Joanne Bischof's Cadence of Grace trilogy is the three-part story of Gideon O'Riley and his wife Lonnie in the early 20th century Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In part one, Be Still My Soul, Lonnie has been looking forward to the day she turns eighteen and may flee her abusive father's house. However, before that day comes, she ends up trapped in a shotgun marriage with Gideon. While it releases her from her father's thumb, she is no more free than before - just owned by another man. Gideon is none to pleased to be saddled with a wife, especially since he gets stuck dragging her with him to look for work far from Rocky Knob. Will he turn to God and learn to appreciate the woman he married? Or will his destructive behavior ruin their marriage and possibly destroy them both?
Gideon was very easy to dislike at first, but I was able to pity him too; if anything, his family is poorer than Lonnie's, and he is just another neglected mouth to feed. He is an alcoholic, which makes such temptations extremely difficult for him to endure, and though of marriageable age, he is not mature enough for a family of his own. I thoroughly approve of Jebediah's methods of character reform, at which time I finally started to gain some respect for Gideon. He grows slowly but believably - there is no overnight change in him, but rather a realistically gradual softening.
Lonnie has not had an easy life - neither before nor after her marriage. Between the abuse and neglect, she has felt very little love in her life. While she never loses her faith in God, always remembering that his eye is on the sparrow, she understandably struggles. While I have never been in a situation like that, I could still relate with her in other ways. Although she is sweet and God-honoring, she is not perfect - she loses her temper on occasion and makes poor choices with painful consequences - just like anyone. Her relationship with her husband reminded me of that between Millie and Adam Pontipee in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Bischof has a well-paced story - it does not ever feel like it is dragging or that there is too little happening, but neither is it rushed with an unbelievable quantity of disaster. While the focus of the novel is on Lonnie and Gideon's relationship, there is sufficient action too. Her attention to the setting is such that I could picture the Appalachians, though I have never seen them. It is a very rich novel - painful at times and heart-warming at others, but in no way a fluffy romance. 4.5 stars
The Cadence of Grace
Be Still My Soul
Though My Heart is Torn
My Hope is Found