All Things New
Bethany House, 2012
Normally, the Reconstruction period is not my favorite (perhaps because I had a particularly Reconstruction-obsessed prof for that course), but All Things New is a take on things that I really appreciated. Beginning just as the Civil War is ending, and Richmond is falling, we see the toll the War has taken on the Weatherly family. This dramatic shift in fortune is made even clearer when they return to their beloved home plantation, and struggle to make ends meet in this new way of living.
What I really liked about Austin's handling of a less-than-prefered time period is that in All Things New, she really is focusing on the new beginnings. How hard it must have been to know only one way of life -- for both the white plantation owners and their newly-freed slaves -- and suddenly have that lifestyle end. Just like that. The adjustment process would have been even more difficult when compounded with the huge losses people suffered during the Civil War. These very real struggles are realistically portrayed, as well as the inner struggles of the main characters. Getting to watch Josephine sort through all her own prejudices and mindsets, dealing with her griefs any way she can, and fighting for the right to recover and start again in her own way -- her story is real, and at times raw. She's human, very human. And that same humanness is seen in the other characters as well: Austin has a wonderfully created cast.
All in all, I finished this book wishing more Reconstruction texts were this interesting, and handled things in a way that focuses so much on the human heart, human recovery, human existence side of things rather than fighting to keep everything politicized (and yes, I know this is fiction. But still.).
ARC provided by publisher for review.