The Names They Gave Us – Emery Lord

There are a few things I know without question. I will read anything by Emery Lord. It will be beautiful. And I will end up with tears dripping down my face. Whew, what a story!


When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.


There are a few things I know without question. I will read anything by Emery Lord. It will be beautiful. And I will end up with tears dripping down my face. Whew, what a story!

This one is definitely more religious and spiritual than any of the previous ones. And it hit very close to home, too (but then again, don’t they always?). I see a lot of Lucy in myself — being kind of young and inexperienced for my age, being kind of naive at times, and loving my family fiercely. I don’t even swear! Lucy took her mother’s illness very, very hard though. I like to think that I’m stronger than that, but it’s so jarring how much I take our precious lives for granted. My mother had breast cancer when I was a teenager too, but she made it through chemo without a hitch. Thank God. The fact that I never really contemplated her mortality, that I never really broke down in tears… does that mean there’s something wrong with me? Did I just not get it? All I can say is, this story made me truly grateful for the health and good fortune of all the people I love.

Religion and loss are complementary to each other. In times of trouble, we surrender ourselves to something greater, because what else do we have if not faith? I’ve been a church camp counsellor too. I have a friend with a camp similar to Daybreak, and I know it means the world to her. There must be nothing quite like that kind of support system. But I’m so thankful at the same time that I haven’t had to experience it personally. If you think about it, that’s a blessing. I mean, there are definitely precautions you can take. When undergoing chemo, Lucy’s mom really shouldn’t be hanging around all those churchgoers. Lucy herself should probably stay back, since she’s exposed to all the germs at camp. But at the same time, can you deny people from cherishing the time they have with the people they love?

Let’s talk about Camp Daybreak. I loved how stories like Tara’s and Thuy’s (I think? Probably?) were incorporated into the bigger story of Lucy’s relationship with her mother. There were so many signs of the huge, huge secret along the way, and that’s what makes Emery Lord brilliant. I kind of saw it coming, but I totally didn’t at the same time. It’s an art, how you can make something come from first base but make it feel like it came from left-field (not sure if this baseball analogy is working). I thought it was Lucy though, not Elena. That would’ve been quite a marvel!

I also commiserate with Lucy regarding her experience with friendships. All her life, she’s had friends by circumstance, but not those ride-or-dies. And I understand that; I feel like that’s how most of my friendships operate as well. It’s easy to be well-liked by everyone, but takes effort from both sides to make something truly special. I envy the relationships Lucy was able to make with this motley crew. I envy the long-standing history the rest of them have with each other. At the same time, I know what it takes to reach that level of friendship (time, effort, compassion), and it’s saddening to think I don’t really have that in my life. I should resolve to do better and be a better friend.

As for Jones: wow, did he warm up to me. In the grand scheme of things, this relationship isn’t that important. It’s so obvious early on that Jones ends up as the main love interest, and at first I was groaning inwardly about that. I wasn’t a fan. It’s such a cliche to have that kind of summer fling, and they never truly go anywhere once summer ends. But Jones is passionate and caring and strong. Like Lucy said, it’s impossible not to fall at least a little bit in love with the guy.

My only qualm was that everything was left so open-ended. I wanted to see a father-daughter-style relationship develop between Lucy and Bryan. I expected us to see Tara go into labour, and for Lucy to be there like some crazy circle-of-life metaphor. I wanted to get a definitive resolution on Lucy’s mom’s cancer — does she make it through, or does she not? I wanted to meet Elena, gosh darn it! And I wanted to definitively learn Thuy’s checked baggage. It’s so frustrating because these are characters I don’t want to leave yet.

But at the same time, over the course of the summer, a bunch of amazing things happened: Lucy and her mother became closer than ever. Lucy questioned her faith and made it through. She figured out what she wanted to do with her life. She found someone who truly got her. She found a whole group of people who’d drop everything for her. And she built so many wonderful memories. Emery Lord has a true talent for making you nostalgic and reminiscent on all those little things: the holidays, the quiet moments (oh so relatable), and the ephemeral feelings that make life worth living. There’s nothing better.

Related Reading

  • Things I Can’t Forget – Miranda Kenneally
  • Second Chance Summer – Morgan Matson
  • Along for the Ride – Sarah Dessen

Rating: 5/5


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