Monday, September 25, 2017
Book Review: All That Makes Life Bright
Josi Kilpack has written a fictionalized version of Harriet Beecher Stowe's life as a newly married woman in her new book, All That Makes Life Bright. Though the book begins in the early 1800s, some of the issues Harriet faces regarding her writing, her call to the social issues of her day, and juggling that with being a wife and mother are so poignant and pertinent to modern-day women.
The story opens with Harriet preparing for her wedding to Calvin Stowe. He's been widowed and Harriet felt like she wouldn't have the opportunity to marry, but when they connect, she feels strongly that she should marry him. Her sister, Catharine, voices her concern that Harriet will lose herself and all the good she can do with her God-given talents, if she marries and becomes a mother. Harriet assures her that Calvin supports her writing and she will be able to continue developing herself and rearing a family.
From there on, that conversation rings in the reader's head as Harriet struggles in her marriage, and she tries to to put that assertion to the test. Calvin still misses his first wife, he's away when Harriet first discovers she's pregnant, and their expectations of the other don't seem to align in very many ways. And that's just the beginning! Everything is compounded when her views on slavery and social issues start to become more pointed. Because the author did such a wonderful job of making Harriet so relatable, readers will care about her and her marriage and wonder how she will ever make this work. The setting and time period is very well done and though I had read a biography of Harriet years ago, this book really makes her come alive and what led her to write, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Compared to the other books in the Proper Romance line, this isn't a romance of first love, or even second chance love in a familiar sense, this is more of finding a way to keep the romance alive in marriage while facing unexpected and hard realities in life. It was real and sometimes raw and absolutely riveting.
Here's the back copy:
When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet’s sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.
Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed—being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman’s life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband’s heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.
Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.
Can their love endure, especially after “I do”? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?
You can download your copy here