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4.8 out of 5 stars
A Light to My Path (Refiner's Fire, Book 3)
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
It can be a common occurrance for people to think that God has deserted them in times of need, or to blame God for their station in life. Lynn Austin's A LIGHT TO MY PATH, the latest of her books about the Antebellum South, examines this while detailing the coming of age of two young slaves, Anna and Grady, who have given up hope that "Massa Jesus" hears their prayers or cares what becomes of them.

Anna's first memory is the day her parents were recaptured after an attempted escape from slavery. Since that day, she has had little faith that God could do anything to help her situation. While she was spared from death or the auction block, Anna's life is, nevertheless, one of biting criticism, harsh servitude, and endless longing. A glimmer of hope for something better comes along when she meets Grady.

Grady hates all white people after experiencing a tortuous auction where he was torn from his mother's care and later a stint as the assistant of a slave trader. Grady's stark reality leads him to believe that all white people are evil and that the only way to progress in life is to exact his revenge upon them someday. Once a ladies' man, Grady is stunned by Anna's beauty and he begins to change his ways. But Anna and Grady come in contact with numerous obstacles, including the Civil War. They must put their trust in God's plan in order to victoriously emerge from the battles.

A LIGHT TO MY PATH is historical Christian fiction at its finest, spanning time periods from Antebellum America into Reconstruction. The story never became dull, nor did it ever read like a sermon. Lynn Austin introduced all of her characters, both primary and secondary, and followed them through until the end, each lending a significant voice and contribution to this heartbreaking and divine saga. I was impressed with this book and hope to go back through the series and read all of the earlier installments. (RAW Rating: 4.5)

Reviewed by CandaceK

of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
In A LIGHT TO MY PATH, the stand-alone follow-up to CANDLE IN THE DARKNESS and FIRE IN THE NIGHT in the "Refiner's Fire" series, Lynn Austin weaves themes of forgiveness, racial reconciliation, love, and faith together to create a compelling story of lives changed by God during the Civil War.

Austin switches points of view between two slaves: Anna, or "Kitty" as she is dubbed, a young girl who grows up as a companion to Missy Claire, and Grady, a young light-skinned slave torn from his parents at an early age. Both characters, living in the second half of the 19th century, respond to their slavery differently.

Lacking knowledge of any other way to live, Kitty, who was too young to remember her parents' deaths at the hands of slavetrackers, numbly accepts her mistreatment at the Fuller Plantation in South Carolina as her lot in life, loyal to the mistress who looks at her as no better than an animal. Kitty's desire to be loved is endearing, and her artistic bent adds an interesting component to her personality. The kindling of her anger over her slavery and her desire for freedom comes about only when the ones she loves are threatened.

Her opposite is Grady, a well-developed character who simmers with rage and yearns for freedom throughout the novel. Readers will resonate with Grady's anger as they see the desperate plight of slaves separated from their families, mistreated by slave traders, and sold into grinding work on southern plantations or into New Orleans brothels. It all helps build a believable case for Grady's rage against all white people, which eventually culminates in murder. Grady's love/hate relationship with music, his casual flirtations, and his fear of truly loving anyone again, lest they be taken away from him, are just a few of the ways Austin fully fleshes him out as a believable character.

One of the more dynamic figures in the story is the aging mammy Delia, whose strong faith will endear her to readers. As events in the South careen into chaos, Delia tells Kitty, "I don't waste time worrying. I pray," then adds, "Praying ain't about getting your own way. It's about asking God to have his way." Delia believes that "...the Lord is in charge." Everything that happens to Kitty, Grady, and herself is part of His divine plan. "I do know that we can trust the Lord, even when we don't understand why things happen the way we do," she says. Her belief in a God who is in control and her ability to forgive becomes even more intriguing as her past gradually unfolds to Grady and Kitty.

Of all of the characters, the most disappointing is Missy, the belligerent, spoiled mistress who owns Kitty, and who comes off as a bit flat and one-dimensional. It would be nice to see her more fully developed, as her childish tirades sometimes seem over the top, especially after Kitty has her baby. Even a glimmer of occasional kindness would have added authenticity to her character.

A LIGHT TO MY PATH is Austin's twelfth novel, and her experience in fiction shows through her careful attention to detail, vivid backdrops, and smooth dialogue between the characters. The pacing occasionally slows, especially toward the end, and one wishes the book were shorter by about 50 pages. The final scene between Grady and his father is particularly difficult to believe. Yet the plotline and characters are strong enough to keep the reader continuing to the end of the story. Fans of historical fiction with strong faith themes should find this enjoyable tale much to their liking.

