All That She Brings

Fiction - Realistic
374 Pages
Reviewed on 06/03/2023
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Author Biography

I spent most of my professional life in tech marketing, working in various markets including Minneapolis, London and San Francisco. After completing Stanford's two-year novel writing program, I had an incomplete draft of All That She Brings, which was ultimately finished during the COVID lockdown. I now live and Palo Alto and devote most of my time to writing, and am currently at work on a sequel to my first novel. I'm married with four grown children and a miniature Labradoodle named Scout.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

All That She Brings by Toby Brookes focuses on the life of Matthew Banks, an insurance agent in Connecticut. Matthew's optimism for the future is shattered when his wife Julia dies in a car accident. He discovers that she had been cheating on him and Matthew is consumed by grief for several months until he seeks help from his therapist, Madeleine Batiste. During their sessions, Matthew opens up about his troubled childhood, with an alcoholic mother and an absent father, which led him to find solace in his marriage. Despite his attempts to seek revenge on Julia's lover, he realizes that he has developed romantic feelings for Batiste. This escalates into problematic territory for a man who already has a thousand little issues on his plate, especially after returning home to California.

Toby Brookes does an exceptional job of showing readers that the “she” in the title All That She Brings is really the title version of a composite character. There are many women in Matthew's life, as there are in most of ours, and they do shape us whether we like it or not. Matthew's mother gave him life but it was skewed through a kaleidoscope of addiction and toxic motherhood. Matthew's deceased wife brings heartache yet her toxic demise does not skewer his perspective but actually sets it straight. It's painful and hard, but growth is rarely anything else. Madeleine brings an element of healing, but from the point of view of Matthew's character arc, what she really brings is a full circle back to life. Finally, there is another “she” who trumps them all. I loved this intelligently written novel for its wit, its creativity, and the heaps of fully fleshed-out characters that bring it all to life. Very highly recommended.