All Of Us And Everything: A Novel by Bridget AsherAll Of Us And Everything: A Novel by Bridget Asher

All Of Us And Everything: A Novel

byBridget Asher

Paperback | November 24, 2015

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For fans of the quirky, heartfelt fiction of Nick Hornby and Eleanor Brown comes a smart, wry, and poignant novel about reconciliation between fathers and daughters, between spouses; the deep ties between sisters; and the kind of forgiveness that can change a person’s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways.

The Rockwell women are nothing if not . . . Well, it’s complicated. When the sisters—Esme, Liv, and Ru—were young, their eccentric mother, Augusta, silenced all talk of their absent father with the wild story that he was an international spy, always away on top-secret missions. But the consequences of such an unconventional upbringing are neither small nor subtle: Esme is navigating a failing marriage while trying to keep her precocious fifteen-year-old daughter from live-tweeting every detail. Liv finds herself in between relationships and rehabs, and Ru has run away from enough people and problems to earn her frequent flier miles. So when a hurricane hits the family home on the Jersey Shore, the Rockwells reunite to assess the damage—only to discover that the storm has unearthed a long-buried box. In a candid moment, Augusta reveals a startling secret that will blow the sisters’ concept of family to smithereens—and send them on an adventure to reconnect with a lost past . . . and one another.

Praise for All of Us and Everything

“Engaging . . . [a] lively comic novel about stormy women and the spy (and other sexy types) who loved them.”People (“The Best New Books”)

“Similar to Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down, [All of Us and Everything] rewards readers with an engrossing plot rich in witty and frank dark humor. . . . Readers will linger on the story’s web of connections. . . . Thoughtful and provoking.”Booklist

“[Bridget] Asher’s newest title spotlights her unique voice plus an affinity for quirky, wounded characters that are both realistic and likable. . . . The subtle theme [is] how changing our stories can change us. An entertaining yet astute look at family, self, story, and connections.”Kirkus Reviews

“Charming, original, and impeccably written, All of Us and Everything is a spirited romp through the lives of an unusual family of women—three adult sisters, their mother, one teenage daughter, and their longtime housekeeper—and the men who love them, amuse them, pursue them, and lose them. When I wasn’t laughing out loud or eagerly turning pages to see what happened next, I was marveling at Bridget Asher’s ability to tell a highly entertaining, fully engaging, and deeply insightful story.”—Cathi Hanauer, New York Times bestselling author of Gone

“While many writers strive to create a single memorable character, Bridget Asher, seemingly with the flick of her wrist, brings forth four amazing, unique, altogether brilliant characters in All of Us and Everything. The Rockwell siblings, Esme, Liv, and Ru, as well as their fascinating mother, Augusta, won me over completely, and their story twists and turns in such fascinating, hilarious, and heartfelt ways that it left me in awe of Asher’s abilities.”—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang

“Bridget Asher’s fascinating, eccentric characters are such good company that I finished All of Us and Everything in one sitting. This is a compelling, funny, moving story about an irresistible family.”—Leah Stewart, author of The New Neighbor
Bridget Asher is the author of My Husband’s Sweethearts, The Pretend Wife, and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted.
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Title:All Of Us And Everything: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.16 × 0.74 inPublished:November 24, 2015Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385343930