--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby (phrelanzer@aol.com)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a most compelling story of slavery in South Carolina from 1849 through the Civil War. There are two main characters, Grady and Anne, born into slavery on two different plantations and how their lives cross and then interwine. It is a vivid depictions of the treatment and attitudes of the plantation owners toward their "property" and the resulting behavior and attitudes of the slaves to their owners. By following the lives of these two children through to their adulthood, the utter fear, the disgust and the extreme choices, are made very real. The one consoling factor for the slaves is their faith in God. Grady is willing to take chances to gain his freedom but Anne, "Kitty" will grovel before her mistress to retain her position as a house slave. Though Grady marries Anne in the traditional manner for slaves, he refuses to allow Anne to cower before the threats of their mistress or to be treated in a demeaning manner. When Grady has the chance to run away to join the Union Army and gain his freedom, Anne is given a choice. Paralyzed by her fear of the unknown, Anne remains at the plantation believing she will not face hardships or whippings. When threats of her baby being rip way from her, Anne stands up to her mistress and faces the horror of the penalty of her insubordination. The Union Army Troop to which Grady belongs is making a sweep of all plantations to release all the slaves. Grady finds Anne, rescues her and their son, William. Anne understands what Grady had felt all long about the inhumane treatment slaves had to endure and gladly joins her husband on the path to freedom and a path of faith.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
In 1862 South Carolina, Confederate soldiers warn Missy Claire that 6000 Yanks are marching towards her Plantation and arming slaves. Missy is angry and panicking as she orders her slaves but talks down to them as if they are cattle or pets, which is how she sees them. Field slave Grady informs house slave Kitty that he plans to run away and would like her, the woman he loves, to come with him to freedom. Kitty hesitates as she has lost the ability to make decisions having spent her life having her massahs tell her what to do.

As Kitty struggles whether to run off with Grady or stay with Missy, she reflects back to the early 1850s when she as a child met her young mistress. Kitty, called Anna, back then, had some kittens that Missy wanted, but her mother said no that anything owned by a darkie is diseased. So Missy tells her mom that she wants the darkie as her kitty. Since then Kitty has always done whatever her owner tells her to do, but now with war everywhere can Anna be resurrected from the dead?

This deep look at the lives of slaves and to a lesser degree their owners in the decade just before and during the Civil War is an insightful historical tale. Readers will be stunned by the incredible characterizations inside of a world turned upside down for so many people. The story line rotates between Anna-Kitty and Grady, but fans observe how others in their circle read. Fans of the Antebellum South will want to read the latest Refiner's Fire tale as Lyn Austin hits on all cylinders with a fantastic novel.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Book 3 of the Refiner's Fire series follows the story of Grady Fletcher, a character of which we see a shadow of in the first book, "Candle in the Darkness." By a cruel twist of fate, Grady was sold when he was a young boy to a cruel owner...by his own father.

On the other side, we have the story of Anna, or "Kitty," a house slave who always follows orders from her mistress "Missy," a spoiled brat of a girl who has never given Kitty anything back. Then she meets Grady Fletcher and falls in love with him.

This book was slightly disappointing, in my eyes, because it didn't live up to the book before it, "Fire by Night." Instead, it falls back into the same flaws that "Candle in the Darkness" had. Actually, I rather enjoyed hearing Grady's and Kitty's stories, but the character of Missy was so putrid and such a cement block in the path of a smooth story that it was almost difficult to read. I read the entire book thinking that, at the end, Missy would finally straighten out...but she didn't. What bothered me most about that was the fact that it stays right in line with what seems to be Ms. Austin's theory of Southern Belles: they were all brats who treated their slaves like animals and never, ever, spoke a kind word in their servants' direction. Anyone who has researched the Antebellum South knows that theory is completely incorrect. Yes, I'm sure there were women like Missy, and her character wouldn't have bothered me so much if it didn't seem to be a copy of some of the Southern women in "Candle in the Darkness." In fact, it doesn't seem as if any Southern ladies Lynn Austin writes about have any redeeming qualities with the exception of Caroline Fletcher in book 1.

