Genre: Christian fiction; historical fiction; romance; coming of age story
Plot Summary: 15 yr. old Jessie dreams of becoming a photographer in the male dominated era of the turn of the century. Her family are in poor straights leaving her and her sisters to get work wherever they can in the Midwestern city of Winona. Jessie is fortunate to find employment with the Bauer portrait studio, and as the years go by she learns much about the business, her talent and capabilities, and about forbidden love.
My Book Review: I’d heard good things about the author Jane Kirkpatrick, so I was interested in reading my first book by her. A Flickering Light is the first in a two-book series called “Portraits of the Heart”.
The tale kept me going because I wanted to find out what would happen next, yet at the same time it had a very slow pace. I started to get bored about half way through because not much of anything new was happening by way of the plot. However, things started tightening up a bit about 2/3 of the way in and my interest picked up. I really liked how the book was interspersed with vintage photographs which made me wonder if this was based on a true story.
Mr. Bauer’s Studio in Winona.
It turns out, it is. Jessie is based on Jane Kirkpatrick’s own grandmother and we get to learn much about her as a young girl and what life was like in the early days of photography. This escalates the appeal of the book even further. It is interesting to see how photographers were able to accomplish so much without digital technology or even film. We even get to ‘witness’ historic firsts in the art.
Another thing I appreciated was the taboo nature of the plot. SPOILER: Our character Jessie falls in love with her married employer (many years her senior) and struggles with what she knows is right and wrong. We don’t often read of this in a Christian novel, and I think it makes for an interesting study. Jessie and Mr. Bauer don’t start out with wrong intentions. Instead, a series of innocent events leads to a little more and then over a long period of time things turn into a lot more than they’d planned to. Thankfully, Jessie comes from a good family who loves her and when they come to a realization of the truth they take it upon themselves to intervene. END OF SPOILER.
I am looking forward to reading the sequel (An Absence So Great). I did look up some of the history behind the real characters, but I would advise anyone else not to because it did create a spoiler for me as to what happens in the second book. If you can be patient with a quiet, slow-moving story, I think you will appreciate this read.
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