Baker Publishing Group|October 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-0897-3
New Historical Novel from 7-time Christy Award Winner! In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to the Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of the life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well. Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival – and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine’s mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak…but a bitter hatred fuels her. With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women- daughter, mother, and freed slave – in a riveting tale.
Twenty-two-year-old, Josephine Weatherly is sitting by an upstairs window in her Aunt Olivia’s home with her sixteen-year-old sister, Mary. They thought that they had been through the worst of the war but that wasn’t the case at all. President Davis and the Confederate government were leaving Richmond, Virginia, people were looting, and fires could be seen in the distant sky. “The enemy invasion everyone had long feared was about to begin.” The Yankees were coming and they feared for their lives. The two sisters watched refugees fleeing by the wagonload but Josephine didn’t know where else they could go. Hunger was making Josephine uncaring and unable to think clearly.
Josephine was feeling slighted by God and felt He was ignoring her. She had tried to be good, do what she was supposed to do, and prayed for him to protect her two brothers as they’d marched off to battle. But Samuel had been killed and no one had heard from Daniel in weeks, and her father had died of pneumonia. Now she was praying for God to watch over her mother, Eugenia, Mary, and herself who had all been left alone on their plantation outnumbered by slaves. Josephine felt God’s reply was to send a “flood of Yankees into the countryside, forcing her family to flee to Richmond for safety.” Josephine didn’t know if she would ever see White Oak Plantation again.
Josephine was angry with God and she had decided in church that prayer was a complete waste of her time. She decided that He would do whatever He wanted anyway regardless of her pleas. She also decided she wouldn’t ask for protection from the fire or the spreading chaos or the Yankee invasion, what was the point. She no longer cared about the outcome and deliverance would come by death, uncertainty, or overwhelming sorrow. She only wished it would end soon as the fear was almost paralyzing.
The next-door neighbour came to the door to inform them they had more than looters to worry about now. All the guards at the state penitentiary had left their posts and all the prisoners were now on the loose. He advised them to allow their slaves to sleep inside the house with them for extra protection.
Josephine still believed in God, only “a fool could deny the existence of a Creator. But she no longer believed in prayer or in a God who cared about her suffering. It was time to bury her childish faith in a God who was her loving Father, watching over her, doing what was best for her. As far as she was concerned, He was as distant and unreachable as her own beloved father.” It is sometimes difficult not to lose your faith in the face of such adversity. We are, after all, human and not perfect.
Eugenia, Josephine, Mary and their slaves moved back to White Oak Plantation. All the slaves were free now and could leave whenever they wanted, some already had. Lizzie and Otis decided to stay for a while which was fine with Eugenia as long as they would continue to work for her, free or not, they could stay.
Josephine continued with her lack of faith in God and struggled to believe that He ever listened to her. She was truly feeling that God didn’t answer prayer. How many times in our own lives do we feel this way? Sometime we want something so badly that ashamedly we find ourselves bargaining with God in the hope that it will prompt Him into giving in to our desires. It is at times like these or when facing adversity that we have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons but due to our lack of faith we are blinded and don’t see that at the time.
The other issue Josephine dealt with was her anger at God. She felt He was leaving her adrift in the sea of life and just ignoring her, had tuned her out and she didn’t know how to deal with those feelings. When she meets a young man named, Alexander, who is firm in his belief and faith in God and his good knowledge of scripture, he was able to assist Josephine in sorting out these feelings of abandonment and anger. She didn’t know that it was okay to be angry with God, but once she did know she didn’t understand how to communicate those feelings to him. My heart went out to Josephine for the struggles she was coping with in her daily life but more importantly her feelings of loneliness without God. It is only through this young man and one of their freed slaves, Lizzie that Josephine finally begins to understand.
All Things New was not only a story about losing faith and feeling anger, but how to go about regaining that faith and turning that anger into joy. It is also a story of change – each woman in the story changes due to the circumstances they are faced with and it made me realize how much more positive I could be in my own life by making some changes. Some of us can remain deeply faithful during times of great adversity or when we feel that God just isn’t listening to us, while others can remain steadfast in their faith no matter what. God is always listening to us, God always answers us but sometimes we’re just so caught up in our troubles that we don’t hear Him, or we do hear Him but pretend we don’t because sometimes change is painful and its sometimes easier to stay in our comfort zone.
Lynn Austin has outdone herself again with All Things New and I’ll definitely be touting its virtues to all who will listen.
I’d also like to thank Lynn Austin and Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of the book.