ISBN - 13:9780385343930

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Reviews

Read from the Book

CHAPTER 1“I didn’t know you were supposed to shave collies,” the headmaster said while he patted the dog’s long thin snout and took a seat in Esme’s living room. “I mean, I’ve just never seen it.”“I don’t think it’s recommended but imagine living with him! It’s like having a Russian in your living room who refuses to take off his fur coat and hat in the middle of the summer. Like Dostoevsky himself, brooding away.” Littering a conversation with literary and pop-­culture references had become an anxious habit for Esme, maybe the result of the stiflingly crowded overeducated population that made up faculty housing at a boarding school. On campus, all of the dogs and cats—­and many of the faculty children themselves—­were named with some clever allusion in mind. Atty, Esme’s daughter now fifteen and sitting beside her on the sofa, was named after Atticus Finch, a man’s name, yes, but Esme didn’t want to saddle Atty with the name Scout and she was set on which book she wanted to allude to. Ingmar, the collie, was often mistaken for a Bergman reference but actually it was a more obscure reference to the lead character in a Swedish film that Esme and her husband, Doug, saw when they were dating.“But it’s October,” the headmaster said. “Shouldn’t he be bulking up his winter coat?”“Still, the metaphor stands even if it’s cold out. I mean, hey, take off your coat, fella, and stay awhile! Am I right?” Esme said, trying to lighten the mood. She’d actually shaved the dog specifically for this meeting. Ingmar’s coat had become matted from muddy romps out by the pond, and dogs weren’t supposed to be off their leashes. She looked at her daughter for a little help.Atty—­a budding social media guru—­looked up from her iPhone, leaned forward, and said, “This dog’s no Dostoevsky. Don’t you worry.” As if the burden of being in the same room with a dog capable of literary genius would be too much for the headmaster to bear. “A corgi on human growth hormones, maybe, but that’s about it. He couldn’t get a kid out of a well if his doggy life depended on it.” She then tweeted both sentences with the hashtag #lifewithcollie.“There are no wells on campus,” the headmaster said, defensively.Atty looked at Esme in a challenging way. Neither of them was a great fan of the headmaster. Behind his back, they both referred to him as Big-­Head Todd. He had a very big head and the history teacher, also a Todd, had a very little head so they called him Little-­Head Todd. Atty’s look was meant as a reminder to her mother that she’d promised to call the headmaster Big-­Head Todd to his face, one fine day, before she graduated.Esme understood the look immediately and shot her a look that meant, Not now. Then she smiled at Todd. “Listen. What do you need to tell us? You’re here, making a house call on a Sunday with a huge storm moving up the coast.”“A Frankenstorm,” Atty added. She’d been following video clips on weather.com, the growing buzz of online hysteria, mandatory evacuations on the coast—­even in Ocean City, New Jersey, where her grandmother lived. Did her mother really care about this storm? Was she too busy bracing for this meeting, which was clearly going to be about Atty’s shit midterm grades and her diminishing prospects for a good college education? Atty could almost hear the headmaster saying, We’re talking fourth tier at best, now. Fourth tier.“And you didn’t cancel because of the storm, which would have been fine.” Esme knew this visit might have something to do with Doug. He had led a group of sophomores on a study abroad program in Europe. Atty was a sophomore but her grades had been too low to make the cut, which meant that Esme had to stay behind with her. Esme had asked if Doug was dead as soon as Mrs. Prinknell had called to make the appointment. “No, no,” Mrs. Prinknell had assured her, “for deaths, he calls people in pronto.”But that was Friday evening and this was Sunday morning, and Doug had missed their Skype session, which had made Esme anxious. He was the type to prioritize one of the student’s emergency issues over his own life and so she’d decided this was an issue with one of the kids on the trip.The headmaster was still balking. “It’s just, maybe Atty has some studying to do and we can talk privately.”“I believe in honesty,” Esme said. “Not just, you know, expressing one’s feelings, and listing your grievances and airing out emotions, but the truth, the facts. I have nothing to hide from Atty.” The dog looked at her sharply with his very small eyes. It was a genetic problem; his eyes were literally too small for his head, but these looks—­little admonishments—­always reminded Esme of her mother. The collie looked like pictures of her mother from the late 1950s—­skinny arms and legs and a boxy middle, wearing woolen skirts with formfitting pleats tight through her ample hips. Why had she gotten a dog who reminded her of her mother? Maybe she’d done it subconsciously.“Okay, okay.” Todd pulled back his suit jacket and looked at a walkie-­talkie clipped to his belt. “If the squawk box goes off, I’ll have to take it. Sorry about that.”“That’s okay. I’ve got a call in to my mother, who’s being evacuated on the Jersey shore.” Her mother was the stubborn type who refused to leave during storms. Esme was prepared to try to talk her into leaving, knowing she’d fail.“Yep, yep. Hurricane Sandy has us on a twenty-­four-­seven alert. All-­in, you know.”