All That Makes Life Bright

The Life and Love of Har­riet Beecher Stowe

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Audiobooks - SARAH STE­WART

Josi S. Kil­pack, Shadow Moun­tain Pub­lish­ing (SEPTEM­BER) Au­dio­book, 978-1-62972-356-3

This pol­ished, warmly nar­rated au­dio record­ing of Josi Kil­pack’s All That Makes Life Bright is a true de­light.

Kil­pack’s book is the fic­tion­al­ized ac­count of Har­riet “Hat­tie” Beecher Stowe’s jour­ney from a new bride to a fa­mous author and abo­li­tion­ist, set against the vi­brantly ren­dered back­drop of tur­bu­lent nine­teenth-cen­tury strug­gles.

The story opens on the day of Hat­tie’s wed­ding to Calvin Stowe. Hopes for her in­tel­lec­tual fu­ture are pre­sumed dashed, though Hat­tie walks down the aisle con­fi­dent that Calvin sup­ports her en­deav­ors. Her ide­al­ism is chal­lenged when she finds her­self en­trenched in a house­wife’s du­ties. Hat­tie and Calvin try in earnest to build a part­ner­ship, though there is no con­tem­po­rary tem­plate for their dy­namic.

Kil­pack gets at the heart of in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, and the story’s main play­ers feel very much alive. Since she’s also a historical fig­ure, Hat­tie’s tra­jec­tory is al­ready more or less known, but Kil­pack so skil­fully weaves the path be­tween Hat­tie’s in­tro­duc­tion as an in­ward-look­ing young woman to the pub­li­ca­tion of Un­cle Tom’s Cabin that know­ing the even­tual out­come takes noth­ing what­so­ever away from the jour­ney.

The book’s over­ar­ch­ing theme is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions and in­di­vid­ual will, and what hap­pens when the two are deeply at odds––ques­tions that still per­vade both bed­rooms and board­rooms to­day. Fas­ci­nat­ing, too, is the still-rel­e­vant con­trast be­tween Hat­tie’s strug­gle for per­sonal free­dom from the rig­ors of house­hold work, and the en­vi­ron­ment in which she ex­pe­ri­ences this strug­gle––one in which African Amer­i­cans re­main in lit­eral shack­les.

All That Makes Life Bright is about mak­ing mar­riage work in the face of chal­lenges like a de­sire for per­sonal free­dom. It is a ro­mance with broad ap­peal.

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