Category Archives: Sonja Yoerg

Review: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

Title: All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.



Written from four distinct perspectives and weaving back and forth in time, All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg is an engaging novel about mental illness and to a lesser extent, social injustice between the wealthy and poor.

In 1972, Carole Gifford La Porte is a mother of three who works with her husband Walt in the family’s car repair business. When she begins forgetting things and hearing voices, she is quick to assume her recent insomnia is responsible for her mind playing tricks on her. However, she cannot ignore her family’s history of mental illness since her own mother, Solange, has been a permanent resident of the Underhill State Hospital ever since her father had her committed thirty-four years earlier. As Carole’s condition worsens, she continues hiding her symptoms from her family and she begins growing paranoid and fearful of those around her.

Carole and Walt’s eleven year old daughter Alison is becoming increasingly frustrated by her mother’s bizarre behavior. She is also quite upset by her mom’s refusal to help with the normal preparations for the upcoming school year. When her attempts to bring her mom’s strange actions to her father’s attention do not yield results, Alison tries casting spells and other supernatural phenomena to try to help her mother.

Thirty four year old Janine is nothing like her older sister Carole. Her birth is the catalyst for their father to commit their mother to the state hospital and Carole is the only maternal figure in her life. Janine is incredibly self-absorbed and she will go to any lengths to try to get her way.& Her actions throughout the story are extremely self centered and her final efforts to snag a husband go horribly wrong.

The middle part of the story centers on Solange and her marriage. Solange meets and marries her wealthy husband back in the 1920s and at first the differences in their family’s socioeconomic status makes no difference in their lives. Solange is initially content to view the world through her husband’s eyes but as she witnesses her poverty stricken family struggle to survive during the Depression, she begins forming her own opinions on the division between the classes. Her once happy marriage begins to flounder and in a moment of anger, Solange makes an ill-fated choice that will reverberate for generations.

The premise of All the Best People is quite unique and the historical elements are fascinating. However, Carole’s worsening mental health symptoms become repetitive and somewhat annoying. While it is initially plausible that she successfully conceals her symptoms from her immediate family, there comes point when it is impossible to believe that Walt and their sons do not become more concerned about her increasingly strange behavior.

All the Best People is a well-researched novel that touches on some very relevant social issues. The portions of the storyline which focus on the Solange’s history and Carole’s attempts to hide her symptoms from her family are gripping but Janine’s ridiculous attempts to snare a husband are, for the most part, an unnecessary distraction. Sonja Yoerg does an outstanding job educating readers on classism and the horrifying mental health practices that are thankfully no longer used. Overall, it is an interesting read that is quite informative.

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Filed under All the Best People, Berkley, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated C+, Review, Sonja Yoerg

Review: The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg

middle somewhereTitle: The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: NAL
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.

They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.


In The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg, a three-week hike on the John Muir Trail turns into a complicated journey of healing for main protagonist Liz Kroft and her boyfriend Dante Espinoza. Looking forward to her solitary trek, Liz is dismayed when Dante decides to join her but when the weight of her mistakes grows too heavy to bear, she finally reveals her deepest secrets to him. Will her confessions bring the couple closer together? Or will these revelations devastate their relationship beyond repair?

Raised by her distant (and uninvolved) single mother, Claire, Liz’s childhood was anything but normal. Learning from a young age to take care of herself, Liz is independent and quite self-sufficient. She finds it difficult to make friends but when she reconnects with classmate, Gabriel Pemberton, in college, she unexpectedly falls in love with him (and his family). The two eventually marry and settle down, but without firsthand experience with “normal” relationships due to her unconventional upbringing, Liz has no idea how to fix her soon floundering marriage. After Gabriel’s death, she begins her life over in a new state and plans to remain single until she meets her co-worker, Dante. Despite the cautious progression of her unexpected romance with him, Liz is still unsure she made the right choice to move in with him.   In the aftermath of a panicked decision she made without consulting him, she hopes the 220 mile hike will provide her with some much needed clarity about what comes next for her and their relationship.