“All-­in,” Esme said, “of course.” She had no idea what all-­in meant, and she hadn’t been paying attention to the storm. If storms defined people—­those who love storms, those who fear them, and those who love them because they fear them—­Esme was the type to try to ignore them because you can’t control them. She preferred limiting her life to things she could more easily control. It’s why she’d fallen for Doug. He was so practical, so tractable and reliable. And Esme had thought motherhood would be an experience of ultimate control—­shaping a child, molding and nurturing them into adulthood. Raising Atty had proven her wrong.Todd smiled sadly, and then he actually swept his hand over the wisps of hair on his big head and bent forward, leaning his elbows on his knees. It was the least robotic thing Esme had ever seen him do. In fact, it was so deeply human, she was worried. The news was bound to be very, very bad. “Doug’s left the study abroad program.”“Left?” Esme said.“It seems he’s run off with his dentist.”“My dad’s gay?” Atty said. This wasn’t about her shit grades? She didn’t have to give her speech on the psychological effects of being a faculty brat? She immediately thought: My father has always kept a very tidy closet, but really gay?Todd shook his head. “His female dentist.”For a second, Atty felt guilty for assuming that the dentist was male. “Sorry,” she said, apologizing for her sexism.“It’s not your fault!” Esme said quickly. She knew kids would blame themselves for marital issues. She herself had wondered if she’d been to blame for her absentee father. For years, she’d wondered if there’d been some good fatherly type that she’d driven away—­so early in her life she couldn’t remember him.Atty assumed her mother was taking blame for having raised Atty in a sexist culture, but didn’t dwell on it. She pulled out her iPhone and tweeted, I feel weirdly abandoned. Her tweets were usually so sarcastic that her followers weren’t sure what to make of the vague emotional baldness. If Atty’s grandmother were a follower—­she didn’t have a Twitter account—­she would have recognized it as a Statement of Personal Honesty, the factless variety, which she preferred.It was a true Statement. Atty did feel unmoored—­that disorienting moment in childhood when you realize that you’ve reached up and grabbed the wrong father’s hand and a stranger looks down at you and says, “Are you lost?” When this happened to Atty once at a Memorial Day parade, she’d gotten so embarrassed she turned it on the man. “I’m not lost! Let go of me, creeper!” And then she’d walked off and started crying. Doug found her in seconds.Esme barely registered her daughter typing away with her thumbs. She irrationally assumed that Atty was going to look up the headmaster’s story on the Internet—­as if she could find out if it was a hoax or an overseas scam—­I’m stuck in Paris. A female dentist stole all of my credit cards and identification. Can you please wire money?Part of Esme knew the story was possibly true. One of Doug’s molars had been killing him. She’d encouraged him to get it checked out. They were in Paris. Socialized medicine and all . . .Esme stood up. Her arms hung at her sides. They felt loose, almost unattached from her body. She felt armless. She walked to the bay window. It was dark and rainy. The storm was coming.“He’s no longer an employee of the school,” Todd went on.“You fired him?” Esme asked.“He quit.”This was a very bad sign. “He quit? But he doesn’t have another job . .  .” She shook her head. “He’s not the kind to run off. He has a really strong TIAA-­CREF account. He’s not like this.”“He told me that he has a plan.”“You talked to him?”“Well, yes. It’s how I knew he quit.”Somehow she thought it had been handled by rumors and hearsay, as so many things were handled on campus. But, no. Doug had called the headmaster. And with this small detail, she knew that her marriage was over. She quickly blamed her mother-­in-­law. That side of the family was so uppity and elitist that there had been marriages between first cousins that had resulted in poor teeth, which meant Doug had to go to a dentist in Paris in the first place.And then she thought, irrationally, that maybe her marriage was ending to make room for Ru’s. Augusta had told Esme the news one week ago today. What if there was a kind of curse—­the family of three daughters and one mother could only contain one real marriage at a time. Esme’s brain used the caveat real because Liv’s marriages—­all three of them—­had always felt fragile and dubious—­mainly because Liv so loudly insisted that these loves were great, sweeping epic loves that none of the other women in the family could really grasp. What was there to grasp? Liv married for money and did it well.Once Esme had flitted through all the blame she could muster, she wanted to feel something. A deep splitting ache in her chest. But she wasn’t sure she loved Doug. Countless times, she’d imagined him leaving her, her leaving him, his sudden death. Awful things, but in truth she was not sure she’d ever loved him. She knew she’d never loved him the way she did her first love, Darwin Webber, who disappeared from college, not even leaving her a note. (And he was still nowhere to be found. She’d Googled him a bunch of times and he had no Internet footprint—­not even a death notice.) She’d met Doug a year later, and having given up on the idea that she could love anyone again, she opted instead for what felt like a good partnership. (Was she just in the earliest stage of grief?)“Do the kids on the trip know?” Atty asked.Esme turned and looked at her.“I mean, Maeve Brown is on that trip, and Piper Weir and George and Kate and Stew,” Atty rattled off. “What about the other chaperones? Jesus!” She rotated the small stud earring on one of her earlobes the way she’d been taught to do in the months that followed getting her ears pierced—­when she was eight years old. Esme wondered if she was regressing before her eyes. “Do you know how big this is?” she said to her mother, wide-­eyed, cradling her iPhone.

