For readers who loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day, or The Shack.
“People walked up the front steps of the funeral home, preparing themselves to see the grieving orphaned children of the woman who passed, but what did they find instead? The youngest orphaned child was snacking on a Quarter Pounder with cheese, drinking a medium Diet Coke, and laughing in a chair with her friends.”
In this fresh, poignant novel, Always There, Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse being worlds and lifetimes apart?
Eastman’s honesty explores the tragic ending to a mother-daughter relationship, revealing the pain a motherless daughter experiences. The two vantage points allow the reader to find a connection with the mother and/or the daughter, personalizing the loss that a dying mother and grieving daughter often face. The novel portrays the truth behind the death of a loved one, while glorifying the mystery of Heaven, proving that love does not die when a person does. The channels of love are still open, going in both directions. Love goes on when life does not. The novel bridges the tragic with the comedic, giving audiences a lighter, more enjoyable, sentimental read. You will laugh while you cry, and cry while you laugh, but in the end, you’ll hug your loved ones for dear life.
An excerpt from Always There:
“I didn’t need the sympathy of people I’d never really spoken to or had any idea who they were at my mom’s calling hours and funeral, and I certainly didn’t need it now at my aunt’s. I surely did not need to hear the “Aunt Lila is finally with her sisters now” comments. People lose their senses at funerals and make the dumbest comments. I could sincerely write a book about how to act at funerals, because it really is quite easy. It’s a simple rule: Do whatever the living loved ones are doing. If they are crying and suffering, then cry and suffer with them. If they are trying to be strong, upbeat, and light-hearted, then be strong, upbeat, and light-hearted with them. Consider the grieving loved ones as the cruise directors of the SS Death and follow their lead. Whatever you do, do not try to make them sad if they are happy and happy if they are sad. Just do what they do. Seriously, how hard is that? People feel so compelled to say and do something. The only thing, and I mean the only thing, appropriate to say is, “I’m so sorry.” Since I am an old hat at this, I often throw in a “This just sucks, sucks so bad, I’m so sorry.” If I’m really close to the grieving person, then I just lay it all on the line with “Man, this fucking blows.” And believe me, death does fucking blow. At my mom’s funeral, I felt like the priest didn’t think Vaughn, Darby, and I were sad enough. When he spoke, he evidently wanted us to cry harder, more agonizingly. He actually said, “Look at these three kids, now alone, without any parents. How’re they going to feel next week on Mother’s Day, or at Thanksgiving and Christmas without their parents? What about their wedding days, who’s going to walk them down the aisle, pick out gowns with them…?” And on and on…. Like we weren’t already thinking those horrific thoughts, he took it upon his “religious” self to remind us what was looming. Yep, death fucking blows. People try to be therapists, Buddhists, priests or something helpful, when they really should just leave all of those trite comments like, “She’s in a better place” or “She’s with the Lord now” in the car before they even think about entering the funeral home. Those asinine comments just make people angry and do nothing to ease the pain. My least favorite has always been, “At least the suffering is over.” I always want to respond to people who say that with, “Really? Because my suffering isn’t, you fuckhole, so thanks a lot.” Also, people should be very careful of, “I know how you feel.” People have no idea how others feel, how others grieve, or how they suffer. It’s just absurd to think otherwise.”