Monday, August 14, 2017

Loving Luther


Left at a convent by her father as a small child, Katharina von Bora knows little about life outside cloistered walls.  Though she takes her vows and maintains dear friendships, a part of Katharina still chafes under the strict way of life she has chosen.  When the writings of Martin Luther begin finding their way into the convent walls, though, Kat begins to look at her life-- and her faith-- in a much different way.  With the help of Luther and his friends, Katharina a group of fellow nuns escape the convent to embark on a new adventure.  Without a family to support her, Kat must live in the homes of Luther's friends and supporters while the reformer himself tries to find a husband for her.  Will Katharina learn to navigate life outside a religious order?  Will she trade one life of service for another, or dare to risk her heart for a chance at love and a family?  

Allison Pittman tells a compelling story of both love and faith in Loving Luther.  Rather than focusing on Martin and Katharina as a couple, like Luther and Katharina, Pittman simply tells Katharina's story... and what what in intriguing story it is!  From a fascinating look into life inside 16th century convents, to the dangers and details of the Reformation and its leaders, I couldn't put the book down.  As a proud protestant, I've always loved this era or church history, but I also appreciated Pittman's tact in not maligning our Catholic brothers and sisters.  I loved than women of deep, abiding faith existed both inside and outside convent walls.  As with all of Pittman's works, this one was excellently researched, superbly written, rich in historical detail, and full of compelling characters.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All That Makes Life Bright



Despite her sister's concerns, Harriet Beecher doesn't question that her married life with Calvin Stowe will be full of happiness, family, independence and literary opportunities.  Just two months into their marriage, though, Harriet finds herself overwhelmed with household responsibilities she detests, pregnant, and having to bid her new husband farewell as he embarks on a long European trip.  Between Calvin's high domestic expectations of Harriet and his tendency to compare her to his first, beloved wife, Harriet begins to wonder is she is capable of being the wife Calvin needs, as well as the woman she needs herself to be.  After months apart, the addition of children to their family, and constant financial struggles, will Harriet and Calvin remember how to cherish one another despite their extreme temperamental differences?

Josi S. Kilpack tells yet another gut-wrenchingly beautiful story based on the life of acclaimed author Harriet Beecher Stowe in All That Makes Life Bright.  Words cannot express how much I adored this book.  Kilpack does a flawless job alternately portraying both Calvin and Harriet in realistic and sympathetic ways.  Neither one is always in the right, and thus the novel perfectly exemplifies the daily struggles of the early years of marriage.  Are Calvin's expectations reasonable, or overbearing?  Both.  Is Harriet a wife and mother, or an author?  Both.  Every stay-at-home mother will shed a tear reading of Harriet's struggles to find an identity outside that of a cook/housekeeper/nanny... as well as the accompanying guilt associated with those feelings.  It's as if Kilpack had read my own diary.  Perfection.  Absolute perfection.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.