Bookclub Guide

US1. Augusta says, “Storms are one way to define people. . . . There are those who love storms, those who fear them, and those who love them because they fear them.” Based on how this plays out in the narrative, how would you define the Rockwells and why? Which category do you fall into?2. Discuss the characters’ relationships with control. In what ways are the Rockwells always striving for it in their personal lives, their romantic relationships, and their approaches to motherhood? Are these relationships healthy? Do the characters eventually relinquish control and if so, what is it that frees them?3. Augusta has attempted to spearhead numerous movements, none of which have gotten off the ground. Why do you think she has such a need to organize these campaigns, and why do they all inevitably fail? What’s the significance of her causes—-Mothers United for Peace, Raise Your Voices, The Movement’s Movement, The Self--Actualization Cause, The Individuality Movement, and The Personal Honesty Movement, to name a few—in relation to the story? Is there a commonality between them that’s essential to understanding her?4. Instead of writing fiction, Ru decides to study an actual matriarchal society in an attempt to “borrow authenticity.” Do you agree with her statement that all nonfiction is “borrowed authenticity”? How does this differ from her approach to writing novels, or does it? What do you think Ru is trying to get at in her writing?5. Ru wonders if sisterhood and motherhood are “[ways] to find versions of yourself locked away in others.” Do you think that’s an accurate way to describe these relationships? Do you see any of your own sibling and/or parental relationships reflected in the story?6. The girls have each adopted a different method of coping with their father’s absence. Liv looks for comfort in other people’s families and relationships rather than her own, Ru holds onto the belief that her father really is a spy and makes it her mission to find him, and Esme has outright accused Augusta of sleeping with multiple men to satisfy her own selfish desire to become a mother. How do these assumptions shape each of them, their sense of self and responsibility? How does the reality of their father’s existence affect the very essence of who they are? Do they each seem to be on a path to healing, acceptance, and self--actualization after all?7. What is Liv’s impetus for cherry--picking husbands from the engagement pages? Do you think she’s capable of real love? Did you empathize with her by the end and, if so, what lessons do you think she needed to learn in order to become a sympathetic character?8. What were the different qualities Ru appreciated about Cliff and Teddy? Which qualities made Teddy the right man for Ru and, conversely, Cliff the wrong one?9. Esme admits to feeling the other life she could have lived with Darwin Webber, even while she was married to Doug, so strongly that it was like she was in touch with an alternate universe. Is it fair of her to blame her father for the current state of her life? Is it human nature to feel a connection to the path not taken? If you were in Esme’s shoes, would you have wanted to reconnect with Darwin and the life that could have been, or do you think that kind of wishful thinking is a recipe for disappointment?10. Nick was involved in his daughters’ lives from a removed distance, but he certainly changed the course of events for them. Would you say he’s more parental or manipulative in that way? Could you pardon him, knowing his reasons for intervening when he felt he must, or do you think he should have stayed out of things? How is his relationship and involvement different with each of the sisters and why?11. Do you think Nick is a good father? Is Augusta a good mother?12. Did Augusta do the right thing by keeping so much about Nick from their daughters? Was there anything she could or should have done differently?13. The sisters argue over whether they’re ultimately likeable versus loveable versus unlikeable. Would you agree with their conclusion that they’re unlikeable? Why or why not? Why do you think they see themselves that way?14. The concept of truth is a muddled one for the Rockwells, who’ve lied to themselves and one another for various reasons. Why is it so hard for them to be honest? Is one lie more profound, even more destructive, than the others?15. Why is it so important that Atty collect the complete set of Nancy Drew books by the end of the novel? What is the thematic significance of Nancy Drew in this story?16. The weather is such a visceral piece of the narrative, almost like a character in and of itself. How did the storms affect the way you experienced the story? What did the Rockwells lose as a result of the hurricane and, ultimately, what did they gain? Why does it sometimes take a perfect storm to finally reconcile the past? 

Editorial Reviews

“Engaging . . . [a] lively comic novel about stormy women and the spy (and other sexy types) who loved them.”—People (“The Best New Books”)   “Similar to Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down, [All of Us and Everything] rewards readers with an engrossing plot rich in witty and frank dark humor. . . . Readers will linger on the story’s web of connections. . . . Thoughtful and provoking.”—Booklist   “[Bridget] Asher’s newest title spotlights her unique voice plus an affinity for quirky, wounded characters that are both realistic and likable. . . . The subtle theme [is] how changing our stories can change us. An entertaining yet astute look at family, self, story, and connections.”—Kirkus Reviews   “Charming, original, and impeccably written, All of Us and Everything is a spirited romp through the lives of an unusual family of women—three adult sisters, their mother, one teenage daughter, and their longtime housekeeper—and the men who love them, amuse them, pursue them, and lose them. When I wasn’t laughing out loud or eagerly turning pages to see what happened next, I was marveling at Bridget Asher’s ability to tell a highly entertaining, fully engaging, and deeply insightful story.”—Cathi Hanauer, New York Times bestselling author of Gone   “While many writers strive to create a single memorable character, Bridget Asher, seemingly with the flick of her wrist, brings forth four amazing, unique, altogether brilliant characters in All of Us and Everything. The Rockwell siblings, Esme, Liv, and Ru, as well as their fascinating mother, Augusta, won me over completely, and their story twists and turns in such fascinating, hilarious, and heartfelt ways that it left me in awe of Asher’s abilities.”—Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang   “Bridget Asher’s fascinating, eccentric characters are such good company that I finished All of Us and Everything in one sitting. This is a compelling, funny, moving story about an irresistible family.”—Leah Stewart, author of The New Neighbor