The stunning debut novel from sculptor and painter Annie Weatherwax, a wry and sharply observed portrait of a gritty mother and daughter, living on the edge of poverty, who find an unlikely home amid the quirky residents of small town America.
For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. The only sure thing is their love for each other. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty. When their landlord kicks them out, Rita resorts to her movie-star looks and produces carpet-installer Phil, "an instant boyfriend," who takes them in.
Before long, Ruthie convinces her mother to leave and in their battered Ford Escort, they head East in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where their luck finally takes a turn. Rita lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and Fat River becomes the first place they call home.
Peter Pam, Tiny’s transgender waitress and the novel’s voice of warmth and reason, becomes Ruthie’s closest friend. Arlene, the no-nonsense head waitress, takes Rita under her wing. The townspeople—Hank and Dotty Hanson, the elderly owners of the embattled local hardware store, and even their chatter-mouth neighbor Patti—become Ruthie and Rita’s family.
Into this quirky utopia comes smooth-talking mortgage broker Vick Ward, who entices Rita with a subprime loan. Why rent when you can own? Almost as soon as Rita buys a house their fortunes change. Faced once again with the prospect of homelessness, Rita reverts to survival mode, and the price she pays to keep them out of poverty changes their lives forever.
Accomplished visual artist Annie Weatherwax has written a stunning, heartrending first novel. Ruthie’s wry voice and razor sharp observations about American life in the twenty-first century infuse the prose with disarming honesty and humor. All We Had heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in contemporary fiction.
About the Author
Annie Weatherwax was the 2009 winner of the Robert Olen Butler Prize for Fiction and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, for years she earned a living sculpting superheroes and cartoon characters for Nickelodeon, DC Comics, Pixar, and others. She is currently a full time painter and writer. All We Had is her first novel. Learn more at AnnieWeatherwax.com.
“All We Had is a remarkable combination of the fierce and the tender, taking the reader on the journey of a mother and daughter struggling against daunting odds to find a place they can call home. It is at its core a love story, sometimes heartbreaking, but always a strong, quiet and powerful look at the human heart.” — Kate Alcott, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dressmaker and The Daring Ladies of Lowell
“A fresh voice that sculpts with words in a way that's as beautiful as it is brutal. I love this story and the hands that crafted it.” — Patricia Cornwell
“Smart and unflinchingly honest and brilliantly voiced, All We Had is a remarkably accomplished and compelling first novel. Annie Weatherwax’s other artistic persona as a visual artist has made her an instant expert at one of the most challenging but fundamental skills of a fiction writer: the ability to render the moment to moment sensual thereness of a scene. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.” — Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"Gritty and convincing.... A remarkably authentic story of folks on the skids... Weatherwax's smart style, crisp narrative, sharp dialogue, and vivid descriptions send a powerful message: there is hope hidden in despair." — Publishers Weekly
"Infuses gritty humor and poignancy into the story of the hardscrabble existence of a mother and daughter… Weatherwax's tight dialogue and short, emotionally charged scenes examine hope, the meaning of home and the unbreakable bond of love between mother and daughter.” — Kathleen Gerard
"A vivid journey into the dark side of the American Dream... alternates between black comedy and heart-breaking realism... an enjoyable read that takes an important look at economic insecurity." — Betty J. Cotter
"Part commentary on the subprime crisis past, comic novel All We Had keeps you reading for its small observations." — Leigh Newman
“The most profound insights in All We Had have to do with the potential hidden costs of ‘economic recovery’…There’s much to recommend this lovely debut novel, but the best of its virtues are these truths.” — Stacia Brown