Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Things New



Title:  All Things New
Author:  Lynn Austin                                                                                                                        
Pages:  426
Year:  2012
Publisher:  Bethany
     Historical novels are some of the most interesting stories to read, especially if any part or character in the book resembles, however loosely, someone who may have actually lived.  Novels can even be based on historical facts, settings, circumstances, and other information.  Perhaps authors make history so entertaining and captivating because they are making the past come alive for us more through imagination.  Do you have a particular time in history that draws you to open and read a book?  Is there a historical person that you want to envision in some particular setting, so you open the novel?  Whatever the reason for you or me to open a story that is historically based, trust me when I say that Lynn Austin has told a gripping tale in her latest work.
     What novels of Lynn Austin’s have you read recently?  Lynn has written other novels based in the Civil War timeframe such as Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, and A Light to My Path.  Characters and events in All Things New come from these other stories.  Can you read All Things New without reading the others?  Certainly you can, and you will thoroughly enjoy it.  For me, I am glad I read the other books as it made this story more enriching.  Whether you read Austin’s latest with having read the aforementioned novels or not, I guarantee it is masterpiece!
     The one thing that is different from the earlier novels mentioned is that this one is placed during a period of history we call the Reconstruction.  There are many nonfiction as well as fiction publications referencing the Reconstruction.  Other media such as movies and audio books portray a viewpoint, facts or simply a story placed in this timeframe.  What can you recall about the Reconstruction Era?
     All Things New brings to the forefront the lives shattered in the South after the war was over.  The novel in no way portrays a particular viewpoint of the war; it is a story of lives seeking to move forward.  There is a widow who had to flee her plantation shortly before the end of the war.  Her daughters are with her, and neither Mary nor Josephine has been married.  The family lost a husband and a son in the war, with no knowledge of the surviving son’s whereabouts.  Eugenia is filled with sorrow, worry, and wondering how she is going to care for her remaining family members now.  Her faith, courage, and the unwanted change the war has brought is what keep her slowly moving forward.  Eugenia finds that it is more than lifestyles the war changed; it is thoughts and emotions.  Her daughters are different too with one destined to go her own way and the other can’t see being anyone else besides a southern belle.
     Husbands and sons have returned home to the task of providing without money, slaves, as well as broken hearts and bodies.  Some take their anger to the Lord and wrestle it out each day.  Others seek to get back the life they once had even if it means violence.  How can these once rich landowners now learn to ask for help from those they once commanded?  Can they ever envision life without the hate, violence, and death that occur at home almost daily just like when they were at war?  It takes Daniel, Captain Harrison, and Alexander down paths within their hearts to find out if faith, forgiveness, and courage are still intact.  The face of the enemy has changed now.  How can these men fight to live every day to rebuild their lives when that is the enemy they must fight?  Was it easier for them to fight when the enemy had a face?  How can they now change from wartime tactics to survival tactics?
     How are Lizzy, Otis, Saul, Clara, and the children, who are now free slaves, along with many others going to live each day?  They have been so used to being told what to do and knowing the ritual day in and day out without change they don’t how to function now.  They knew their “place” in society and the consequences of not fulfilling the overseers’ demands.  Each day now they must learn to view themselves differently even when other characters in the story cannot, will not or need time to adjust their views too.  Now they have choices, but what really are these choices?  What is the cost to dream and dare and even hope?
     All Things New is an amazing and heartfelt story told with differing views of new lives now that the war is over.  The aspect of losing faith, having faith or even questioning God is handled even as we today have those same feelings, thoughts, and questions about suffering.  The answer to the question about suffering in connection with a loving God, I think is handled brilliantly by this author.  Am I going to tell you what she wrote?  No.  I really ask that if this is the genre you love to read, then do so.  As you read, there might be times you find yourself seeking some answers too.
     My rating is 5 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/ .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457
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