Title: A Million Little Choices
Author: Tamera Alexander
Major Themes: Time-Slip Fiction, Civil War, Infidelity, Slavery
Synopsis: Struggling to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity, Claire Powell’s life is further upset when she finds out he has accepted a new position and plans to move them across the country—all without consulting her first.
As someone who has tuned into Focus on the Family occasionally over the years, I was intrigued to see they are coming out with their own fiction line now. As I understand it, A Million Little Choices is one of the first books to be released in the new line, and I was quite excited to get a chance to read it for myself.
Claire Powell’s life is crumbling around her. First came the news that her husband cheated on her, and now, despite her budding career as an interior decorator in their hometown, Denver, he’s accepted a high-paying position for a prestigious Atlanta law firm and bought a house sight unseen for them. Leaving now would mean losing her chance to continue building her career as a newly made partner in the design business she works for. How could Stephen expect her to do this? And how could God ask her to leave her only child in college and her son’s grave behind in a cross-country move? With her marriage on the rocks, and forced into a house she hates, Claire grapples with what her life has become. There are no easy answers.
In 1863, Charlotte Thursman’s life is a living nightmare. Everyone in her household fears her husband, an abusive tyrant who cares little for human life beyond what he can get out of people. Each day, she begs the Lord to protect her unborn child—all the while fearing that her prayers won’t be enough. She knows the slaves in her home and on their plantation are also in danger, but how can she help them? If her husband has his way, she may never have the chance to do anything, anyway.
Gripping, immersive, and heart-wrenching, this book is a portrait of what sin—and the inevitable resulting brokenness—does to people. My heart was broken for Claire and Charlotte’s situations. This book did an excellent job showing a bit of the grief journey people go on as they try to grapple with the unthinkable in their lives. Though it wasn’t an easy story, I found it gripping and well-written—two things I greatly appreciate in fiction.
I didn’t agree with everything in this story and was also made uncomfortable by some of the descriptions in the book, so unfortunately, those took the overall rating down for me. Throughout the book, one of the characters repeatedly thinks about how she has Biblical support for divorce due to infidelity, and this is never really addressed. There is a lot of encouragement toward doing whatever possible to save the marriage, but divorce “stays on the table”, so to speak. There is also a case where someone takes justice into their own hands—that didn’t sit well with me. For the description side of things, see the warnings.
A Million Little Choices is an engaging, memorable story, and a good reminder of the grace the Lord gives us. From a faith perspective, it isn’t the most powerful story I’ve ever read, but paired with a solid contemporary and historical plot, this was a good read. I’d be interested to read more books by this author someday.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: “Thank goodness” is used in ch. 1, 10, and 12; swear or swore or a variant is used in ch. 5, 18 (three times), 21, 22, 29, 31, 35, and 47; gracious is used in ch. 9, 26, 43, 50, and 55; “Oh, God” is used in ch. 12; curse or cursed is used in ch. 31 and 40; “heaven knew” is used in ch. 33; and “Lord in heaven” is used in ch. 50. There is lying in ch. 1, 15, 17, 26, 31, 51, 53 (confessing the lie), and 54.
In ch. 2, and again in 54 and 56, there are brief descriptions of women wearing revealing clothing. Having sex is mentioned multiple times, in ch. 1, 4 (a bedroom scene—this one had slightly too much description for me before the fade to black), 18 (a brief description of lead-up), 23, 28, 29 (someone remembering the circumstances around when her son was conceived), 35, 40, 44, 54, and 58. A married couple kisses in ch. 9, 10, and 59. A woman mentions a man “taking her to the shed” in ch. 22, and a woman thinks about her abusive husband and how her child was conceived “in a loveless way”. A woman mentions a man “doing with us as he pleased” and making sure a girl could never have children again in ch. 46.
Throughout the book, from ch. 11 on, people talk about a rumor that a house is haunted. Occasionally, people hear moans or see other strange phenomena. Also throughout the book, a woman thinks about her son who died at a young age (she tells the circumstances of his death in ch. 49). Occasionally, there are mentions of children who died at a young age.
A man gets drunk in ch. 11. A woman gets angry and smashes things in ch. 19. Characters verbally fight in ch. 28. A man is drunk and beats a woman in ch. 31. A woman tells about how she cheated on her husband, got pregnant, and almost had an abortion in ch. 43. A man is drunk, there is some shooting, several people are hurt, and two are killed in ch. 47 (some description both in this chapter and ch. 48). A woman is in labor and there is a mention of someone being the daughter of a master and slave in ch. 50. Someone bleeds to death in ch. 51 (this is mentioned again in ch. 59). A woman tells how her husband was a serial cheater in ch. 55.
There are occasional mentions of drinking wine. Several times throughout the book, a character thinks about how God “made provision for someone whose spouse had broken his covenant”. Two or three times, a character thinks about “a special language” God had given someone to pray with. A character praises someone for killing someone else. In ch. 59, someone writes, “You’s already praying for us from the other side I know.…”