Title: When Dignity Came to Harlan
Author: Rebecca Duvall Scott
Major Themes: Abuse
Synopsis: When her parents couldn’t care for her, Anna Beth was placed in another family’s home, where she endured much mistreatment, but also found love.
When I’m looking at books available for review any book that is not straight-up romance will catch my eye. When Dignity Came to Harlan sounded quite interesting and very different. The fact that it was based on a true story was also appealing; that is my favorite type of fiction. The description sounded like a book I would really enjoy so I requested it. When I got into it, I wasn’t sure I would actually like it, though. For the first several chapters I only kept reading because I had agreed to read and review it. I struggled with the dialect that was written out all the time; that’s just not my style of book. However, by the time I was about halfway through I could hardly stop thinking about this book. Most of the time I have less than five minutes at a time to read, and then I have to put the book down and get back to whatever it is it needs to be done. Most of the time I have no trouble doing that. But this book, however, was a lot harder to do that with than most books. I really could not tell which way the story was going to go and I just had to find out what happened to Anna Beth.
Anna Beth and her family lived in Missouri, but the lead mines had played out and her father decided they needed to move to Kentucky where there would be more jobs. Anna’s oldest sister and her husband stayed in Missouri but 12-year-old Anna and her three younger sisters traveled with their parents in a covered wagon for six weeks to what they hoped would be a better home. When they arrived the family had to be divided up because they had no food, nowhere to live, and no job. Anna Beth and her baby sister had to live with the Graingers where Anna Beth had to work hard every day to pay for their room and board.
Anna did her very best to please Mr. Grainger, but sometimes she wondered if it was even possible. She knew she had to make the best of it though, so it wouldn’t be so hard for her parents, set a good example for her younger sisters, and so she could take care of her baby sister. After a few years had passed, when she had forced herself to admit that her parents would not be coming back for her, life got even harder and she was at the point of despair. If it hadn’t been for wise Mr. Jingle, the peddler, she would not have survived. However, as Romans says, “All things work together for good.”
Every emotion imaginable is present in the story. Love, sadness, despair, hope, peace, and joy—I felt all of those with Anna Beth as I read When Dignity Came to Harlan. Even though she experienced severe mistreatment, she also experienced deep love. Don’t pick this book up if you want romance. It isn’t there. If, however, you like to read books about how people can overcome trials victoriously with God’s help this is a book for you. I enjoyed learning, at the back of the book, what was true and what was fiction in the story. This author has done a great job of taking stories from her grandmother’s life and weaving them together into this book. For a while, I was sure I would not like this book, but I changed my mind.
I received a review copy of this book from CelebrateLit, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: A rape is described in chapter 14, and a beating in chapter 17. Chapter 1: Darn it. Chapter 4: gee, chewed the heck out of it. Chapter 10: try so darn hard.