Liz is not at all thrilled by Dante’s decision to accompany her on the John Muir Trail. He is not exactly an outdoorsman and the upcoming hike will be strenuous with few creature comforts. Her irritation increases when he fails to follow her advice and he is miserable almost as soon as they begin their journey. However, Liz is most frustrated by the lack of solitude to reflect on the choices she has made.

Despite the rather inauspicious beginning to their expedition, Liz unexpectedly begins to confide in Dante about her previous marriage. However, she remains very introspective and it is soon clear that she is deeply troubled by a recent decision. In spite of her reluctance to divulge this upsetting secret, Liz is finding it increasingly difficult to keep this distressing information from Dante. Unfortunately, her suspicions about his reaction are accurate but as she tries to explain the reasons behind her decision, Liz gains unexpected insight about herself. Her explanations fall on deaf ears and Dante pulls away from her both physically and emotionally as he tries to process this unexpected revelation. Before they can repair the rift between them, Liz and Dante find themselves in sudden danger when two hikers they meet on the trial embark on a menacing game of cat and mouse with them.

The Middle of Somewhere is an incredibly well-written novel with an unusual storyline. The John Muir Trail is a fascinating backdrop for the unfolding story and Sonja Yoerg brings both the breathtaking scenery and grueling conditions vibrantly to life. Liz and Dante’s journey is laden with arduous obstacles to overcome both physically and emotionally and the suspense element provides an unexpected opportunity for healing. Overall, an engaging and compelling novel that I recommend to readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction.

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Filed under Contemporary, Literary Fiction, NAL, Rated B, Review, Sonja Yoerg, The Middle of Somewhere

Review: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

house brokenTitle: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program


In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…

For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

The Review:

House Broken is an absolutely spectacular debut novel by Sonja Yoerg. This beautifully written story is a touching, insightful and thought-provoking exploration of the strained relationship between an alcoholic mother and her children. It is a complex tale of family dysfunction that is quite riveting but it is the cast of characters that makes it a truly unforgettable read.

The youngest of four siblings, Geneva Novak is a married mother of two teenagers who reluctantly lets her alcoholic mother Helen temporarily move in while she recuperates from a car accident. Geneva has never been close to Helen and she decides to use this opportunity to bridge the gap between them. Her attempt to understand why her mother drinks leads to the discovery of a shocking family secret that explains Helen’s behavior but will this knowledge allow them to repair their fractured relationship?

Geneva is very regimented and logical thinking so at first, she appears rather strict and unbending. She is quite intuitive and she lets her instincts guide her most of the time. Her relationships with husband Tom and her kids, Ella and Charlie, are troubled as they begin to rebel against her unyielding standards. Her relationship with her brother Dublin is rock solid and the two have no secrets from one another. But to get answers for the questions that are troubling her, Geneva turns to her older sisters, Florence and Paris, but neither of them is eager to rehash the past with her.

Helen is flippant, conniving and self-absorbed and this makes her very difficult to like. Her reflections on her past make some of her actions understandable but for the most part, she remains an unsympathetic character. Helen’s memories provide an explanation for her alcoholism and the reasons for her distance from Geneva, but these revelations do little to redeem her character.

Ella is dealing with the typical teenage insecurities and angst. She has a sardonic and snarky sense of humor that is absolutely hilarious. Her relationship with her brother Charlie is often adversarial but Ella keeps quiet about his increasingly alarming activities.

House Broken is an intriguing and sometimes heartrending novel that does not shy away from difficult subject matter. Sonja Yoerg brilliantly weaves past and present into a compelling and realistic story that is healing but always stays true to the characters. A sensitive portrayal of a family’s darkest secrets that I will not soon forget and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, House Broken, NAL Trade, Rated A, Review, Sonja Yoerg