The Former Things Are Passed Away .. All Things New: learning to let go
February 17, 2016
Lynn Austin is one of my favorite authors. I have read many of her books, and enjoyed most of them. All Things New is a work of historical fiction set near Richmond, Virginia at the end of the Civil War. It is very well written. The author doesn't tell what, if any, of the story is based on fact or actual characters.
I struggled with several characters in the book to the point where I'd like to strangle them. The characters are fro the most part believable, but few are likable. My favorite is Otis. I also like Jo and Alexander.
The details in the book were fantastic, both in character description and the physical surroundings. The author does a great job of painting the scene. And there's plenty of plot and antagonism in the story (no spoilers). It kept this reader turning pages. It was hard to put down!
The best part of the story is the parallel rekindling of faith in God and a willingness to take one's burdens to God in prayer, by two of the main characters. The dialogue which encouraged this spiritual growth, both verbal and written, and internal thoughts, was cleverly woven into the story, not tacked on.
There's a great deal of depth in the issues of this book, which are related to the issues of the Civil War. There's much food for thought, and discussion, if the reader is so inclined. This would be an excellent read for anyone studying philosophy of race or sociology of social status.
My rating: five stars
I highly recommend this squeaky clean historical story with a bit of romance woven throughout to any reader who enjoys a good read about courage and faith in difficult circumstances, real or fictionalized.
As Lynn Austin is one of my favorite writers I was thrilled to get another book from her. The story is interesting and easy to read but not as deep as some other Lynn Austin books. Some parts were pretty much predictable which is the reason I didn't give 5 stars. I'm not from the US and I learned a lot about the civil war and the big differences that existed between north and south. History became more personal for me through the characters Lynn Austin describes.
All things new is set in post -civil war Virginia and is the story of how God's grace and forgiveness can heal the deepest of wounds.
Josephine Weatherly, is oldest daughter and has survived the toughest four years of her young life. With the loss of her father and oldest brother Samuel, she knows that it will take all of her family working together if they are to survive and she is willing to break all the rules and traditions of her mother's to make that happen. In an unforeseen event her world is turned upside down when she meets an ex-yankee soldier on her property and as their friendship develops, he begins to challenge her entire way of thinking, from the traditions of the south to her belief in God.
Eugenia Weatherly is stuck in the past. She longs for her family and the days of where there was only parties and a life of ease. She has almost convinced herself that things could be that way again. But soon she realizes that her son Daniel does not understand what it takes to run a plantation and she begin to understand that she must take control if her family is to survive.
Lizzy is an ex-slave who while continuing to work at the White Oak plantation, begins to explore her new freedom. Encouraged by her husband to take baby steps, Lizzy enjoys watching her children being able to go to school and to take a break from her work when she decides. In many ways Lizzy was my favorite character in this book.
I found it interesting that all three of these women found freedom and eventually the courage to discover the life that God wants for them.
While the biggest part of the story revolves around these three women, there is a great number of secondary characters that where just as interesting. Otis, Lizzy's husband, is such a man of faith. He believes and trust in the Lord to do what's in the best interest of his family even when things do not seem to be going well. Daniel Weatherly and Harrison Blake, two confederate soldiers who return home, but not the same men as when they left. While injured in different ways both men carry deep hatred and bitterness. Alexander Chandler a Yankee soldier who at the Holy Spirits prompting comes to Virginia to try to help its people rebuild. As his friendship with Josephine grows, Alexander begins to find a peace in his spirit, something that he has not felt in four years.
It is a rare thing that I can find a book that involves such a huge cast of characters that keep me interested throughout an entire book. I thought it was very interesting the way the author ended the book. In some ways it left it open for additional stories, and in other ways it closed the pages. Overall a truly impressive book.
"All Things New" by Lynn Austin is set in post-Civil War-era Virginia and focuses on the months immediately following the end of the war. The Confederacy has just lost the war, the citizens are facing poverty and attempting to pick up the pieces of shattered lives, and deep prejudices continue to come to light.
Josephine Weatherly lost her father and one older brother in the war. Her family may lose their plantation as well with limited resources and no real ability to bring in a cotton crop. Josephine begins to see that life needs to revolve around basic survival, not trying to keep up a facade of life as it was before the war. Her mother, Eugenia, is appalled at the idea of her daughter expressing interesting in tending a garden, sewing, and learning to cook, and she tries to forbid Josephine from having anything to do with "manual labor".
Lizzie is a freed slave who continues to live at White Oak plantation with her family after the war, primarily due to the promise of her children receiving an education thanks to the newly established Freedman's Bureau, run by a former Yankee soldier named Alexander Chandler. Lizzie and her family embrace their newfound freedom, but begin to experience a taste of the extreme difficulties that the freed slaves will face in this new phase of life.
This was a wonderful book that takes a look at different aspects of life during Reconstruction from three different perspectives. I loved how Austin showed the effects of war, bitterness, and hatred, and how the remedy is found in God's healing love and forgiveness. The characters were well-developed and there was just enough suspense to keep the reader engaged to the end. Overall, a good fictional read that focuses on an important and challenging part of American history.
(I've received this complimentary book from Bethany House Publishers through the Book Blogger program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)
As usual, I liked the characters. Civil War era also one of my favorites. Although this was not quite as deep as this author usually goes with suspense, her writing is a great read. I look forward to her next book.