her own mother, but a terrorist attack leaves her questioning everything she’s ever known and longing to know her mother better. She and her mother struggle to connect across a vast divide of difference, but after an attack at the market leaves Zara with so many physical and emotional scars and leaves her mother in a coma, the walls begin to fall down. Perhaps these two women have more in common than either of them ever thought.

This story is a heavy read, but it addresses some incredibly important topics from family and generational disconnect to terrorism, sexual assault, genocide, murder, PTSD, war, discrimination, and racism. It takes these awful things and really shows that so much good can arise out of the darkness, offering a beacon of hope. In juxtaposition to these tough themes, Arcos story is, in its essence, about forgiveness, acceptance, love, friendship, strength, and faith. It is a multifaceted and layered story that exposes the true reality of our world today. No falseness, no decoration. Just honesty.  Zara’s world unfolds momentously as everything in her world shifts after the attack. It is not the safe and sheltered place it was before. She comes to understand her mother in this profound way that she could have never imagined. At the same time, she tries to come to terms with her new reality, and that seems like an impossible thing to do.

I think there are so many people, teens especially, that would relate to this story. Zara is this awesome and open character who is at a pivotal time in her life. She’s pursuing her passion and seeking her purpose when her world is upended. This story is a tumultuous coming of age with a protagonist who is so incredibly real and fierce. She’s a fighter and she wants her story to be told. This book combines history with the present, highlighting humanity’s greatest struggles and weaknesses, but also those things that are most beautiful.

There’s so much emotion to be hand in this small volume. Arcos has so many moving things to say. You really can’t miss out on this book.

Happy reading!

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