Title: Candle in the Darkness
Author: Lynn Austin
Series: Refiner’s Fire, book 1
Major Themes: Civil War, Slavery, Virginia
Synopsis: Caroline lives in Virginia, and while her family owns slaves, she abhors slavery during the Civil War.
Years ago, Mom got Candle in the Darkness as a freebie, and I read it not too long after—the cover drew me in, and the story captivated me. I’ve never read a book that showed the Civil War in quite this light, and even though this book was much more than just about history, I remember coming away with a deep appreciation for what people had to go through back in that era. Throughout the ages, people’s lives have been stories all their own, created one day at a time through different experiences and happenings. Most are not written down, but though this book is a work of fiction, it’s written in such a way that it almost feels like it could have happened. And I love that.
Caroline Fletcher finds herself in a difficult position. Though born in the south, and having had slaves wait on her nearly her entire life, she’s come to appreciate them as people—with the same hearts, wishes, and feelings as her own. Two years in the north further taught her that slaves should be free to do as they wish, but when the Civil War begins, she is caught, as part of a Southern family, on the Confederate side of the conflict. Though she dreads seeing her homeland destroyed, she still longs for more freedom for those kept in slavery around her, and this is further complicated by her father, cousins, and fiancé fighting in or for the Confederate army. How can she hold true to her convictions, and yet remain true to those she loves most, as well? What is she supposed to do when her cousin from the Union Army asks her to help him escape, thereby making her hopes for the freedom of her friends seem more possible? If she does help him, she’d be betraying her family.
“Trust that everything you done for God and everything you gave up for Him has a purpose. God will give it all meaning in the end.”—Eli
I don’t know why, but Candle in the Darkness and other books by Lynn Austin have really resonated with me. Perhaps because I love the writing style, and would like to write like that myself. It could be because she’s obviously researched her settings pretty well. Or perhaps because the characters are well-developed. Whatever the case, I loved getting to know Caroline and her world.
My biggest takeaway is probably that even if things are difficult, following the Lord is always worthwhile in the end. Yes, it might end up a little too perfect in a novel, but following the Lord even if we don’t see profitable results from it is worthwhile…because He is worth it all.
I had Candle in the Darkness on my ever-growing to-be-read list for several years, and finally started it recently. Suddenly I knew why my daughter had told me I needed to read it—I was sucked in and could hardly put this story down.
Caroline grew up in Richmond, Virginia. She always took her black mammy, Tessie, for granted, as well as her mammy’s son, Grady, who was her best friend, and never even thought about slavery—until the morning that Grady was sold. How could her father do this? And then a whole string of other questions came into her mind—like, who was Grady’s father, anyway?
Over the next several years, as Caroline and her family endured many hard times, she continued to have questions. Then, when she spent several years in the North, and became involved with the abolitionists, she realized how terrible slavery was. Going back to the South, she knew that all she had to do was to show people they were wrong for owning slaves, and things would change—but would they?
When war broke out between the North and the South, Caroline found herself torn. Her father and fiancee were both fighting on the side of the South, but her cousins and a man who loved her were on the Northern side. Should she risk everything to stand true to her convictions that slavery was wrong? What could she do to make a difference?
This is a fascinating account of the Civil War from a unique perspective. A Southern girl who held Northern sympathies, whose family owned slaves but she abhorred slavery—what a combination. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this book.
WARNING: A boy is sold as a slave in chapter one. In chapter 6, we are told about a woman who committed suicide. In chapter 8, there is mention made about the marriage bed. An ammunitions factory blew up in ch. 20, and someone tells of the people he saw who were trying to get away. Being a war story, there are naturally some battle scenes and ones about wounded soldiers. However, here are specific references, if you want to know: Battles are described in ch. 14, 15, 17, 21, and 23. There are descriptions of wounded people in ch. 14, 15, 17, and 24. As far as the romance department is concerned: People talk about what slaveowners sometimes did with their slave girls in ch. 6, 8, 22, and 27 (the last somewhat more detailed than the others). There is kissing in ch. 11, 12, 15, and 21. And there is touching between unmarried people in ch. 3, 13, and 21. Otherwise, the word “blasted” is used in ch. 10 (two times); ch. 13, 21, and 26. People use God’s name wrongly in ch. 14, 17, 18, 19, and 24. The word “tarnation” is used in ch. 15, the phrase “I’ll be d—ed” is used in ch. 26, someone curses in ch. 17, and there is lying in ch. 8, 19, and 22.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults
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