Title: All Things New
Author: Lynn Austin
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Publishing Date: October 2012
About the Book:
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 their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of 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.
Imagine waking up one morning and your life as you’ve known it is forever altered. That’s exactly what happened following the end of the Civil War in American history. For the slaves, they awoke to the knowledge that they were free and no longer anyone’s property. To the slave-owners they were forced to reconcile the fact that they could no longer own another human being, altering their own very way of life. With slavery being the way of the land for several generations, abolition was a concept that would take time for all to adjust to. Lynn Austin shares a glimpse of what life could have been like for families on both sides of the spectrum.
It’s not surprising that the plantation owners of the south were upset over not only losing the war, but also their entire workforces that enabled their lifestyle. In contrast, freedom was both a blessing and a curse for those who were previously slaves. Without any land or money, they had no means to support their families, along with a fear of being attacked or even killed by those angry about the results of the war. In a nutshell, the end of the war was really only the beginning of another. Lynn Austin gets right to the heart of the matter and shares on a realistic level how the new way of life effected everyone not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.
This book was written in a way that I felt like I was able to get a glimpse of how people may have reacted after the war and why. Lynn didn’t paint any of the characters in a perfect light. Even the good girl character Josephine had flaws, dealing with emotional and spiritual battles. Her mother Eugenia is painted in both positive and negative lights, showing how difficult it was to alter a mindset that has lasted her whole lifetime. Men who ruled their plantations without question had to accept that they could no longer run things the way they used to. Slaves had to learn how to navigate a world where they could no longer be owned but they weren’t yet truly free and still lived in fear.
Lynn Austin is such an amazing author and this book didn’t disappoint. I felt drawn in and in many ways didn’t know how things would turn out. She made history come alive in a very powerful way, and I highly recommend reading this book.
Age Appropriateness: The book takes place after the Civil War ended, but there is a part where one character shares some of the horrors he faced (mostly dealing with losing limbs). Although it doesn’t go into explicit detail, there is also a part that talks about a rape that occurred to a young slave girl. There is romance in the novel but it is kept clean. My recommendation is for 13 and up.