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Morning was a harsh slap of reality. Mom wasn’t there to wake us up, and she wasn’t going to be . . . ever again. Last night was hot tears and shock, today was cold sick in the pit of my stomach. What were we supposed to be doing the day after the end of the world? How was I supposed to pick up and go on? I had no parents left. Were there instruction manuals for the newly orphaned?

Bitter Blessings by Christine Mehring is a “thought-provoking and heartfelt” novel.

With the tragic, unexpected death of her mother, Megan, a highschool student, tries to process the worse possible thing imaginable.

 “I’m losing my mind. This whole thing, it just can’t be happening—not like this! It’s completely mundane!” I looked at him, searching his face to see if he understood. It didn’t look like he did. “I mean, a woman is dead. My mother is dead. . .There ought to be more.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Something meaningful. Something that says that there’s a hole in the world now.”

Her world becomes reduced to her two younger sisters, her private and independent grandmother, and her best friend Adam. While one sister crawls into the painful loneliness of old family videos, the other blames herself for her mother’s death, and begins to punish herself by turning to alcohol. Megan, unable to handle, or even identify the conflicts within her family, finds her own life become increasingly more difficult.

“You shouldn’t be so frivolous with your money. Your job is hardly better than volunteer work. In fact, you should start looking for a better one.”

That was out of the blue. “Okay, Gram. I’ll see what I can do. Is there a problem with money that I should know about?”

“Your mother’s gone, Megan. That leaves you and me to keep food on the table. . . I don’t know how we’re gong to manage.”

Megan is forced to face the grown-up demands of life quickly. Unprepared, she makes mistakes, alienates the people she is closest to, and doesn’t recognize the love that waits for her. However, in the darkness of her life, Megan slowly begins to find the hope that comes to her through friends she had taken for granted, but who remained faithful. She finds peace in being forgiven, and she finds hope in uncovering a long, lost secret.

Bitter Blessings is a wonderful, curl-up-by-the-fire read. Buy two and give one as a Christmas gift.