Books Reviews

REVIEW: “All We Lack” by Sandra Moran

Rizzoli & Isles is about to finish up its fifth season on TNT. The last new episodes will air next week (March 17) and I’ll be forced to wait until summer for the next season. I started watching Rizzoli & Isles pretty late in the game. In fact, I started watching in the middle of the fifth season. I had a lot of catching up to do. So, I purchased seasons 1 through 4 on DVD and started binge watching them. Then I purchased the first half of season 5 on Amazon Prime Video. I’m completely caught up.

Here’s the thing….I’m about to finish up the fourth season for the third time.  When that’s done, I’ll re-watch all of the fifth season episodes that are available. And next week, I’ll watch the season finale. It’s quite possible that I’ll re-watch all 5 seasons at least 2 more times before the sixth season starts. Yeah, I like it that much. I don’t do that often. I mean, yeah, I’ve seen every season of Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer about as many times, if not more. But I re-watched all of those over a number of years, not weeks.

So, what does my current obsession with Rizzoli & Isles have to do with this review? Good question, dear reader. Good question.

It is not uncommon for me to re-watch TV shows and movies, or to reread books. I have a number of books that are on my “I’ll always want to reread this book” list. Some of them are comfort books. These are books that I read when I want to visit old friends and feel warm and fuzzy. Some are cathartic books. These are books that I read when I know I need to have a good cry. Some are what I call “brain books.” These are the books that I read when I really want my brain to work and my perspectives to be shifted.

Yes, I will return to these books now and then.  Very rarely, however, do I finish reading the last page and then immediately begin again at the first page.

When I finished All We Lack (Bedazzled Ink) by Sandra Moran, I immediately turned to page one and started reading it again.

All We Lack


All We Lack is the story of four people on a bus headed for Boston. Each has a specific reason for making this trip. Each is reaching out for a better, more fulfilling life. Each is hoping for a future that will fill the voids of the past.

All We Lack is that rare book that falls into all three of my “reread” categories.

After the first read, Maggie, Helen, Bug, and Jimmy were like old friends. I really got to know them. Moran has given her readers a really wonderful character study of these four people. We’re allowed to delve deeply into the lives, minds, emotions, and complexities of each person Moran highlights in the novel. We’re able to follow along as each character examines her or his life and reflects on what has been missing.

At the same time, All We Lack provided me the opportunity to cry along with the characters. To identify with the pain they’ve felt in their lives. I know the loneliness, the guilt, the confusion, the fear, the loss that these characters have experienced. So, I was able to take the emotional journey by their sides and tap into my own experiences. I’ve seen the things a grandchild should never see. I’ve known the things a child should never know. I’ve felt the guilt over something I’ve done. I’ve told the lies to hide my own imperfections. Tapping into those experiences as I read each character’s story allowed me to release some of my own demons, so to speak.

Moreover, All We Lack put my brain to work. The story is not told in a traditional, linear fashion. While there is a clear through-line with a beginning, middle, and end, a great deal of the story is told via flashbacks. This adds incredible texture to the novel. It’s rich and it’s layered. And it engages my brain differently than a more traditionally constructed story would.

One of the things that truly impresses me about Moran’s work is that it’s never predictable. If you’ve read her previous novels Letters Never Sent and Nudge, then you know what I’m talking about. (And if you haven’t read them, why not?! Read them! You can also click the titles of each book above to read my reviews.) Moran tackles interesting, complex issues and explores them in stories that are equally interesting and complex. So, if you have read Letters Never Sent and Nudge, don’t expect All We Lack to look or read the same way.

Well, there actually is something that All We Lack has in common with Moran’s previous novels. Despite the layers and complexities and non-linear story-telling, it’s so very easy to follow along and know exactly “where” the characters are in the story. As I mentioned earlier, much of All We Lack is told via flashbacks. At times, there are flashbacks within flashbacks. Moran seems to write these with ease, taking the reader gently along through the characters’ memories. The transitions in and out of the flashbacks were both seamless and jarring…but all by design. Consider: You’re on a bus or a plane or a train, contemplating your reasons for traveling or mulling over something you’ve recently experienced. In doing so, your thoughts wander and soon you’re reliving memories from childhood or college or a previous job. Then something brings you out of those ruminations – a PA announcement, turbulence, a child crying. Moran is able to write that! At no point did I think, “Oh, the flashback is starting.” It just happened. And I went right along with the character. This is talent, my friends.

While each character’s story is told from a third person point-of-view, each has a very distinct voice. There isn’t one narrator telling all of the characters’ stories. There are four narrators. This really adds to the depth of each character. Maggie, Helen, Bug, and Jimmy are four very different people with very different issues and experiences. Had their stories been told with the same narrative voice, that richness would have been lost. Their voices would have been flattened. That would have been a shame…and quite out of character for Moran, who has a talent for creating characters that are wonderfully three-dimensional.

The secondary characters in All We Lack are simply wonderful. They don’t have their own narrative voice, but they are not voiceless. We come to know them through the four main characters. Each has her or his own place in the story. Even the characters we only “see” once have an impact. They are important. They are necessary. Don’t overlook them.

Do you know what else is important and necessary? Outstanding writing skills. Moran has those in spades! It is remarkably obvious that Moran pours over her writing and contemplates the choice of each word she adds to the story. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is superfluous. If a word is on the page, there is a reason for that word to be there. You won’t find anything that can be considered “filler” in All We Lack.  Every scene builds tension and adds to the story. Flashbacks are appropriately revealing. Dialogue is natural and believable. Scenic descriptions are detailed and nuanced. Really, it’s quite wonderful.

Prepare yourselves. Once you start reading, you won’t want to stop. You won’t be able to stop. But don’t think you’ll be able to read All We Lack quickly. Set aside the time. Free yourself from potential interruptions. Have your drinks and snacks ready before you start reading. You won’t want to stop reading just to grab some cookies and milk. Allow yourself to sink into the story. You won’t regret it. I didn’t.

1 comment on “REVIEW: “All We Lack” by Sandra Moran

  1. Pingback: Link Round Up: March 9 – 15 | The Lesbrary

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