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All Matter of Things

By Susie Finkbeiner

BACK COVER: When Annie Jacobson's brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know. 

In Mike's absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike's safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family's home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined. 


1. Have you read any thing by this author before? If so, what book?

2. How did you feel about the author's use of personal letters in this novel?

3. Have you ever read a book talking about the Vietnam war before? If so, what was the title? If not, How do you think the author handled the topic in this book?

4. What did you all think of FRANK Mike's dad?

5. What did you think about Walt writing letters to Annie? Why do you think he write her?

6. What do you think about everyone's reaction to Walt writing Annie? About her going out with Annie?

7. What do you think about Uncle Bernie (who Annie worked for at the dinner) pulling her aside to talk to her about Walt and relationships in general. Why do you think he demanded she have lunch with David?

8. What did you think about Annie's Mother Gloria?

9. What did you think about Annie's two grandmothers?

10. What were some memorable, moving quotes from the book that touched your heart?

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Replies to This Discussion

1. Have you read any thing by this author before? If so, what book?

I've read all of this authors books. With each novel the author takes the reader back in time that wasn't comfortable and has the reader experience things through the eyes of her characters. These are the books I read. There was three books in this series.

2. How did you feel about the author's use of personal letters in this novel?

I liked the use of the letters. It allowed both men in Vietnam to give readers and their family a peek into what they were going through. Mike was able to tell Annie things he would never tell his mother and/or other family members.

What I DID NOT LIKE was the fact the reader had a for shadowing of MIKE and his situation. The author spent more than half the book preparing the reader and his family for him to die. I had wished Mike had come back; hurt and/or wounded bad but alive. What do you think?

3. Have you ever read a book talking about the Vietnam war before? If so, what was the title? If not, How do you think the author handled the topic in this book?

This is the first book I've read by an author trying to tackle this subject matter. I think the author showed it all through innocent Annie's POV, who didn't take a stand either way.

4. What did you all think of FRANK Mike's dad?

I felt bad for Frank and his family as he was still suffering the affects of the Korean war. There was no help and/or understanding of PTSD back then. But what I didn't understand was:

a. Why didn't Frank send money home to help his family? I know he couldn't be there for them emotionally, or physically but things were tough why didn't he send money home?

b. The first time Frank comes back was to go to his Father's funeral. Everyone is on edge. Then Frank leaves the same way he left the first time. After hurting his family that way the first time by leaving this letter to his wife why would he do it again?

"Gloria, I can't be who you need me to be, it read. I have to see if I can't walk off the war. Tell the kids I'm sorry. Frank. 

Annie says, "After that I stopped waiting for him. We all did. It was easier that way."


P.S. This is a time we discuss EVERYTHING About the book. People who haven't read the book yet are WELCOME to JOIN us and give your thoughts when you do finish the book. Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

Wow, this was the first time that I read any of the author's books but I really liked it. I have also not read a great deal about the Vietnam war, I loved the TV show China Beach, which depicted the Vietnam war  but have never seen anything about it in a novel before.  I have also seen a couple of movies about that war.

I loved the letters in the book because it added a different dimension to the book than merely reading it and it also gave a brief glimpse into what the characters were going through.

As the daughter of a Korean war vet, I really wanted to feel bad for Frank because he nor anybody else at that time did not know how to handle what he experienced. But, I hated the fact that Frank totally abandoned his family, at least have sent money to help them or contacted them on their birthdays.

I really liked Bernie - he pretended to be tough but he was really a softie. I got a kick out of how he handled different situations like the Santa Claus suit or when he got Annie to eat lunch with David.

It was a jolt to read the story and realize how innocent people were in 1967. I liked Annie's innocence. She was both innocent and tough at the same time. This was like Gloria was too. I thought the author did a good job in striking the balance between the 2 characteristics for both of these characters.

I was so glad that Annie and Walt did not get together. The only reason that he wrote to her was that he was lonely and needed some depth (although he did not realize it). I think on a deeper level, he was sorry for how he had treated her but he was pretty superficial whereas Annie's struggles had produced a great deal of depth.

