Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Lynn Austin's All Things New ~ Reviewed

By Lynn Austin
Published by Bethany House
412 Pages

Book Cover: 

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.
Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.
Review:  Lynn Austin transports readers to the end of the Civil War through the eyes of the privileged and those of their slaves. “People from the “North” and “South” realize, “Nobody wins a war. We all lose in one way or another!”

I was thankful for a review copy of a character driven story that deeply moved me as I read about the challenges people faced in rebuilding their lives. There were a few plot surprises as well. I Loved it.

“War changes people. Priscilla said, “None of us are the same people we were.” It was impossible to walk out their new lives without God’s help, and the struggle accepting each others help no matter how hard it was to ask for it was challenging.

Josephine (plantation owners daughter) realizes this early on when she says, “I’ve lived here…my whole life and the food simply arrived at my table. I’m sorry to say I never thought much about where it came from.” She was the first one in the family to see and treat their slaves as a person. She couldn’t believe she never thought of Lizzie and her family as a person before. As a woman who was a wife and mother. It was shameful.

Lizzie and her husband Otis were seeing things differently themselves. Freedom? What did it really mean to them and their lives? The war was over but little seemed to change.

Otis asks Lizzie, “Why’re you so nervous? She replies, “This..this here is the first time I ever been off the plantation…Freedom was supposed to mean a brand-new life, a life without fear. Why was she still so afraid?”

Rules of life where changed for everyone. No one quite knew how to act and/or know what it meant to walk out freedom in their every day life. How could they leave their old life behind and make something new? What could they hope for in the future? Many of the people realized it was impossible without God’s help and wisdom.

All sides came to the realization they were powerless, and their lives were unmanageable. They needed God, his wisdom and courage to bring about change. They couldn’t take His role or become Him (God). He would have to help them make all things new! They had to surrender.

Lynn Austin crafts a novel that quickly engages readers and opens their eyes to the attitudes of the North, the South and slaves after the war ended. It was the first time I could see their struggles in a very personal way as they tried to deal with the losses and the pain the war created and how God helped them pave a way in this new scary world.

I took my time reading this novel so I wouldn’t miss a thing and I wanted to hang out with this family a little longer I could relate to them. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author it definitely won’t be the last.

I highly recommend this as a book club pick as it’s has a Gone with the Wind feel with so much to talk about. You and your group could have fun in decorating and picking food items for your special meeting. You’ll be thinking about this book and characters long after you finish the last page.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins

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