Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review of "All Things New" by Lynn Austin

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Summary from Bethany House: The war is over. The South has lost.

Josephine Weatherly struggles to pick up the pieces of her life when her family returns to their Virginia plantation. But the realities of life after the war cannot be denied: her home and land are but a shell of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. 

Her life of privilege, a long-ago dream.

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. 

Can hope--and a battered faith in God--survive amid the devastation?

Review: I was first introduced to Lynn Austin's work several years ago when I read "Candle in the Darkness."  I was impressed by her portrayal of the Civil War era and the depth of Austin's writing.  When I picked up "All Things New," I wondered how it would compare to the "Refiner's Fire" series.  Although the basis of the setting is the same, "All Things New" is original and absorbing.

Austin has a talent for relaying stories from various perspectives and layering them into one cohesive novel. Josephine, Eugenia, and Lizzie each bring unique experiences and backgrounds to "All Things New," and I enjoyed each of them.  Austin keeps the story engaging by alternating the focus of each chapter to one of the three women. Change and fear are common elements in the lives of Jo, Eugenia, and Lizzie as they attempt to rebuild their lives following the Civil War. Jospehine and her mother, Eugenia, find themselves nearly destitute and constrained by pre-war expectations. Meanwhile, as a former slave, Lizzie is battling the dream of freedom and prejudices of Southern society. Each character steadily grows and develops as the novel progresses.  The intertwining of their lives and their reactions to challenges create a multi-dimensional plot.

The primary and secondary characters have faced four years of devastating war and now face a vastly altered lifestyle.  As a result, emotions are strong and complex. Fear, love, faith, prejudice, hatred, forgiveness, bitterness, self-pity, hope, and healing are among the topics addressed in the novel.  Austin incorporates a range of riveting moments in "All Things New."  Some are emotional and introspective, others are action-oriented; they are all compelling.  Lynn Austin has once again written a well-developed, must-read novel with poignant themes.

I received a complimentary copy of  from Netgalley, courtesy of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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