ALL SHE LEFT BEHIND: A STORY HELD TOGETHER BY DYNAMIC CHARACTERS
by Jane Kirkpatrick Revell
PB, 343 pages
Romances, especially Christian romances, often grow stale with their stubborn sameness. Jane Kirkpatrick, however, injects new life into the genre with All She Left Behind.
The story follows Jennie, a mother struggling with marriage, parenthood and the ghosts of past tragedies. Along the way she fights to follow her dream of becoming a physician, even though the society of the story’s setting—1870s Oregon—may not accept or condone a female in such a role.
Rather than creating drama for drama’s sake, all of the conflict Kirkpatrick crafts seems grounded and real. Another nuance Kirkpatrick expertly weaves throughout the story is the theme of parenthood. Jennie’s relationship with her son, Douglas, often becomes the main focus, sometimes being more compelling to the plot than the story’s romantic aspects. However, what holds the story together is dynamic characters. They are all rich and three-dimensional. Even secondary characters see their arcs completed. It is a breath of fresh air within the genre. Kirkpatrick’s prose is tight and focused, and her pacing is rapid, very steady. Her novel truly is a page-turner.
All She Left Behind is an excellent entry into a genre that needs fresh material. Even though the themes can be a bit heavy-handed at times, the book has a good message presented through well-defined characters and an engaging story. It is a worthy addition to any bookshelf. All She Left Behind is aimed mostly at women, especially mothers; however, any fan of a good period romance will find enjoyment here. This book gives many insights into relationships, parenting, divorce, alcoholism, and substance abuse and shows the negative effects on other people, and all through a godly lens. It has the potential to speak to readers struggling with any of these issues.
Reviewed by Elijah Oates, a professional writing major at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana.