Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesdays Umbrellas of Comfort

Many people have puzzled over how to ‘categorize’ Jane Kirkpatrick’s works, and most conclude she has forged her own genre in a subtle way. Inspirational without any religious agenda, her books are more about women finding healing and strength in their lives, despite very difficult circumstances. When they face ethical dilemmas they must rely upon their backgrounds, as well as their instincts, to make choices for themselves. The author has written several series of historical novels. She does a good job of always weaving in a romantic storyline remembering that women are always searching for love and understanding, no matter what time period they lived in.

From her Change and Cherish series (3 books) - I read the third, A Mending at the Edge which completes the story of a woman founder of the Aurora Colony. We all can envision what a woman with several children and an abusive spouse COULD do nowadays to change her life - although of course, many still do not have the courage to break away. Perhaps what holds them back are some of the problems facing Emma Wagner Giesy, who had to defy her own family and deep religious convictions, to join a group of pioneers heading to the west coast for a better life. Sent by the Bethel Colony of Missouri to found a new community on the Pacific coast, Emma, her children, and fellow pioneers are based on real people. We might wish her story had different elements, that Emma acted in ways that make more sense to us, but she is a historical figure and must make her way within a set of restrictive parameters. She can’t change everything in her life, but she can fight for a better future. She longs to be loved and cherished but suffers a series of hurts and betrayals.

This is the beauty of Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing. She has a unique knack for identifying a set of circumstances a woman from the past is facing, and then following her choices and dilemmas that make perfect sense in the context of her times, not ours. Along the way, we get to see what inspires the women, what held them together, and what process they go through to find healing and self-knowledge. Personally, I found interest in the idea of a woman setting out from the midwest – from all that she had known before – and bravely taking the journey to start a new life on the western coast. The circumstances of my life are totally different from Emma’s, yet there is a universality of the struggles faced by every woman and especially those who must choose to relocate. In a sense, we all are taking Emma's journey in life.

There is also a lot to think about in the details of how the ordinary can bring comfort and perception to one's mind. Many of Jane Kirkpatrick books address the importance of needle crafts such as quilting to women in the past. A sister lover of all things quilting, I love how she incorporates details into all her writing. Her books often include inspirational moments that show how a person can interpret a bit of wisdom formed by someone else, and apply it to the circumstances they find themselves in. I enjoy her themes of courage, acceptance, and eventually finding your own happiness.

My favorites of the Kirkpatrick books are set in the midwest and might be suitable for a YA market but are also very enjoyable for adults who enjoy history and romance. These two books about the author’s grandmother are A Flickering Light (2009) about Jessie Ann Gaebele a young woman photographer. Jessie is shown as a 15 year old fascinated with photography who finds her life's calling to pursue what is considered a man’s profession in 1907 Midwest.
In An Absence So Great ( 2010) – age 18 now, Jessie is trying to get over her attraction to a married man, her mentor in the art of photography. The book explores the subject of the dangers of photography from the chemicals used and the prejudice against a young woman pursuing a business career as a professional photographer. It also is an examination of the way one woman dealt with the problem of her attraction for a married man at the turn of the twentieth century.

Jane Kirkpatrick -
After thirty years of homesteading with her husband in a remote area called Starvation Point, Oregon, Jane Kirkpatrick has moved back to the Bend area. A former mental health professional, she is the author of over 20 books, many based on real historical figures including family members. Jane’s new release is called “The Daughter’s Walk” (April 2011) and we will be reviewing it soon.

Jane Kirkpatrick will be speaking at a fund-raiser in Keizer where her speech “Of Quilts and Courage: Stitching Stories” will highlight her fascination with women Oregon Trail pioneers and quilting, and also introduce an exhibit of heritage quilts. Tickets are on sale (to benefit the Keizer Library) for the event featuring this local author to be held on April 8th, 2011, at the Keizer Heritage Center.

1 comment:

  1. Love your thoughtful and insightful reviews! And I like the variety of books on your site. Keep up the good work!