Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review: Though Waters Roar

Austin, Lynn. 2009. Though Waters Roar. Bethany House. 430 pages.

It was ironic.
I lay in my jail cell on a squeaky iron bunk, gazing at the stained mattress above me, and I remembered the day I first understood the meaning of the word ironic. I couldn't help smiling at...well, at the irony of it. The meaning had become clear to me ten years ago on the day my grandmother, Beatrice Monroe Garner, was arrested.

I love, love, love Lynn Austin. Granted, I don't love all of her books equally. Some are more amazing (to me) than others. So how did I feel about her latest book? Did it have me at hello? Is it a book I want to rush to put into my mom's hands? Will it top my best-books-of-the-year list?

What do I love most about Lynn Austin? Her characters. They're always so human, so fleshed-out, so imperfect, so real. Her stories matter because they're filled with life--not perfect life, not life as we imagine it or dream it, but real life with real problems. Her characters struggle because we as humans are always struggling.

What is Though Waters Roar about? Well, it's about women, about family, about rights, about social justice, about living life with purpose, having a cause. In Though Waters Roar we meet four women: Hannah Monroe, Beatrice "Bebe" Monroe Garner, Lucy Garner Sherwood, and Harriet Sherwood. It's a story of mothers and daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

And it's historical fiction. The modern setting (Harriet's present-day-in-jail) is 1919. With flashbacks, we travel back to the nineteenth century, to the 1850s I believe. (We're definitely there for the 1860s and 1870s as well.)

The story's heroine is Harriet Sherwood. When we first meet her, she's in jail. In jail and trying to figure out just how she got there, what led her to be in the place she is. She's a thoughtful character. The narrative is told through memories of her life, her family. But we also get a few flashbacks. That is, we get 'inside' the minds of other characters. For example, we spend a great deal of time with Bebe. We follow her from childhood through grand-motherhood.

I mentioned this one was about causes--and it is. Hannah is part of the Anti-Slavery movement. Bebe is part of the Temperance movement. Bebe and Lucy and Harriet are all Suffragists. (Though Lucy is a new champion of women's rights.) It was interesting to trace these movements through the decades.

So did I love it? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? Not as much as A Woman's Place. Not as much as Until We Reach Home. But I did enjoy it. I do think it's a good book. Well-written. Great characters that you can relate you. A compelling story. So I'm definitely going to be recommending it. And yes, I'm going to see if mom wants to read this one.

My review of Until We Reach Home. My review of A Woman's Place.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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