Hi, Sharen; You are a avid reader and when you say you haven't seen a novel depicting the Vietnam War it's saying something.  I did think that bring the element of letters into the story made things more personal. Mike was also able to share details about the war in a way he couldn't say to anyone else. He wouldn't think of sharing these things to his sister in person. This way he could get all the gruesome stuff off his chest and then tell her to burn the letter. Grin!

I think more movies have been made of the war than novels. But, you are right, Mike was able to share his war experiences better in a letter than in person. It also made him more sympathetic to Frank. War is so horrendous and we send kids there. My dad can not talk about what he experienced in the Korean war, either; usually, he changes the subject when the Korean war comes up and I think it made him hate the war in Vietnam even more. I agree that Mike would not have dared to share his experiences in the war to Annie in person so the letter with the proviso not to share it was the way for him to get his feelings off his chest.

I agree with you about the Frank situation. Mike even mentions to Annie that he can relate to why his father came back in the condition he did. Oh, wow, thanks for sharing about your dad. The author says that her father went to Vietnam. She appreciated the information he shared to help her in writing this story.

The ladies in the group stressed that there was no help and/or they didn't understand anything about PTSD. When the Vietnam vets came home no one cheered them like the end of WWI. This was an undeclared war they kept calling a military action. No one wanted to validate it and call it a war. There were lots of people struggling trying to figure out how to do life like Gloria.

It was weird that Frank didn't step up and care for his family financially. It wasn't like Gloria has learned a trade that would support the household and allow for money to pay for child care etc. It was if his family was dead to him.

Bernie was a sweet, likeable guy for sure. Those were fun moments you described. Grin!

I am glad that Annie and Walt didn't get together too. Yes, I agree with you about Walt's motives. Grin!

Sorry I am so late to this party, but I had surgery just prior to the discussion and to top it off had to return my book to the library unfinished.  Unfortunately I had to wait a week before checking it out again even though there was no waiting list.  

This is was my first time reading this author’s prose and I was pleasantly surprised.  

Reading the personal letters added to the story for me making the characters more realistic as many have trouble or cannot share their feelings vocally.  From the very beginning when Mike announced that he had joined up, I knew it was not going to end well and it was hard for me to continue.

I was really hesitant about reading it as I come from a very small town that was hit very hard by the Vietnam war and this book was a very emotional read for me bringing out many sad memories.  Thus I have not read any books of this era till now.  Reading this book written from Annie’s POV drew me more into the story as I was her age living the same thing.  It was like I was actually in the room with her.

Over all I don’t think Frank knew how to handle things once he came back from Korea so effected by the horrors of war.  PTSD was shamed by the public back in Frank’s day.  Regardless as to what happened to the men and what they saw and had to endure they were supposed to man up and just go on with life when they came back from the horror of war until recently without any help mentally or physically.  Frank at one point in the story said he was moving around a lot.  I believe he was either living out of his truck or totally homeless and hitch hiking from place to place.  However, even once he settled not to far away, I like to believe he maybe sent money to his patents for Gloria and the kids.  Up until his father passed his Dad gave Gloria money each time he saw her, but there was never any mention as to where that money came from.  

I'm sorry to hear about your surgery. Hope that you are healing quickly! You are never too late with the on-line book club. THANK YOU for taking the time to share your heart and experiences with us. This is the first time I've read a bout about this era too!

I appreciate your insight too! You are right about the money. No one has mentioned this before. Thanks for sharing!

5. What did you think about Walt writing letters to Annie? Why do you think he write her?

Walt was in the middle of a war where nothing made any sense. It gets you reflecting on life and what you've done. He is remorseful for how he treated his young friend Annie. He wanted to say he was sorry just in case he didn't make it out of there. It was his way of making amends.

6. What do you think about everyone's reaction to Walt writing Annie? About her going out with Annie?

I think the grown ups in Annie's life saw Walt for what he was. They didn't think going to war would change him. He writes Annie, "Thanks for writing back to me. I don't receive many letters from home, believe it or not. It was nice to have my name shouted out at mail call for once. Caroline isn't one to write much. If you see her around, could you let her know I'd like a letter from her?

