All That Makes Life Bright
The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe
by Josi S. Kilpack
When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet's sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.
Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed-being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman's life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband's heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.
Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.
Can their love endure, especially after "I do"? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?
I wasn’t sure how much I’d get into this book just because the other similar books in this series were interesting but not my favorite. However, All that Makes Life Bright was really enjoyable for me. I’m not sure if it was because it was about a woman and I could relate better than the books about male historical figures, or if it was something else entirely.
Kilpack had me crying several times during this book. I couldn’t help but think that if this were set in modern times Harriet and Calvin would have divorced. It was touching that they focused on their marriage covenant when times got tough instead of just throwing in the towel.
It was a bit of a slow read for me, but not in a bad way. It was just real. I haven’t made it through all of the chapter notes at the end of the book yet, but I do appreciate that the author included those so we can separate fact from fiction.
One line stood out to me when Harriet’s father told her perfection is a sin. I’ve definitely never thought that before. Interesting.
When I start historical novels, I'm never sure what I'll be getting in to. There's always the worry that the story will be dry and history-bookish. Thankfully, this one was not like that at all. I was drawn into Harriet and Calvin's life right away. You could tell that they really loved each other, but their temperaments were so extremely different. The first year of marriage can be tough as you learn to live with someone who was brought up differently than you were, but then throw in your husband going overseas for 8 months with you being a few months pregnant, and life gets a whole lot more complicated. There is no doubt in my mind that Harriet was very self-centered...as was Calvin. Since they didn't have more than a few short months together before having children, they never really learned how to be a couple. Even with all the conflict throughout much of the book, this story has a great message of learning how to stay true to yourself while changing enough to learn how to live with your spouse as equal companions. With these books, I always enjoy the timeline at the end. It's interesting to me to see what happened with these people and their families before and after the story took place.
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Published: September 2017
Source: We received copies from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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