Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

Strong women who do not fit the mold of their contemporaries have always been my favorite fiction characters (nonfiction, too).  Now I can add Grandma Bebe and granddaughter Harriet to that notable group.  Bebe, born Beatrice, in a family of all brothers was introduced to the unfairness of life at an early age.  First, her father wanted another son and often continued to call her "Son" despite the obvious.  When her brothers went off to fight in the Civil War when she was just a preteen, she was expected to quit school and take over their farm chores.  But the event that would most affect her lifeview was her mother's decision to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Mother never shared with the boys that slaves were being hidden in the attic because she feared that they could not keep silent, but Beatrice was introduced to the escaped slaves and even accompanied her mother on one transport.

Later Bebe's marriage would take her away from the farm and her protected life.  Her new mother-in-law found the young wife lacking in necessary social skills. As Bebe faces the harsh realities of a far-from-perfect marriage, she recalls her mother's courage and finds her own voice.  She becomes active in the temperance movement and later the fight for suffrage. 

The novel is narrated by granddaughter Harriet who for most of the book is in jail.  She keeps saying, "How did I end up here/" a literary device to keep the readers in suspense. For a while, we only learn that she had been arrested with bootleg liquour in her vehicle.  As Harriet fears what her parents and especially Grandma Bebe will think when they find out, Harriet retells the significant events of Bebe's life and also daughter Lucy's (Harriet's mother.) As for the real reason why she had bootleg booze in her car, that would be a spoiler.  Read the story and Harriet will finally explain.

Lynn Austin is one of the strongest Christian fiction writers I have read.  I stayed interested throughout the whole novel.  Actually, the Hallmark movie Hidden Places based on her novel of the same name was on television last night and I had to decide whether to read or watch her work. By staying up a little later than I should have, I was able to enjoy the movie AND finish the book.  Austin is able to create characters that have admirable strengths, but we can also see and understand their faults. Their faith or sometimes lack of it fits the story and the characters.  Too often those elements can seem to be add-ons to fit the Christian market.  To me, all aspects of Bebe seemed authentic, from her childhood to her actions as an unhappy wife, to the sage advice given to her adult granddaughter. I will be looking for more Lynn Austin historical fiction. 

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