Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Emma of Aurora: the Complete Change and Cherish Trilogy" by Jane Kirkpatrick

Emma of Aurora
Originally published as three separate novels, Jane Kirkpatrick's Emma of Aurora contains the stories A Clearing in the Wild, The Tendering Storm, and A Mending at the Edge.  It covers roughly twenty years of Emma Wagner Giesy's life: through marriage, widowhood, and remarriage; from Missouri to Washington to Oregon.  Beginning while there were only rumbles of the impending Civil War, it describes the uprooting and transfer of one of America's more successful utopian societies - the religious society to which Emma belongs - and her rejection and embracing of this good but faulty group of believers. 

Emma changes and grows remarkably through the book, but given that it spans roughly twenty years, she ought to.  A Clearing in the Wild begins with 17-year old Emma starting off in marriage with a man only a year younger than her own father.  I did not care for her at first - Emma is yet immature and prone to vanity and manipulation, though her grievances with the leader of their colony are understandable.  The journey and settlement force her to make decisions, not just manipulate her way into getting what she wants, granting her a bit more maturity and wisdom.  Emma learns to think unselfishly for herself and take others into account and do what is best for them.  However, she is loathe to accept help, and her stubborn and headstrong ways never leave her, though she learns to temper them. The most spiritual growth occurs in A Mending at the Edge, where she really learns to lean on God and work for Him, not just herself.  Kirkpatrick does an excellent job at Emma's voice - it starts out petulant and with all the self-centeredness of youth, but the voice gradually matures more and more through each story.  It never sounds like she was replaced by a different character - her voice remains true, but it is an older, wiser voice at the end. 

The Tendering Storm introduces us to Louisa Keil's point of view, as well as maintaining Emma's, though it is back to purely Emma's for A Mending at the Edge. I appreciated Louisa a bit more as the story went on; she truly is a good woman, believing in her husband, struggling with doubts, and ultimately wanting to help others.  I am not sure her point of view is imperative to the story, but she shows us more of a woman's traditional role in the religious society and gives us a rounder view of Keil, rather than forcing us to solely rely on Emma's jaundiced opinion of him.  

There are many, many, good lessons in this book, so I will try to be brief and highlight only a couple.  I really appreciate how the author emphasizes the importance of standing by one's husband in A Clearing in the Wild.  Emma is not very good at it at first, being rather manipulative and selfish, but she learns to support him, respect him, and encourage him to be the man God created him to be, a servant of the Lord, not of man.  Additionally, Kirkpatrick has a lot of good thoughts on community, reaching out, making people's lives better than one's own, and learning to accept help.  

Kirkpatrick reiterates through the book the importance of studying God's word for oneself, and not depending solely on one's pastor or another fallible human to declare what is truth.  The religious society highlights what a difference there is between believing in God, as so many of them do, and having a relationship with God which so many of them do not.  Like so many utopian societies, the religious colony does many things right, but yet is far from perfect.  Kirkpatrick looks closely at both the positives and negatives, painting a fair picture of their utopian society - she has achieved an excellent balance in representing the community.  

Of the three parts, A Clearing in the Wild appeals most to my romantic side, though I like Emma herself better in the later stories.  Following immediately after it, The Tendering Storm is action-filled and the most suspenseful.  Though it is by far the slowest of the three, A Mending at the Edge evoked the most emotion.  All three have worthy lessons to learn, and together they provide a thorough picture of just how far Emma comes in the course of a couple decades.  Given that very little time passes between stories, these three fit well as a single book - a long but excellent saga.  Since it is based on a real woman's life, not everything ties up perfectly by the end, and some things are bittersweet, but it is still a stimulating and satisfying read.  5 stars!

I received a free e-copy of this novel from Blogging for Books; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own. 


More info from WaterBrook Press

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