With her first book, Mistaken, Karen Barnett moved close to the top 10 of my favorite authors. With this book she has firmly established her position there. I have found her books to be thought-provoking in their historic settings, causing me to become more interested in the time periods she is writing about. I liken her depth of setting to two other favorites, Jane Kirkpatrick and Lisa T. Bergren.
Out of the Ruins introduces us to Abby Fischer and her family at a critical point in time. Abby's sister has cancer and the family has chosen to travel to San Francisco to put the young woman into the hands of her doctor cousin and his assistant, who are experimenting with radiation as a treatment for cancer.
I love the development of the relationships in this book, both among the major characters, and also the little side stories such as Abby meeting a group of Chinese girls and the missionary who provided for the girls. I look forward to Book 2 in this series!
From the optimism of medical breakthroughs to the tragedy of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, Out of the Ruins immerses the reader in the hopes and fears of unforgettable turn-of-the-century characters.
Abby Fischer needs a miracle. Her sister Cecelia doesn't have long to live but an experimental treatment with the new X-Ray machine might be the answer. The quest to save Cecelia's life will push Abby into the path of Dr. Robert King and into the middle of one of the greatest disasters of California history.
Fast-paced action and meticulous research make this book shine.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.)
I've just finished reading Out of the Ruins, the first book in Karen Barnett's series, The Golden Gate Chronicles. Having enjoyed her first novel, Mistaken so much, I was eager to read more of her work. And I was not disappointed!
Whereas the author's first novel struck me as more of a romantic suspense, Out of the Ruins tends more toward historical romance. If you like history, you'll be fascinated, witnessing 1905-06 San Franciscoâ€”the west coast's brightest starâ€” fall to ruin. The ingenuity and tenacity of the survivors made me wish I'd been born in that day.
Laura, the main character, walks a very bumpy road with God. Her sister dies, leaving Laura to work her way through the stages of grief. She hangs on to her anger, holding it up as a shield against God's love. She'd prayed desperately for her sister's healing. How could He betray her? Many of us have questionedâ€”or even rejectedâ€”God's answer to our prayers.
This novel addresses the steady path to healing as Laura discovers her own inner strength, blazing a trail back to trust and love, and ultimately, her faith in God. The author's crisp writing make this a journey you don't want to miss.
It is 1905 San Jose, California, and Abigail Fischer's sister, Cecelia, is dying of leukaemia when their doctor cousin offers the opportunity to try an experimental treatmentâ€”X-rays. The family moves to San Francisco to support Cecelia during her treatment, which cousin Gerard leaves largely to his partner, Dr Robert King. Robert is attracted to Abigail, but faces the ethical issue of dating the relative of a patient, a patient who is also the beloved relation of his friend and partner.
I very much enjoyed Karen Barnett's debut novel, Mistaken, and the first portion of Out of the Ruins is as good, if not better. It has the same excellent attention to historical detail, robust plot, authentic characters and addresses one of the core 'problems' of the Christian faith: why does God allow His people to suffer? This is Abby's central conflict:
â€˜"If You take her away, I'll never speak to You again."'
The historical context, such as the doctors testing the X-rays on themselves, was fascinatingâ€”particularly given what we now know about the dangers of excessive doses of radiation. The research around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was also excellent, as were the descriptions of the efforts to contain the resulting fires.
However, I thought Out of the Ruins wasn't as good as Mistaken, because the story is less cohesive. At first, it's the story of Cecelia's illness and treatment, then it turns into a story of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Both stories have merit, but they don't necessarily hold together properly, partly because there is a gap of several months between the two sections.
It felt as though a lot of the action around the earthquake was simply to display the situation, as there was little character development from Abigail during this section, and even less from Robert. I think Into the Whirlwind (Elizabeth Camden's story set amidst the 1871 Chicago fire) did a much better job of integrating the character development into the disaster plot.
The story takes another segue in the aftermath of the earthquake, when Abby is given the diary of a great aunt and begins to read it. Abby and Mae share some similar experiences, and it's obvious the diary is going to be instrumental in bringing Abby back to God after her earlier declaration that she's never going to talk to Him again. It's a little convenient, bordering on contrived. We believe God heals, yet also have to acknowledge that not everyone who prays for healing experiences release from their symptoms. Why not? It's a hard question, one that Out of the Ruins skirts around but, in my view, fails to adequately address.
This is the first of a new series, The Golden Gate Chronicles. Will I read the next book? Yes, because I can see the original plot and solid writing that made Mistaken such an outstanding debut. And the earthquake has happened now, so hopefully future books in the series will focus on building strong characters in the unpredictable aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The writing was excellent, the characters showed potential and the plot had the potential to be fascinating, but overall, it just didn't deliver for me.
Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
This first book in the Golden Gate Chronicles is set in San Francisco in 1905. It is a time when horse and buggy via for the road with cars and the telephone is invading homes. Medical science has made strides, but is still limited in treatment options for certain health issues.
Abby Fischer has no friends other than her sister Cecelia. They share a very close sisterly bond. Abby is shy and would rather work with plants and trees than be around people. Abby makes a bargain with God, one of those "If you'll do this, then I'll do this" type bargains. Abby pins all her hope on Dr. Robert King, putting him on a pedestal. However, things do not work out the way Abby thinks they should so she stops praying to God, stops going to church and stews in her anger toward Him. She lets the anger take root and turn to bitterness. She is unhappy and miserable by her own choice, even though she thinks God at fault. She keeps Robert at a distance, blaming him for her unhappiness.
Robert King believes in God, but puts his prayer life and faith on the shelf during the week, taking it out only on Sunday at church. The remainder of the week he puts his faith in science. Then, he meets Abby and longs to be her knight in shining armor. Only the task before him is beyond human capability and he fails Abby. He has come to love her, but she wants nothing to do with him.
Disaster strikes soon after in the form of an earthquake with subsequent raging fires that destroy much if not more than the quake. Through the two days of homelessness, danger, hunger, separation and loneliness Abby and Robert each discover they can't fix things on their own. They are only human and have limits. Will they turn to the One who is limitless in their time of suffering and great need?
I thought the author did a great job of describing the devastation and turmoil after the earthquake. I felt like I was right there on the scene. My favorite character was Aunt Mae. Her words of wisdom were from the heart of her own experiences. I also liked the addition of the Chinese element in the story and hope that will be explored more in the next book in the series, which I plan to read. I think this is a good beginning to an interesting series.