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Review-An Absence So Great

WaterBrook Press, Copyright 2010, 383 pages
 Christian Historical Fiction

Link for the book:

This book was given to me for free by WaterBrook Multnomah for the purpose of reading/reviewing.

Portraits of the Heart Historical Series
Book One~~~A Flickering Light (One of Library Journal's Best of 2009)
Book Two~~~An Absence So Great

The time period is the early 20th Century, 1910-1915.
Jessie Gaebele is a young woman living in the upper mid-west and she had been under the guidance and teaching of Fred Bauer an experienced photographer. When he became ill in book 1 A Flickering Light, Jessie kept his business going until he was well and could return. Book 2 begins with her living and working in another town away from Fred and his family, as well as her own parents and sisters. From the first page of the story the reader understands that there was more that just a working relationship between Jessie and Fred. Fred is an older man 26 years older that Jessie. Fred is married and has 3 children. During the course of the book Jessie works in other towns as a photographer, at each point hoping she can fulfill her dream to own her own photographic studio.

It is difficult to read a book 2 or 3 in a series without having read the previous books. I jumped in to the story of Jessie Gaebele without having read book 1~~A Flickering Light. It was about page 75 when I began to feel "apart" of the story. Before then I trudged a long hoping to understand better the main character and her circumstances.

The front cover of the book An Absence So Great is stunning! Colors of amber, brown, sepia, gold, surround a lone young women with her tripod and camera in a sea of wheat. This is a perfect foreshadowing of the main character Jessie. She is a young woman feeling alone with her emotions, dreams, and stirrings of independence, in a culture and time when women did not have equal rights.
At first glance the title of the book An Absence so Great--is to me an oxymoron--the 2 words absence and great are contradictory. Yet, the title speaks perfectly well of the theme and journey of the books characters.
I could easily relate to Jessie, at the beginning of the book she is 18 and wanting to be independent, self sufficient, and to pursue her dreams head-on. There is always a journey of experience and education that must be met in "growing up."
I loved it that Jessie and I share the same birthday, I too have always been fond that I share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln.
Jessie is a private person, avoiding conversations about her family, and anything that she finds to personal.
She has a sensitive eye, behind the camera lens she picks up on the emotions and the private stories of the people she takes pictures of.
There are several photographs in the book that are from the early 19th Century that helped set the mood for the book. 
I loved having the cast of characters and map at the beginning of the book as opposed the usual back of the book.
At the back of the book after the story is the interview with the author--this is a must read!
Dispersed throughout the book words such as indiscretions and a memory of an episode are expressed from Jessie and Fred. I had no idea what had happened (I'd not read book 1) until later in the book.
The book takes another turn in the story with Mrs. Bauer (a complete book could be written about her.) Mrs. Bauer is a bitter, acrid, icy cold, indifferent, mean, dramatic, selfish woman---and I wondered if she had a mental illness.
I never felt that Mr. Fred Bauer was without innocence, nor can I say I trusted him, but I had a better understanding of the home life and history that they'd had.
I felt the author did a great job of writing about the culture of the early 20th Century, especially focusing on women that worked and had businesses.

Blissful Reading!