06 August 2007

Blog Tour - A Tendering in the Storm

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake. This was one of those times. I was more than halfway through A Tendering in the Storm, by Jane Kirkpatrick, when I found out it was a sequel to an earlier book, A Clearing in the Wild. Luckily, I didn’t need to have read the first to understand the second. The author does a fine job of getting the reader up to speed in the first chapter.

Emma and Christian are a married couple who were part of a Missouri colony of Bethelites that moved west to settle in Washington Territory in the 1850's. With a few phrases, I understood much about the characters. Christian was "A tall man with a compassionate heart", and the Bethelites were "A hopeful people, faithful and perhaps dreamers, too". They "cared for others... making others' lives better than our own."

The protagonist, Emma, has her doubts about the leader of their colony, Keil, and her negative thoughts and mindset color her actions concerning the colony leader. The story alternates between the point of view of Emma, and that of Louisa, Wilhelm Keil's long suffering wife. From Louisa we see a different picture of the man, that of a patient, misunderstood visionary.

Emma continually clashes with those around her, friends, relatives, the colony she is supposed to belong to. She questions Christian's 'senseless' death with a ferocity that at first seems strange. As we get to know Emma, we begin to understand what drives her, and what sustains her. Her journey, while intensely personal, touches on many of the emotions that surround those who have lost a loved one to tragedy or war.

"I was quite sure there was no one looking out for me. I'd have to do that myself."

Emma does just that, making difficult and sometimes ill-conceived choices in her quest to be the master of her own fate, including a loveless marriage to a man she knows nothing about. In her words, "Widows do what they must to provide for their children." Emma makes a decision that has long reaching consequences not only for her, but her children as well. When the threat to her children becomes too great, it is the catalyst that drives Emma to making an important decision about her life and her future.

Louisa Keil is the anchor in the book; she remains true to herself even as Emma's world is broken and rearranged several times. Despite Emma's animosity, Louisa treats her with respect and love. In time Emma comes to realize it's Louisa's spirituality that is her stabilizing influence. Emma turned her back on everything important when Christian died, her return to both her faith in God and her faith in others is a long, painful journey, one that author Jane Kirkpatrick chronicles with unflinching honesty and well crafted prose.
A Tendering in the Storm
by Jane Kirkpatrick
383 pages
WaterBrook Press
A division of Random House, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-57856-735-5


Gabriele C. said...

Lol, that book is pursuing me; like every other blog I read mentions it.

I'm still not going to read it - religious communities and characters are totally not my thing, even well written ones. ;)

Constance said...

I'll read almost anything if it is well written. And this was well written. The religious aspect was an underpining, not the main focus of the novel. I had no problems with it. The history was interesting too. :)