Book Title: When We Were Worthy
Author: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Domestic Drama, Families, Southern Fiction
Pub Date: 09/12/17
A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.
When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.
At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?
My first MBW novel was her previous book, The Things We Wish Were True (pub 2016) and I adored it! Being a fellow southern belle, Marybeth’s writing feels familiar in an easygoing sense, and when I had the opportunity to meet her in Savannah later that same year, I was able to experience her warm heart and welcoming persona first hand. I’ve been hooked ever sense, and from the briefest of details that I was able to pry from her one year ago, I knew When We Were Worthy would be a special read; I just had no idea just how emotional and terrifyingly real it would feel. As a mother of young children, I’ve already begun imagining what parenting teenagers will feel like, which made this book feel so relatable and eye-opening.
I don’t want to give any plot details away, but the story is told through multiple POVs that seem mostly unrelated, then gradually begin to come together and bring us the details of what I will refer to as “The Event”. While there is much heaviness to the book’s content, it still maintained that upbeat, hopeful feeling of a small town rocked by tragedy that bands together and rises from the rubble. The stories are completely different, but it did have a similar feel to Fredrik Backman’s Beartown in the small town/sports arena. Personally, I enjoyed how this book was equal parts Adult and Young Adult Fiction. Two of the narratives are from adults and the other two are student aged, so we get a nice blend of the story and how it’s viewed overall. Anyone who has grown up in the south knows the importance of high school football on Friday nights, and this story was the perfect portrayal of it’s place in southern culture and how deeply it shapes the families closely involved with the sport.
If you, like me, are a big fan of books that turn tragedy into a beautiful opportunity for forgiveness, I think you’ll really enjoy When We Were Worthy. You can truly feel the love, sweat, and tears that went into writing this novel, not only from an author who is passionate about her stories, but a mother who dearly loves her children. A beautiful story wrapped in a gorgeous cover (amiright?), you really won’t want to miss the experience it is to read this novel. Highly recommended for the usual lovers of Lake Union books, but also those who enjoy a bit of variety and mixture of genres in their literature. As a huge fan of Whalen’s books, I can’t wait to see what she’s working on next!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here!