All Things New, by Lynn Austin

book coverThe war is over. The South has lost.

Josephine Weatherly struggles to pick up the pieces of her life when her family returns to their Virginia plantation. But the realities of life after the war cannot be denied: her home and land are but a shell of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. 

Her life of privilege, a long-ago dream.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival–and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine’s mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak–but a bitter hatred fuels her. 

Can hope–and a battered faith in God–survive amid the devastation?

When the Civil War ended in April 1865, the south was changed forever. The Confederate capital, Richmond, was in ruins. Plantations were destroyed and their owners left without help as newly freed slaves took advantage of their freedom. Southerners had two choices: they could attempt to rebuild the past and the way of life they had known during peacetime, or they could forge a different future for themselves. Josephine wants to make the best of things, but her mother and brother are trapped in the past.

Looking at the beautiful dresses and plantation homes it is easy to imagine that the antebellum south was romantic. But it wasn’t, and All Things New doesn’t hide that. Privileged white women had few rights and lived according to their parents’ wishes. The life of a slave was never good. There were long days of toil, families could be permanently separated, and the threat of mistreatment continuously hung over their heads. Still, some whites believed they treated their slaves better than the north treated immigrants. “They may criticize us for the way we treat our slaves, but they treat immigrants much worse. At least we provide food and shelter for our workers. No one up north cares if those poor foreigners starve to death in the streets,” says one character early in the book.

All Things New focuses on characters that have different views and expectations of a post-war south. It would be simple to divide them into those who are for change and those who are against it, but it isn’t that straightforward. Harrison lost his leg during the war, but his mental anguish stems from an event long before. Virginia wants to hold on to the life she knew as though it might return her husband from the dead. Alexander went against his Quaker upbringing to join the fighting. Lizzie fears that nothing has changed except that she and her family are possibly in more danger as they attempt to live free.

With All Things New, Lynn Austin has created a realistic vision of a battered south that leaps from the page. There is no attempt to hide from the harsh realities of slavery. The whites don’t automatically treat the former slaves as equals, nor are they able to return to the lives they had before the war. At times, this book isn’t pretty. It is, however, a novel that grabs the reader and is almost impossible to put down.

Publisher: Bethany House

Publication Date: 01 October 2012

Page Count: 416

Publisher’s Product Page   Amazon   Barnes and Noble

I won a copy of All Things New through The Book Club Network. I was not required to write a review.


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