Title: All I Love and Know
Author: Judith Frank
No. of Pages: 432
Genre: Literary Fiction
Origins: William Morrow
Release Date: 15 July 2014
Bottom Line: Beautiful
“For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.
The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?
The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment—or love?”
Thoughts: There is so much about All I Love and Know. It is not just a story about a gay couple becoming parents. It is not just about a Jew and a Christian couple trying to reconcile their differences. It is not just about the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It is not even solely about the loss of a beloved brother and the gap that leaves in a family. It is an amalgam of all of these scenarios and more. To separate out the story into its parts means to lose other key elements of Matt and Daniel’s relationship, to trivialize the various hardships of the characters, and to simplify a scenario that is anything but simple. One must take the good with the bad, the controversial topics with the safe, and look upon Daniel’s and Matt’s story as the sum of its parts.
The sum of All I Love and Know is a complex, eye-opening story about the issues gay couples face as couples and parents, the ongoing struggles for acceptance, and the compromises they must make to achieve a semblance of normalcy in a world not quite ready to accept them with open arms. More importantly, it is a story of grief and love. The loss of his twin leaves Daniel reeling in unimaginable ways that have deep-seated consequences for their future, just as Matt’s ambiguous role within the family leaves him struggling to find an acceptable balance between his own grief and his support of Daniel and his loved ones. It is a fascinating dichotomy, one that threatens to tear them apart rather than bring them together as parenthood should.
Daniel and Matt are an adorable couple, but they are also very real. Each is highly flawed, opinionated, unwilling to compromise, and completely lost in the new roles into which they are thrust. There is a beautiful gentleness to them both which endears them to readers even when their behavior is questionable. While they are without doubt the main characters of the story, there is an aspect of the underdog about them both, as if to say that even though they have come so far and overcome so many obstacles to obtain happiness together, the universe is not quite done stacking the deck against them. It is as if someone or something wants them to fall apart as a couple rather than live happily ever after. Their battle against these unknown factors is what makes the story so poignant.
All I Love and Know is not an easy novel to read. The frank nature of Matt and Daniel’s life together may cause conservative readers to squirm. Also, Ms. Frank does not shy away from controversial topics or sharing her strong opinions about such topics through her characters. However, in so doing, she forces her readers to learn more about a certain topic, to form an opinion, and to become actively engaged in the story. One can read and love ALL I LOVE AND KNOW without having to agree with Ms. Frank’s political statements because her ultimate goal is not to win people to her side but to inform. It is a crucial distinction that still requires on open mind and open heart while reading.
For all of its controversy, All I Love and Know is a simple and beautiful story at its core. Such emotions as grief and love transcend lifestyles and religions, something she tries to repeatedly emphasize. Matt and Daniel and their experiences together and apart in Jerusalem and the United States break down barriers and stereotypes and put the human back into humanity. It is a stunning, simple story that allows readers to ignore the intricacies of the world and focus on the quintessential core values – love and respect.