Inspired by the engaging stories told through her grandmother’s photographs taken at the turn of the century, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick provides a portrait of the tension between darkness and light in the soul of a young woman pursuing her professional dreams.
Despite growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is still 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 ill with mercury poisoning.
Jessie gains footing on her dream to one day own her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep those painful memories from seeping into her heart, and the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.
If I am being totally honest, I am not quite finished with this book yet. I am about 2/3 of the way done (but as many of you know, we have been plagued by sickness and injury for the last month+, and I was wrapping up the Bible in 90 Days challenge- a mama can only do so much!). So, this review will be based on what I have read so far.
Generally, I am a fan of Jane Kirkpatrick's work. I think that she is very well researched for her historical fiction, and I maintain that perspective for this book. However, I haven't been as captivated by this story as I had hoped. While I enjoy the history aspects of the book and the vintage photography, it has felt very slow and sad. The characters are tremendously discontent and although they make mentions of seeking Godly council and attending revivals, their hearts are running far from the Lord (including an affair with a married man).
I also found myself annoyed with the main character's bent on female independence. I know that may sound strange, but I feel like we are so swamped with feminism these days as I attempt to make the fight to be a homeschooling homemaker who is proud to be just that, I get tired of reading things that make it sound like that role is unfulfilling and not enough.
That is just my two cents. I do plan to continue reading the book but will probably not go back and read the first in the series or anymore to come, unless the characters have a complete change of heart and attitude.
If you would like to purchase a copy of An Absence So Great you can visit Random House here.
**UPDATE** (and possibly a spoiler alert- read with caution!) Alright- now that I have finished the book I wanted to come back and add a couple of comments to my review. First of all, I want to say that I wish I had realized before the end of the book that it was based on a true story, not just based in accurate historical context.
This greatly changed my perspective of Jessie Gaebele's life and choices. I guess I had much greater sympathy with the choices she had made and the situations she was in once I knew that she was a real person and this is what she actually went through in her life. My compassion for her circumstances (especially that of her relationship with Fred) went far beyond what I expected- after all, I am a second wife myself. I wish that all of this had been more openly addressed at the beginning of the book since it so greatly altered my view of the book and I feel that I would have enjoyed it much more. I commend Jane Kirkpatrick for the way that she loving researched her own family and used the facts and anecdotes she had to weave such an intricate and delicate story.
Please note that this book was supplied by the publisher for honest review.