Category Archives: All That Is Bright and Gone

Review: All That’s Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums

Title: All That’s Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 247 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Fans of Jodi Picoult and Fredrik Backman will fall for this tenderhearted debut mystery following a young girl on a quest to save her family.

I know my brother is dead. But sometimes Mama gets confused.

There’s plenty about the grownup world that six-year-old Aoife doesn’t understand. Like what happened to her big brother Theo and why her mama is in the hospital instead of home where she belongs. Uncle Donny says she just needs to be patient, but Aoife’s sure her mama won’t be able to come home until Aoife learns what really happened to her brother. The trouble is no one wants to talk about Theo because he was murdered. But by whom?

With her imaginary friend Teddy by her side and the detecting skills of her nosy next door neighbor, Aoife sets out to uncover the truth about her family. But as her search takes her from the banks of Theo’s secret hideout by the river to the rooftops overlooking Detroit, Aoife will learn that some secrets can’t stay hidden forever and sometimes the pain we bury is the biggest secret of them all.

Driven by Aoife’s childlike sincerity and colored by her vivid imagination, All That’s Bright and Gone illuminates the unshakeable bond between families–and the lengths we’ll go to bring our loved ones home.


All That’s Bright and Gone by Eliza Nellums is a poignant mystery written from the perspective of six year old Aoife Scott.

When her mom, Siobhan, goes into a hospital mental ward, Aoife’s Uncle Donny comes to stay with her. Although she adores him, Aoife is desperate for her beloved mother to come home.  She is an imaginative, smart little girl who clings tightly to the family’s faith and her imaginary friend Teddy. Aoife is also friends with next door neighbor, Hannah, who convinces her they need to investigate Aoife’s brother Theo’s murder.  Aoife’s struggles to understand her mother’s mental illness and the loss of her brother lead her on a risky journey to uncover the truth about what happened to Theo.

Aoife is precocious and mature for age but she is still only six years old. Her understanding of the events is filtered through living with a mentally ill mom and their strong Catholic faith. Her interpretations and understanding of snippets of conversations is achingly poignant and occasionally humorous.  Aoife’s conviction that learning the circumstances of Theo’s death will bring her mother home drives her to make dangerous choices during her quest.

Donny Scott’s life is the complete opposite of his troubled sister.  A bachelor with no children of his own, he does not hesitate to drop everything to care for his niece.  Donny is a bit distracted and his inexperience with caring for children sometimes leads to inattention about what Aoife and Hannah are up to.  Donny tries to be honest with Aoife but he sometimes struggles when faced with his niece’s simple questions that have very complex answers.

Occasional letters from Siobhan offer a somewhat heartrending glimpse of her battle with mental illness. She is very troubled as the doctors try to find the right mix of drugs to stabilize her so she can return home.   The Scott family has a history of mental illness and it is obvious Siobhan has been dealing with her illness for several years.

All That’s Bright and Gone is an extremely well-written and captivating debut. The characters are beautifully developed and quite likeable. The storyline is clever and well-executed. With a few stunning twists and unanticipated turns, Eliza Nellums brings this inventive mystery to a surprising conclusion. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this unique, delightful novel.

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Filed under All That Is Bright and Gone, Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Eliza Nellums, Mystery, Rated B+, Review