Monday, February 29, 2016

Lynn Austin's "Fire by Night" - an engrossing tale of women in the Civil War

Fire by Night (Refiner's Fire, #2)After hearing a mortifying statement about her self-centeredness by a man she's loved for years, Julie Hoffman wants to prove him wrong. In spite of obstacles, she wrangles herself a job as a nurse--and it's not an easy road. Phoebe Bigwlow, a tall, raw-boned tomboy raised by men, wants nothing of the life of a woman; she wants to prove herself on the battlefield like her brothers, so she runs away and joins the Union, fighting alongside the men. But neither of these women can anticipate the horrors of war, or what they are each truly capable of until they are put to the test.

The book started out a little predictable, and I had a hard time mustering enthusiasm for Julia, who was, as she admits to herself, spoiled, self-centered, and immature. But on page 166* everything changed for me, when I realized that the inevitable was NOT inevitable. In fact, some spectacular twists were going to happen instead. And from then on, I really enjoyed the story. But I have to say, I'm glad the book is 429 pages, or there may not have been enough time to develop that oh-so-satisfying storyline.
(*2003 edition)

Fire by Night, Repackaged EditionI wondered how and when the two female protagonists' lives would intersect, and I'm glad that once they did, they never became far separated again. Both Julia and Phoebe see a lot of growth, though in different ways. Phoebe becomes the woman she had been deprived the chance to become under the lax supervision of her brothers, while Julia matures into a beautiful woman on the inside as well as the outside. In both cases, their stories became more and more compelling as the book goes on. And while they're as different as night and day, because of their experiences they share a bond that few others can understand. It's a powerful tale of friendship besides personal growth.

I love the author's ability to take a piece of war and turn it into a biblical illustration - such as a soldier sacrificing himself out of love for another to illustrate Jesus's sacrifice for us. As Julia and Phoebe grow, there are increasingly potent tidbits of wisdom. Though very different from the first book in the series, it is powerful and fitting all the same.

Refiner's Fire
1. Candle in the Darkness
2. Fire by Night
3. Light to My Path 

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