When you write back, would you tell me about the books you're reading? Maybe even tell me what you think of the world, politics, this war, ANYTHING.

I miss intellectual conversations. The guys I'm stationed with aren't exactly the smartest around. Yours, Walt.


Dear Walt, To be honest, I don't see Caroline very much. Even if I do, I don't know that she'd listen to me, but I'm willing to try. If nothing else, I could have my oma write you. She loves nothing more than sending letters.

Today was my grandfather's funeral and I'm not too keen to write much more. It's been an exhausting day.

Sincerely, Annie

P.S. I'm currently reading The Outsiders. It's about the conflict between poor greasers and rich kids in the same town. It's pretty good.

I love how caring she is. She knows that Walt is pumping her for information about his girlfriend yet she takes the time to write him back. It's kind of sad no one has written to him given how popular he was.

7. What do you think about Uncle Bernie (who Annie worked for at the dinner) pulling her aside to talk to her about Walt and relationships in general. Why do you think he demanded she have lunch with David?

I liked Uncle Bernie. He tried to be the father figure for Annie and her brothers. I liked how he looked out for her in the restaurant when a group of men were getting too friendly with Annie. He threw the men out not even asking for the money for the meal.

This story too place in the late 60's early seventies. I don't think it was easy to have a mix racial relationship in that small town in Michigan. I had asked my face to face book club why the uncle was pushing it. They reminded me this was war all the young men were drafted. What do you think?

8. What did you think about Annie's Mother Gloria?

Gloria was a strong woman and set out to teach her children to work hard and respect and love one another. My face to face group wondered about when Frank left the family for the first time and Gloria needed work. She want to her Dr. friend (she knew since high school) and said he needed to give her a job because, "You Owe Me!" What was that about? Our group didn't catch it. Was it ever explained? Do share if you got this!

LOOKING FORWARD to hearing from you!

Nora :o)

To be quite honest, I wondered about what he owed her, too but never figured it out.

I think that Walt wanted to apologize for not being a good friend to Annie once he became popular, and writing to her was easier than doing it face to face.  Plus I think he was lonely and needed to hear from someone with a good heart.  Regarding their going out together Annie did it as a friend only, Walt did it to make Caroline jealous.  A cat cannot change it’s stripes and the adults know this from experience, but every generation needs to learn this for themselves.

Uncle Bernie was the father figure who looked out for Annie and her brothers.  He had both Mike and Annie working for him and he guided them through their teens the best he could without being overbearing.  Discussing Walt with Annie was because he loved her as a daughter and did not want to see her get hurt.  I don’t think that Bernie actually demanded Annie into having lunch with David it was his way of giving her a little push in the direction of a man who would accept her for who she is and give her the love she deserves.  I wish the author had written an epilogue maybe 5 years later as I would have liked to know how things turned out for Annie, and also between Frank and Gloria.  Hint, hint...sequel?

Gloria whether she wanted to or not was put in a situation where for the sake of her children had to “pick herself up by her bootstraps” and make something good out of a very bad situation.  What the Doc owed her is left to the imagination of the reader, but it must have been pretty good.  I do remember him and Frank getting into an all out knock down to the death fight so maybe it had something to do with that.  Gloria and her cooking reminded me of my mother, but that is where the similarities end.  When my brothers and I were kids growing up we experienced many burnt dinners, lopsided birthday cakes beautifully decorated (mom was artistic), and food that even the dog was afraid to eat.  I loved reading about Gloria, she was my favorite character.

You are correct about Walt. I know he was lonely. I hadn't thought of the fact that he might be doing this to make his x jealous. But that makes perfect sense. Correct about the Epilogue. Grin! Yes, inquiring minds wanted to know. As far as I can tell this is a stand-alone!

Gloria was put in a hard situation for sure. Thanks for sharing about who your favorite characters were. It's always fun to hear from readings about their experiences and what nuggets they uncover in the novels we read. THANK YOU again for joining the discussion!

Nora :o)


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Created by Phred St Laurent May 27, 2010 at 11:35pm. Last updated by Phred St Laurent May 31, 2010.

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