Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Absence So Great

An Absence So Great by Jane Kirpatrick is the sequel to A Flickering Light. (My review here.) Both books tell the story of Jane's grandmother, Jessie Ann Gaebele, one of the early female photographers of the 20th century.

I enjoyed the historical element in both books which depicted the story of Jessie's photographic endeavours. In spite of this, however, I cannot recommend An Absence So Great. The story picks up where the first book ended, with sixteen-year-old Jessie having left home to establish herself as a photographer independent of Fred Bauer, her instructor and mentor, as well as to put their adulterous attraction behind her. Her emotions and struggles are realistic as she seeks to sever their relationship. Unfortunately, she shows more maturity than Mr. Bauer, as he continues to pine for her and, unbeknownst to her, provide financial backing for her endeavours. While his wife is a piece of work and has a plethora of emotional issues, the reality is that he is a married man and has no business pursuing Jessie. The fact that he is old enough to be her father just underscores his poor judgment.

While I hesitate to write a negative review on a book that, while fictionalized, is based on the life of a real person, I cannot ignore the blatant romanticization of a relationship that is just wrong. Fred had several opportunities to repair his marriage which he ignored. While my heart broke for the rift in their marriage, highly impacted by the accidental death of their son, I felt that the rift was used to justify Fred's behavior and longings. (Spoiler Alert) Fred's eventual divorce and marriage to Jessie thoroughly disappointed me. The end does not justify the means, and their "happily ever after" (which included a peaceful relationship with Fred's ex-wife) does not excuse the wrongness of their actions.

Please hear my heart on this. I know that God can and does redeem the fallen and forgive their sin. One only has to read the story of David and Bathsheba and the birth of their son Solomon to recognize the lavishness of His grace. However, the difference is found in the repentance exhibited by David, which was sorely missing from the novel. When I finished the book, I had a heaviness in my heart and spirit as if I had condoned and excused the relationship between Jessie and Fred. I pray that the author's grandparents, the real Jessie and Fred, came to a point of sorrowful repentance at some point in their lives.

Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.

Jane Kirkpatrick is an award-winning author of sixteen historical novels, including A Flickering Light, the first part of Jessie Gaebale’s story, and three nonfiction titles. Known for her unique insights into the exploration of community, family and faith of actual historical women, the Wisconsin native and her husband have called their ranch in Oregon home for the past 25 years.

Visit her website to learn more about her and her books.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


View blog reactions


quilly said...

You know earlier today when i emailed and said I had a book to finish reading and review? This is it. I am having a heck of a time finishing because of all of those feelings you just wrote about. I even skipped to the end and read it hoping for better, but certainly didn't find it. At the end Jessie didn't confess, apologize or appear repentant when confronted by the former wife. I'm wondering where the 7th commandment went.

bp said...

Ditto to what quilly wrote above!!!! I am having SUCH a hard time finishing this. I am itching to get back into my Kathy Herman book but I'm making myself finish this first!

Kim said...

I appreciate your honest and gracious handling of this book in your review. Especially since it's so expensive for me to get books here, I depend on the reviews of books when I'm considering a purchase.

A Stone Gatherer said...

Linda that is why I love and respect your reviews. I can always trust them! I am so thankful for your honesty, and I completely agree.