Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review: All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack

Heidi Reads... All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


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?

My Review

I knew nothing about Harriet Beecher Stowe before I read this book, although the name was familiar. It was fascinating to learn about who the real woman was- most known for authoring Uncle Tom's Cabin, while also enjoying a fictionalized account of a portion of her early married life. (In the afterword the author tells chapter by chapter what is based off research, accounts, and letters, which I appreciated). I had many feelings while reading this book! The author does a skillful job of showing the perspective of both Harriet and her new husband Calvin, and making the reader sympathetic to both sides. It made me remember the first year of my marriage and the transition from being centered on one's self to being required to care for another's desires as well. Harriet's circumstance is more extreme of course, with the role of a wife still strongly traditional, not being raised to keep house but rather pursue intellectual edification, and becoming pregnant quickly and giving birth. Although they love each other, Harriet and Calvin are opposite in nature and the frustrations that build ebb and flow until a breaking point is reached (which was surprisingly emotional for me and I had to wipe away a few tears). I loved Harriet's strong desire to keep a hold of herself and continue what she and many viewed as her God-given talent and purpose of writing, especially to persuade her readers to a new opinion or viewpoint. Her struggles with keeping a balance in her life are all too real, and the pressure from several people whose opinion she values add to her burden. It shows how important it is for a couple to take each other into consideration and be compassionate while still feeling heard and respected. Sometimes it seems impossible, but as Harriet and Calvin each turn to God in prayer their hearts are softened and the answers that they seek begin to come, along with the blessing of peace. I loved that this story was based on a real woman who had a major influence on our country's history, and it showed that she like so many struggled with, learned to manage, and found joy in the balance of self and home.

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

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