Jennifer Stempler has reached the point of utter despair in her life. Her mother died a few years ago, leaving Jennifer with no one to turn to after a failed romantic relationship. She's never been close to her father, a Hollywood producer who found a young new wife after his divorce from Jennifer's mother. So Jennifer decides to end her life with an overdose of pills. But her attempt fails, and she lands in the hospital, angry and defiant about her decision.
Enter Gabby Zuckerman, the mother of Jennifer's mother, her Nana from New York City. Gabby suffers from emphysema, but nothing will keep her away from the granddaughter who desperately needs her. Things come to a head with the doctors -- either Jennifer will be institutionalized (her father's preference), or she will go to New York with Gabby and live under a strict set of guidelines. A tentative arrangement is reached, and Gabby and Jennifer take off for the East Coast.
Jennifer is resistant, and her depression is long nurtured from a lifetime of loss and disappointment. Yet Gabby is determined to break through the walls and show Jennifer the gifts that life has to offer. Gabby tells the story of her escape from the Nazis so many years ago, in an attempt to bring a ray of hope to Jennifer's darkness: "There is a gift waiting for you each day, Jennifer. If you're willing to see it, hear it, even feel it, it's there."
All That Matters is a sweet, touching story about the power of love and family to overcome even the most difficult of circumstances. Jennifer begins as a very angry young woman, determined to end her life because she feels unloved and things appear to have no hopeful outcome. Gabby is just as motivated, but to preserve Jennifer's life rather than end it. Gabby has already lost her daughter; she doesn't want to lose her granddaughter too. The transformation of both characters is inspiring and will help the reader focus on the fact that there is always something good in every situation, all we need to do is look for it.
This emotionally charged novel will leave readers with much to think about in terms of their own lives and families. A captivating trip up the coast to Maine is beautifully described and places you right in the scene with the characters. It made me want to take a similar trip myself! Readers will laugh at Gabby's antics and cry at the depth of Jennifer's sadness. Yet in the end, an uplifting feeling of joy prevails. All That Matters is an excellent choice for book discussion groups and would also make a great gift this holiday season.