I recently read a debut novel by one of my fellow members in the Historical Novel Society. The book relates the story of a young women struggling against prejudice and hypocrisy in the 1800s, but it equally applies to women today.
As I read the book, I recalled the saying, “But, for the grace of God, there go I,” because indeed, this girl’s life could have been mine… or yours.
This month I would like to share a review I wrote for her book and I hope you will all be inspired to read it. I’m sure you’ll be as moved as I was, and still am.
Picture yourself in a theater. The lights begin to dim and the audience quiets. A paper crinkles as the last candy is unwrapped. Overhead, a beam casts its glow on the stage and illuminates a Quaker woman seated in a plain, high back wooden chair, a baby nestled against her breast. The woman begins to speak and her soft even tone hypnotizes you. When her eyes find you, it might as well be you in the spotlight because her words expose and reveal the attitudes and prejudices in your heart.
In mesmerizing detail, like a friend relating a most intimate story, we personally hear and are moved by a young woman’s encounter with the realities of her time, while Janet Benton’s tender and elegant prose carry us protectively through the most heart-rending scenes.
“Home” ceases to exist. Men, and women alike, take advantage of her misfortunes. Society has no place or tolerance for “fallen” women. And religion, a refuge for the soul, provides no compassionate haven for women “like her.”
Janet Benton tells a compelling story of the plight of unwed mothers; situations, unfortunately, as real and relevant today as in the 1800s, the time period in which the story unfolds. As far as society has progressed, difficulties still persist, as mothers who are single-parents will attest, in terms of finding employment, child-care, housing, and… honor and respect.
Lilli’s story ends. The audience solemnly exits the theater.
And this reader hopes that each of us will be more inclined toward mercy than judgement, and earnestly look for opportunities to extend a helping hand.
See you next time on September 22nd.
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.