Jane Kirkpatrick has written several short series based on historical characters and events that she brings to life with her delightful style and expert attention to detail. Each one has become my “new favorite,” and A FLICKERING LIGHT is no exception. This coming-of-age novel is based on the author’s grandmother and her passion for photography at a time when photography was considered a dangerous occupation for a man, and women were seldom considered suitable for the profession. In addition to the enlightening voyage into history, Kirkpatrick introduces us to the mores of the time and to characters who struggle with the boundaries that are imposed upon them by those mores.
Struggling with issues of right and wrong do not play as large a role in modern times as it did in earlier times. There is little mention of sin anymore when considering life decisions. In the Hebrew, to sin means “to miss the mark” or “to take the wrong path.” And, for the believer, nothing can restore one to peace but repentance, or turning away from the wrong path and getting on the right one. In light of this, throughout the first part of the story, the reader knows that the attraction brewing between a young Jessie Ann Gaebele and her forlornly married employer/mentor is not going to have a happy ending. And while we want them both to be happy, we are aware that going against one’s beliefs and morals is not the way to achieve it.
Jessie’s family is much like many we have known and loved. Each member has his or her own unique personality, like little brother Roy with his generous heart and pitiful stutter and older sister Lilly with her judgmental attitude and too keen insights. It may be difficult for some to embrace the deep effect each one’s behavior has on the others, but that was the culture and times. It is still true today, but we have somehow managed to weaken the borders and overlook the boundaries. Some would argue that it’s been for the best, others would disagree. In either case, the author gives us more to think about than “when will they finally get into bed.”
We often compliment a book by calling it a “page-turner,” and I thoroughly enjoy my thrillers. But Jane Kirkpatrick writes books that are to be savored and considered, with no rush to the finish. For example, as FJ endures yet another hurtful conversation with his wife, Kirkpatrick writes, “FJ took the words like stones and put them in the bag labeled Disappointing Husband and Poor Father. The bag never filled, just became heavier and heavier.” A FLICKERING LIGHT is the first in a new series, and it is guaranteed to make you look forward to learn what happens next.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on November 13, 2011
A Flickering Light: Portraits of the Heart, Book 1