Besides that one flaw, the book was rather enjoyable. I hope to see more from this author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have to say that I have never read Lynn Austin books before this series. Although I enjoyed every book in The "Refiner's Fire" series, I think this one is my favorite. It's a wonderful story of historical documentation of the Civil War, and also puts events into the characters' lives, making them come alive. I am a huge history buff, and love reading about events, and this book combines that, with romance, Christianity, and also sin, bringing the characters to God, or closer to Him. Unlike some Christian-based books, this series brings the characters to God (or back to Him in some cases), where everything isn't "sunshine and daisies". The characters struggle in life (whether on the Rebel or Union side, black or white, Master, or slave, they all struggle with their own demons, like real people. I am not a huge fan of Christian romance where everything is perfect, everything goes well all the time, and there are no struggles, because that is not the way the true Christian walk is. There are trials and tribulations, struggles, plateaus, and atonements in these characters' lives; and I guarantee you will be able to identify with at least one character, like I have. We all know how these characters felt at some point in out lives, and this makes the story believable, compelling, and moving. You can't help but "root" for each one individually, and this story is definitely a must read. I am proud to have this series is my Christian collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
It took me a while to get into this book in the beginning because I hate reading how a slave is being torn away from his family and being sbused by his owner. It got better as I kept reading when the story start to show some hope for the slaves. It's amazing to see how ignorant America was back then and how we still are today!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A Light to my Path is the final book in Lynn Austin's Refiner's Fire series. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, but for full enjoyment I recommend reading Candle in the Darkness and Fire by Night first.

This is an extremely well-written story of two slaves before, during and right after the Civil War. Anna, AKA "Kitty," loses her enslaved parents as a small child, as they attempt to run away from their captivity at the Fuller Plantation. The Fullers' daughter, Missy Claire, finds Kitty amusing and takes her into the house to be her personal slave. Claire is a mean-hearted, spoiled child who sees Kitty as nothing more than a piece of property. From the beginning she treats Kitty in a harsh manner. Kitty is starved for love and security. She does everything possible to try to please Claire as they both grow up.

Grady is the light-skinned product of a white master coupling with a slave. He is not acknowledged in any way by his father, but the man's wife is aware of what transpired and she insists that Grady be taken from his mother and sold. Grady becomes the property of a cruel slave trader. He lives under constant threat of violence, and learns to hate all white people. He is finally "won" in a poker game by Master Fuller, and comes to the plantation to live. Although Mr. Fuller treats him very kindly, Grady simmers with hatred. He thinks only of escape. His life becomes complicated when he and Kitty fall in love.

Both Kitty and Grady have given up on God. They feel God cares only about white people. Grady lives on hatred, while Kitty clings to her "Missy" for security. When Grady finally has the opportunity to run away and join the Union soldiers, Kitty is too insecure and fearful to go with him. After he's gone, Kitty finds herself to be pregnant with his child. It isn't until her baby is threatened that Kitty is able to overcome her fear and stand up to Missy Claire.

I won't reveal any more of the plot, but the story line is full of action and angst. The characterization is excellent as both Kitty and Grady struggle with their situations and attitudes toward God. You will certainly care about these characters. The ending is satisfying, and you'll be glad you read the book (and hopefully the whole trilogy). I heartily recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
The book is about Grady and the heroine Anna (Kitty). I did not like so much the heroine in the book at the beginning until almost the end of the story, because I like my heroines to be strong willed and mature in actions they take.
From childhood the heroine learned not to have a mind of her own. She was easily controlled by her misses. It was not her fault that she had grown to be the way she was. By looking at the circumstances, the writer has painted the picture very well. The heroine was a survivor. She did everything in her power to survive even things that were degrading. She had never had a role model to teach her otherwise. Also, the love was pouring from her.
So I grew to love the heroine and was nicely surprised by the end of the story. The heroine grew strong and began to believe in herself.

The book has shown how people have been degraded. The slaves were handled worse than animals. The situations have been described so well, that I put myself in their shoes and felt their sufferings and pains. There were times that I had to control the tears in my eyes and tried to swallow the lump in my throat that was forming in different parts of the story.
However, the book did not flow: I put away reading for two days and was able to stop without regret to pick up other tasks. I love when the writer keeps me engaged from beginning to the end, and I can hardly keep away from my read.
Forsooth, the story was beautifully written and has shown well humankind and faith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is one of those that can be easily read in one sitting. It's the 3rd in a series, depicting slaves' perspectives living through slavery and the civil war. I was gripped at the abuse and portrayal of what it was like to be owned by someone. The realization that one could be ripped away from loved ones or because of the whim of an owner be whipped and/or sent down to "slave row". Mercy was rarely received, and was truly a gift when given.

The sovereignty of God is weaved throughout the pages, as the reader can see how seemingly cruel events were used later to save and protect. God's unconditional love and faithfulness were also portrayed.

I liked how the author used kind-hearted, loving, God-fearing white people in this series to show that not everyone from the white race, or down south were hateful towards the slaves.

The author did a great job of ending this 3 book series. One of the main characters, Grady, was introduced in the first book. The ending was sweet. It could have extended further for additional reunions from others from the first book, but it still is an excellent read.
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