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Leaving Yesterday, by Kathryn Cushman

Leaving Yesterday

Alisa Stewart is living every mother’s worst nightmare.  Her oldest son, Nick, is dead.  Her middle child, Kurt, has become addicted to drugs.  Her husband has moved out of the family home.  She is now left alone to raise her youngest child, a pre-teen girls who doesn’t quite understand what is happening in her life.  When Kurt enters rehab, Alisa is sure God has answered her prayers and is bringing healing into the family.  Only a detective has started poking around, asking questions about a man in Kurt’s past.  He is soon showing up in unexpected places, always asking questions Alisa doesn’t want to answer.  She is determined to believe the best about her child.  When something incriminating is found in Kurt’s belongings, Alisa takes matters into her own hands.  But has her desperate act helped her son, or made things worse for him?

I her book Leaving Yesterday, Kathryn Cushman paints a beautiful picture of a mother’s inner struggle between the truth and protecting her young.  I was moved by Alisa situation, admiring her dedication and loathing her methods all at the same time.  There is a right way and a wrong way to handle every situation in life.  As a Christian, Alisa knew in her heart the right thing to do.  In her head, she was not convinced.  I love the way her struggles seem so real and the way that nothing is glossed over.

Cushman’s story made me consider my own life, my own children.  Would I risk everything for them—even if they did not deserve my sacrifice?  I don’t know.  But any book that makes the reader think is worth a second look.  And this one definitely gave me a lot to think about.

The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Apothecary's Daughter

Life in 18th century England offered very few opportunities for women, even for women as intelligent and capable as Lilly Haswell.  With her incredible memory and years growing up in her father’s shop, Lilly knows she could become a talented apothecary on her own.  If only society allowed women to hold such a position.  Instead, she helps her father as best as she can while taking care of a mentally challenged younger brother, dreaming about finding true love, and searching for the mother who abandoned the family years ago.

The Apothecary’s Daughter is full of drama and love, all set against a very realistic historical background.  Julie Klassen shows an amazing grasp of life in this time period.  I have to say that my favorite character throughout the book was Mary Mimpurse, Lilly’s best friend.  Hers was a tough life, and the way her story is told is brilliant.  While I had trouble getting into this story at first, I found the book was well worth reading.  It is very well-written and thought-provoking.

A Lady of Secret Devotion

A Lady of Secret Devotion, by Tracie Peterson

                Life in Philadelphia in 1857 was not always easy for a woman.  Especially not for a woman alone, with no to support her.  Cassandra Stover knew that all too well.  At age 24, she had been helping her mother survive for nearly 10 years.  Together, they make enough money to support themselves and Cassie’s young sister by running a laundry service.  There is not enough money to make needed repairs to their home.  As soon as her sister is old enough to help more, Cassie goes in search of job.  She is at the end of her rope, ready to give up all hope, when Mrs. Jameston, an elderly Philadelphia socialite, offers Cassie a position as constant companion.  Acceptance of the job thrusts Cassie into a life she had only dreamed of before.

                Mrs. Jameston’s son provides the only negative in this situation.  His hatred of his mother and his rather questionable business practices soon lead Cassie to a fear of her own life.  Her involvement with Mark Langford, the man investigating possible fraud on behalf of Mr. Jameston, brings some comfort.  But when she begins to feel more a desire to move their relationship beyond a business agreement, Cassie’s world is really turned upside down.

                Once again, Tracie Peterson shows intimate knowledge of America’s past.  Reading her work is like being transported to a different time.  What I like the most about it is the characters; they are real and flawed, just like the people I meet in everyday life.

                It is amazing to me, actually, how much I am enjoying reading Peterson’s work.  Historical fiction is not something I have had much interest in before.  Yet I can hardly wait to get my hands on another of her over 70 novels and head back to America’s past.

A Promise to Believe In

A Promise to Believe In, by Tracie Peterson

                Gwen Gallatin is cursed.  She knows it, even though those around her refuse to believe it.  But what other explanation can there be for the death that seems to follow her everywhere?  First, it was her mother.  Then her husband.  And now her father.  Gwen fears for her two younger sisters.  Her love for them is sure to get them killed as well. 

                Hank Bishop arrives in the Montana Territory’s Gallatin County shortly after Gwen and her sisters have buried their father.  If what he says is true, Gwen’s entire married life—all ten days of it—was a lie.  And if her husband, a man who claimed to love her unconditionally, could like to her, how can she ever trust her judgment of anyone else?

                A Promise to Believe In is a heartwarming story of love in the old west.  Tracie Peterson shows a tremendous knowledge of west and of social traditions of the late 19th Century.  Her descriptions make the reader feel as if a part of the story.  While reading this book, I could often feel the wind on my face and hear the beating of horses hooves.

                This is not just a tale of finding love on earth.  Throughout the story, Peterson shows the struggles people have had through the ages of understanding God’s love.  Believing she is cursed, Gwen finds it hard to think that God is really as loving as she has been taught.  Hank, in his own ways, has suffered a difficult life.  He has very little use for a God who could let such horrible things happen.  I had never really stopped to think before that the problems I face in my walk with God are problems that Christians in all time periods have faced.  This book made it much easier to relate to Christians who lived before me.