Book Review: An Absence So Great ** WIN A FREE COPY**

Title: An Absence So Great

Author: Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher’s Synopsis: Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.

Oh, my word.  I’ve loved Jane Kirkpatrick’s books since I read All Together In One Place.  GREAT book.  This is another amazing story.  Jane Kirkpatrick has a beautiful ability to take a true story and fictionalize it.  She writes about real people with real problems and weaknesses.  It seems as though she’s drawn to independent women who make unusual choices in their lives, and An Absence So Great is no different.

The book begins with a photograph, a slight vignette about why that picture was taken, the story surrounding it, and it seems to set the tone for the next chapter/section.  The heroine, Jessie, is torn between wanting what is wrong to desire and knowing that her heart desires it anyway.  I love how each person in the book is shown with all their faults, strengths, weaknesses, and glory moments.  You pity Mrs. Baur, despise her, and see how similar she is to her husband… even though she sees herself so far above him.  Jessie is so strong and fiercely independent.  Her parents see her as rejecting their upbringing, but really, she makes decisions, almost every chapter, that show how committed she is to the same values.

Sin isn’t glorified in this book, but neither is it preached about.  It’s confronted, for what it is, and the reader is left to determine where it fits in the scheme of Scripture.  It takes talent to do that without leaving the reader with the impression that the author condones it.

On the negative scale, there were places the story truly stalled.  I had to go back and reread sections to understand where she was trying to take the story.  It certainly isn’t a story killer, but it was frustrating.

Do I recommend it?  Without question.  I love reading these fictionalized true stories by Ms. Kirkpatrick. I feel obligated to point out that things happen in this book that aren’t what we’d always like to see in Christian fiction.  Without giving away the plot, things that I believe are wrong and very damaging to families happen as a matter of course.  However, this is biographical fiction.  This is the actual story of Ms. Kirkpatrick’s grandmother and her life.  She can only write what happened in that case.  She can’t whitewash what happened to make it fit into the neat boxes that Christian fiction usually confines their heroes and heroines in.

I’d like to thank Water Brook for providing me with this copy to review.  You can win this copy by posting a comment.  Please tell me how old your favorite picture is!

And, as always, please be sure to read my Giveaways disclaimer if you haven’t read it in the past or as a refresher!

Book Review: A Gathering of Finches *WIN COPY*

Title: A Gathering of Finches

Author: Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher’s Synopsis: Based on historical characters and events, A Gathering of Finches tells the story of a turn-of-the-century Oregon coastal couple and the consequences of their choices, as seen through the eyes of the wife, her sister, and her Indian maid. Along the way, the reader will discover reasons to trust that money and possessions can’t buy happiness or forgiveness, nor permit us to escape the consequences of our choices. The story emphasizes the message that real meaning is found in the relationships we nurture and in living our lives in obedience to God.

Wow.  Where do I begin.  I didn’t know how I’d like the book when it arrived.  It looked interesting, but because of the unusual beginning, I expected to love or hate it.  Instead, I developed a love/hate relationship with the main character Cassie.  She has all of the spunk and vivacity of an amazing main character, and yet she’s stubborn, irascible, and so very lost– seeking that which will never fulfil her.  I found myself wanting to scream at her in nearly every chapter, “You’re making your own misery, woman!”

The most amazing part of this story is that it is a fictionalized true story.  Cassie Stearns Simpson was a real woman.  This larger-than-life character was real and did many of the very things written about in this book.  I found it difficult to read the story and I’ll give away the book if I’m not careful.  Suffice it to say, she made many terrible and selfish choices that affected her life until the day she died.  Her life was dedicated to “doing her own thing” and without the help or sanction of the Lord.

The author leaves us with the impression that near the end of her life she finally surrendered to the Lord (the book is kind of a fictionalized biography so it starts at the birth of her adulthood and carries you through to her death).  I like how the author was careful to leave it as an impression and a hope rather than tell the reader what they might want to hear or leave us with the despair of a life wasted. She balanced Christian hope with probability and left us trusting that the Lord alone knows and He cares far more than we ever could.

It wasn’t an easy read.  It wasn’t a happy story, and yet it wasn’t morose.  It was real.  In this age of an almost insatiable thirst for realness… reality… this book gives it all with a healthy reminder that just because something is real, doesn’t mean it is right.

I never thought I’d read a book that so thoroughly dealt with the topics depicted in this story and not feel sullied or tainted by them, but Mrs. Kirkpatrick managed to do it with a sincerity that only an excellent writer can manage.  Five stars on this one.  I can’t recommend it enough, however,  if you’re looking for fluff… keep on looking.

Giving this book away.  I have drawings to do and ship for already so I’m making this one short.  You’ve got until 9:00 p.m. PST Sunday so that I can ship everything waiting to go out on Monday.