Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Things New by Lynn Austin

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
All Things New
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Lynn Austin

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women--daughter, mother, and freed slave--in a riveting tale.

If you would like to read the first chapter of All Things New, go HERE.

Heidi Says . . . I’ve read a lot of books set in the time of the Civil War.  I’ve always been intrigued with that time period of history.  However, I think All Things New is the first book that I’ve ever read that is set in the AFTERMATH of the war and really, truly depicts what it must have been like for the south to rebuild and regroup. 

Seeing that time period from the eyes of Josephine, a young lady who grew up knowing nothing more than sitting around being tended to by slaves before the war, was a real a eye-opener for me.  Josephine was quick to adapt – to consider the slaves as real people, and to realize that she and her family would have to step up to the plate and learn to care for themselves.  She struggles with her relationship with God, and understanding how He could let all of this happen when she was praying that the South would win the war.

Her mother, Eugenia, on the other hand, had a much harder time adjusting to the changes.  It really made me realize how very pampered the Southern plantation owners were – I can’t imagine living a life were I had to do nothing for myself.  She thought she could come back to the plantation after the war and nothing would change.  In the end, she finally “got it”.

Lizzie, a former slave, has such mixed emotions.  How can they truly be free?  She and her husband Otis decide to stay on the plantation with their young children, but she struggles with fear and anger and a lot of different emotions which were just heartbreaking for me to read. 

The underlying cast of characters were strong and well-depicted as well.  People like the Blakes from a neighboring plantation, the “Yankee” man from the Freedman’s Bureau, Josephine’s brother Daniel, and the various former-slaves all play an important role in telling the true story of the aftermath of the war. 

I really, really loved this book and, while I hated to be done with it, I was happy with the ending.  Ms. Austin, as usual, has done an incredible job of allowing us into the hearts and heads of her characters and not being afraid to tell the not-so-pleasant details of the way things really were.  Some of it, I’ll admit, wasn’t fun to read – but it gave me a whole new understanding.  And, for that, I’m appreciative!

This book is definitely worth sharing – so I’ll be passing my copy along to my mom!

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