2020 Christy Award finalist


Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family’s ignominious past. She thought she’d finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.

When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father’s scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book—a first edition Catcher in the Rye—is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she’s about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words—the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write—have more power than we imagine.



Praise & Reviews

“Alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Words Between Us is a story of love found in the written word and love found because of the written word. It is also a novel of the consequences of those words that are left unsaid. Bartels’ compelling sophomore novel (after We Hope for Better Things, 2019) will satisfy fans and new readers alike.”—Booklist

“This sweet love story from Bartels (We Hope for Better Things) unfolds over the span of 20 years in chapters that alternate between two time lines: the late 1990s . . . and the present. . . . Fans of Jenny B. Jones and Courtney Walsh will be drawn to this engaging, heartfelt story.”—Library Journal

“Erin Bartels drew me in with a unique premise and held me there with her strong storytelling and complex characters. . . . Bartels has given her readers a novel to read slowly and contemplate. It shows a true love for literature that all book-lovers will enjoy and a deeply rich storyline that will keep you engaged until long after the final page is closed.”—Life Is Story

“Bartels weaves a dual narrative, slowing bringing to light a story of young love, betrayal, and loss.”—Fine Books Magazine

The Words between Us is a deep, thought provoking story. . . . Erin Bartels created a story that dug into my heart. I couldn’t let go of the characters. Even after the last page was read, they were still stuck in my head. Their stories were that good.”—Urban Book Reviews

The Words Between Us is a story of loss and discovery. Loss of friends, loss of love, loss of family and what happens when we discover it was only ever lost because we were the ones that misplaced it. . . . It’s a unique, beautifully written tale that packs a nice emotional punch and has just enough of a puzzle to leave you guessing through the very end.”—All About Romance

“This book took me by storm. . . . Her writing style was so descriptive and lush, and I really felt like I could see the scene play out right in front of me. . . . If you want a story that will make you think, but at the same time have you swooning with its adorable moments, definitely give The Words between Us a shot.”—Bold Girl Magazine

“This is a book that revels in words. It is a truly lovely novel with mysteries and romance and deep truth.”—WTBF AM/FM, Alabama

“The Words Between Us is the second novel for Bartels, and I hope we see more of her elegant prose and meaningful stories. . . . Bartels does an excellent job of placing the twist and turns of this story at just the right moments to keep you curious.”—Englewood Review of Books

The Words between Us is a story to savor and share: a lyrical novel about the power of language and the search for salvation. A secondhand bookstore owner hiding from a legacy of scandal, tragedy, and heartbreak must unlock the secrets of the past to claim her happiness. I loved every sentence, every word.”—Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise between Us

“Erin Bartels has done it again. She’s created a story that has set up camp in my mind and now feels more like a memory, something I lived, than a piece of fiction. The added benefit is that it’s a story about books, some of the best ones ever written. If you are the kind of person who finds meaning and life in the written word, then you’ll find yourself hidden among these pages.”—Shawn Smucker, author of Light from Distant Stars

“Vividly drawn and told in expertly woven dual timelines, The Words between Us is a story about a woman who has spent years trying to escape her family’s scandals and the resilience she develops along the way. Erin Bartels’s characters are a treat: complex, dynamic, and so lifelike I half expected them to climb straight out of the pages.”—Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping

Interviews & Articles

It was such a joy to talk with Emily Humphries on her Simply Stories podcast. We covered a lot of ground, including the process of making writing a part of your life, the role of stories in the church, and how we view our neighbors. Give it a listen!

I’m over on the Life Is Story podcast talking about The Words between Us, finding the perfect title, diverse characters, what I love about independent bookstores, and more.

Visit Fresh Fiction to find out about my favorite bookstores, the books that shaped me, and how I unwind after writing emotional scenes.

Learn about how a childish thing I did as a teenager was part of the initial spark of an idea that led to the writing of The Words between Us in this article on More To Life magazine.

In this interview on the Bott Radio Network, Marty Guise and I talk about reading, regret, and reconciliation in The Words between Us.

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher was kind enough to interview me on her blog and asked me some great questions I hadn’t gotten before.

An interview with Family Fiction about The Words between Us, reading the classics, and what I hope readers gain from reading my latest.

Book Trailer