#BookReview: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly #stephlvsbooks


Book Title and Author: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly
Publication Date and Publisher: July 9, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pages: 304 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 28, 2019 (e-arc)
Goodreads Review

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the writing chops of Ian McEwan and the story-craft of Lisa Wingate, Karen Kelly weaves a shattering debut about two intertwined families and the secrets that they buried during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA.

A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed.

Inspired by the true titans of the steel-boom era, Bethlehem is a story of temptation and regret, a story of secrets and the cost of keeping them, a story of forgiveness. It is the story of two complex women—thrown together in the name of family—who, in coming to understand each other, come finally to understand themselves.

My Thoughts:

This family saga was a 3/5 star read for me, so I’m going to do things a little differently and list what worked and what didn’t:


– Isn’t that cover just gorgeous? I absolutely love the cover and honestly chose to read this for the cover before reading the synopsis

-Kelly is an eloquent writer and paints a vivid picture of the time periods, the 1920s and 1960s, since the story is told in dual timelines

-She really excels at her characterization of Susannah, or “Sassy” as she’s called. I felt like I understood Sassy and completely empathized with her in the book.

-The women in the book: Susannah, Helen, Joanna, Doe are wonderful, strong, albeit flawed, female characters. I found their relationships and friendships to be a very engaging part of the novel.

-The second half is the best part of the book and if you can hang in that long to read it, then you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful story of love, family, forgiveness, and healing.


-The novel is more women’s fiction than anything; it’s definitely not the historical fiction I was expecting.

– The first 50% of the novel is extremely slow, and I considered DNFing but as I said above, if you can get past this point, it’s a beautiful story.

-The character of Joanna in the 1960s is underdeveloped and I thought unnecessary to the storyline. Sassy is definitely the focal point of the novel.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read. I didn’t love it as I had hoped and like some of my Traveling Sisters who read it with me did, but I enjoyed it and the discussions we had! I encourage you to check out other reviews on Goodreads since I might be an outlier for this one!

Is Bethlehem on your TBR or have you read it? I’d love to know if you have and what you thought!

~A Traveling Sisters read; thanks, ladies for the wonderful discussion about this one!~

**Thank you, NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. All opinions are my own.**

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15 thoughts on “#BookReview: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly #stephlvsbooks

  1. I enjoyed the way you reviewed this one Stephanie. I’ve seen mixed reviews, but sounds like the second half was worth it! Fabulous review as always! ❤

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    1. Thanks, Holly! I hate writing negative anything and didn’t know what to say, so I thought pro/con was the best way to go-I’m a notorious list maker like Nina Hill, so she actually inspired me, haha. The second half was, especially the last 20% and I just wish it all had been that way. Thank you! ♥

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer; I did love the last part, so it did payoff there. I wasn’t sure how to write this at first but this seemed to work the best. Thanks, you too! xoxo

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    1. Oh good, I’m glad it wasn’t just me, Mackey! I really did too. I felt like Joanna was just used as a plot device to drive Sassy’s story and as a reader, that disappointed me. As a creative writing teacher, I felt it was just lazy writing. I felt like so much more could have been done with the book if the focus had been on Sassy.


    1. Oh, me too, Marialyce! It’s a pet peeve! I read it with the Traveling Sisters and was the only one not to give it 4 stars, so I was the outlier but we all agreed it was so, so slow in the 1st half. It was so slow, that I would have DNFd (I have DNFd 4 books in 2 years) if I wasn’t promised it got better in the 2nd half, that’s how slow it is. So I don’t know if that helps with your conflict. If it had been written throughout the way it was the last 20%, it would have been a 5 star read.


  2. I’m catching up on your awesome reviews! It is hard when you don’t connect with a book but the pro/con was an excellent idea. I’ve had this one staring at me for quite a while but haven’t gotten to it yet. Hopefully one day 🙂
    I hope you are doing well and hope you have a fantastic weekend!! xoxox ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dee! Sorry-I was on vacation and am catching up on my comments! It is and I tried to be as fair with this one as I could. I think you will like it more than I did. I read it with the Traveling Sisters and everyone else gave it 4 stars, so I’m the outlier although we all agreed it was way too slow in the beginning. Thank you, you too! 🙂 ♥

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