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 two, Though My Heart is Torn, Gideon and Lonnie have finally reached a place of mutual love and respect in their marriage, though some hurts run deep and are still healing. When Lonnie receives a deceptive letter from her father calling them back to Rocky Knob, they hurry back, only to find themselves trapped - by Gideon's first and, unbeknownst to him, still current wife, Cassie Allan. Because Cassie had failed to turn in the papers filing for divorce after their exceedingly brief and secret marriage, they are technically still married, a fact which places a horrid stain on the Allan family honor. Lest he be hunted down and murdered by Cassie's rage-filled brothers, Gideon must leave the woman and son he loves and return to the deceitful woman he now even more despises. How can one survive having one's family forcibly split, never to be together again? Is it even possible to learn to care for the one responsible for this tragedy?
Like in so many trilogies, one cannot just read this (the second) book. The first of the series was suitably conclusive to stand on its own, and if one had to, one could skip it and start reading the second (though this novel is so much richer having read the first). But if there were not a book to follow, it would be terribly unsatisfying. Does it end horribly? No, but it is clearly not the whole story. Do not read this without the intent of reading the final book in the series.
This is a hard novel to read - I cannot imagine the pain to have one's husband ripped away to be someone else's wife, or how one can move on from there. Somewhere in the back of the mind would always be the hope that he would return. Having a child who cannot grow up to know his father - not because the man is dead or because he wants to live without his son - is incomprehensible. And for Gideon - now he is married to a woman whose actions repulse him. How can he treat her the way a husband should his wife without bitterness tainting every action? And for Cassie, now that she has the man she wanted, how can she live with the pain of being unwanted and unloved, when nothing she does can please him? None of the three are in an enviable position.
I wanted Gideon to stay in love with Lonnie, to keep Cassie forever at arms length. I wanted Lonnie to forever be in love with Gideon so that she would never consider another man. But . . . do not covet your neighbor's wife (or in this case, husband). Since Lonnie can't have Gideon anymore - since he is another woman's husband - she should make an effort to cut ties and not come between them. Gideon has a wife - he should not commit adultery by forever wanting another. And when it comes down to it, God hates divorce. It seems an impossible situation.
How can such a situation come to be? When people are not following God, there are major consequences. Gideon had been a selfish youth, taking what pleased him and discarding it when done. Cassie was no better - she had an equal part in their sin. It is well after the fact, but their sin comes to light, and there are consequences, even though Gideon has set aside his selfishness. Just because God forgives one's sins does not mean one is exempt from taking responsibility for them on Earth. Unfortunately, sometimes the innocent must suffer for it when one does.
I am glad that Bischof does not take the easy way out with this novel - and she clearly had the opportunity. Instead, it is well thought out; not completely satisfying, but I don't think there is a solution that could be anything but bittersweet. 4.5 stars
The Cadence of Grace
Be Still My Soul
Though My Heart is Torn
My Hope is Found
A novel on a similar theme that I would highly recommend is Cathy Marie Hake's Bittersweet.