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All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Proper Romance Historical) Paperback – September 5, 2017
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"In her latest marvelously engaging historical novel, Kilpack writes with great insight and superb sensitivity about the ways in which Harriet and Calvin struggled to achieve a marriage that works for both of them. At the same time, Kilpack deftly demonstrates how Harriet's early married years acted as a sort of literary petri dish in which she refined her own writing skills while also defining her thoughts on the issue of slavery, ultimately leading her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel which played a major role in advancing the abolitionist cause not just in the United States but around the world." --Booklist Starred Review!
About the Author
Josi S. Kilpack is the author of twenty-five novels, including A Culinary Mystery series and several titles in A Proper Romance series and A Historical Proper Romance series. Her novel A Heart Revealed was a 2015 Publishers Weekly Best Romance Book of the Year. She and her husband, Lee, are the parents to four children.
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This was so wonderful to learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe. Everyone probably knows that she was the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I can not even begin to count the numerous times we talked about that book and named the author in school growing up. I've actually never read it. It's been one I've thought about lots, especially after watching and rewatching The King and I or Anna and the King. I think I really need to change (or add to) the association I have with the book by actually reading it.
This book starts off with Harriet on her wedding day and her hopeful thoughts of what she will accomplish with her life married to Calvin Stowe and the good man that he is. How he values her educated mind and her opinions and wants her to succeed in her writing endeavors. Harriet's sister sheds some doubt on that and then we jump right into their married life. I cannot say how much this made me pause and think back on my married life. Especially those early years of creating a life with my husband. We were young and naive and full of hopes, dreams and love. To say everything was always perfect is not true. We had moments where we saw things differently, had different expectations and had disagreements. It wasn't all roses or peaches and cream. It was learning and growing and sacrificing and becoming one together, supporting and giving and loving. Not taking away each other's dreams but supporting and finding a good balance to make sure we both had our needs met. Sometimes it was hard. Other times it was easy. And almost two decades into our marriage it still takes work and time and sacrifice, and it will continue to throughout our whole lives.
I loved how Josi Kilpack showed all of that in this book. I think there were added hardships with Harriet and Calvin's marriage that came with their families (not purposefully), the time in which they lived, their work, a previous marriage for Calvin (his wife was Harriet's best friend and had passed away only a few years into their marriage without having any children). Every marriage has struggles to sort out, some have more and others have less. But regardless of whatever struggles there are, the important thing is to work together. To be united. The love you have for your spouse makes sacrifices and change and growth easier to deal with because you want wants best for them and they for you. Communication is a must. Without it, there is no comfort, no understanding, constant frustrations. Without it how can two people truly know and understand the other's needs and desires, dreams and struggles?
I think this book will resonate with so many people. They will look back and remember struggles within their relationship. They will remember the joys of overcoming those struggles. They will remember so many moments of learning how to be a wife/husband, mother/father, shedding independence and putting on the responsibility of someone depending on you.
Honestly it was just beautiful. It was emotionally taxing at some points. Harriet's struggles were real and there were so many outside forces that forced her to grow. Her love of writing was hard to put aside and her husband's beliefs of what their marriage would entail were not always in line with what she believed it would entail. Through struggles and change and heartache, separation while Calvin traveled for work, children, exhaustion, a mother in law living with them to teach her, Harriet came to realize who she was and what she was made of. Through love and forgiveness and understanding Harriet and Calvin come to learn what marriage is and how to give and sacrifice as needed.
I loved how her writing was spoken of and showed the reader what brought her to write about slavery and standing up against it. It wasn't just a one moment decision but many years of watching and learning to understand and to be guided by God that she came to the point in her life where she wrote her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book barely even mentions her writing that book in the epilogue at the very end. So if you go into this thinking you're going to learn all about her writing her book, it's not about that. It's about her becoming the woman she was to write that book.
I didn't intend for this review to be as long as it turned out to be. I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share and then I just kept typing as more thoughts came into my head. If you're looking for a great historical fiction I highly recommend this one. There is an opening author's note about the timeline as well as chapter notes that you get a better understanding of why the author wrote what she did and about certain events. I would also recommend this author's other historical romance books about Sir Walter Scott and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott
Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton
Content: Clean. Some talk about intimate relations between Harriet and Calvin but was not graphic. I had all my daughters listening with me and was not embarrassed or trying to skip past those spots while listening. Some moments of peril, and illness throughout.
This is a story of the trials of Harriet Stow. She is the author, in a time where woman had no say and no rights, who wrote the controversial "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
First I personally feel the opening of the book is pure genius on Josi's part. Josi connected Harriet (Hattie) to herself and to every wife and mother who ever lived, who had to choose or felt that they needed to choose between family and career. In doing this she also endeared Harriet (Hattie) to me.
The book touches on the reality of the times in which it was written and yet intertwines with today’s concerns with marriage, family, personal pursuits, and career. Such as Hattie’s love of writing and feels as if she were born to it. At the same time she loves a man and decides to marry him. She loves the man, yet her sister tells her that she will lose her identity and no longer be a free thinking woman.
She ends up supporting her husband and going to Europe even though she is pregnant with their first baby, or babies, as she finds out she is having twins. A honey moon baby was considered a scandal in that time period. Although they both think the separation will bring them closer, they also feel the other will change to their ideals to match their own. This does not happen, however, and to prove his point he invites his mother to stay with them. Hattie first thinks this is a grand idea to show Calvin she is right. This is not to be. Her mother in law works Hattie to the bone and she passes out from the pregnancy, being a mother of twins, and cleaning every second of the day with little or no time to eat making sure everything is perfect according to the mother in law.
She is sent to her parent’s home to recuperate and heal. In the meantime Calvin realizes that his first wife conformed so much to him she let her identity slip to his and never argued her own point of view. Only then does he realize how much he appreciates Hattie and her opinions, so he prepares for Hattie’s return.
I'm not necessarily a big fan of nonfiction, however, I have enjoyed reading this true to life story sprinkled with fiction. At times it read like a journal entry, yet I remembered the first of the book and thought of how sometimes I find house duty to be mundane and drudgery. I too struggle with finding my voice among being a wife and mother and continued reading.
On a personal note this book reminded me how very blessed I am and how well my Father in Heaven knows me well enough he placed me in this time and age where I can very opinionated.
Frankly I find very little difference in today and this book’s time with bringing two different people raised in two completely different situations to make a life as one. It's still a give and take learning experience no matter when you live. Still a life of compromise, putting selfishness away and building each other up, finding time for self- evaluation and growth.
It was so well written I felt so connected with Hattie's life that I wanted to slap her husband, chew out her mother-in-law and cheered when he sent his mother home. He finally decided to let go of his past and cleave unto his wife and family.
The epilogue tells the chilling vision of how Uncle Tom's cabin came to be, seeing the entire play out in her mind during a church service. Calvin, now in full support, sends her home to write as he takes on his role as father and husband.
An added benefit is the addition of chapter notes at the end of the book. This gives perspective and dimension between reality and fiction. This is definitely a book worth discussing in book club so it's great she added question at the end.
Most recent customer reviews
This is an amazing book. I had a little trouble getting into it, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.Read more