Monday, February 15, 2010

An Absence So Great-Jane Kirkpatrick

An Absence So Great
Jane Kirkpatrick
WaterBrook, Mar 16 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781578569816

In 1910 eighteen years old Jessie Ann Gaebele is proof that single young women are going places no one dreamed possible just a few years ago. She has demonstrated skill as a photographer in Milwaukee though gender bias is rampant even when she is buying supplies or obtaining customers. Jessie Ann dreams of one day returning to her hometown of Winona, Minnesota to open up her own photography studio as currently she fills in for those ailing from mercury poisoning. When she triumphantly opens that studio in Winona she will prove to herself that she has not just come a long way, she had made it. However, she also knows her broken heart was an enabler to get her to leave Minnesota for the eastern side of Wisconsin.

Still as she struggles with male proprietors thinking they can accost a single woman, she also misses her home like the annual boat race, but especially Fred Gottlieb. When he arrives in Milwaukee for the photographic conference to receive an award, Jessie Ann wants to flee, but her time alone taking care of herself has given her courage. She will be polite and congratulate him, but keep herfeelings hidden while keeping a distance. However, Jessie is unaware that Fred has an agenda of his own.

Reaching back once again to her family tree for the sequel of her grandmother Jessie Ann as a late teen (see The Flickering Light for the earlier years), historical novelist Jane Kirkpatrick provides readers with a terrific "biographical fiction". The story line is fast-paced but owned by the lead couple especially the brave heroine who as a pioneer makes it in an era when single young women did not hang out shingles as craftsmen. The support cast like Marie Harms, daughter of the boarding house owner where Jessie Ann stays, enhances the profound look at how far women have come in a century.

Harriet Klausner

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