Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick - REVIEW

ABOUT THE BOOK: (from the publisher)
Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.


“Anxiety is the essence of conscience.” (p. 253)

If the quote from Dr. Freud in Jane Kirkpatrick’s novel An Absence so Great is accurate, then Jessie Gaebele, Mrs. Fred Baur and Mr. Fred Baur himself should all be suffering dire fits of apoplexy! Whether it’s true or not, this is the first novel I’ve read by Jane Kirkpatrick that left me totally unimpressed. When I was introduced to the character of Jessie Gaebele in A Flickering Light, I applauded her strength of character and her determination to utilize her talents as a photographer despite the fact that it was a male dominated field. I applauded her even further for turning away from the temptation of loving a married man. I applauded too early.

Jessie is only a teen when she encounters Fred Baur for the first time. He is 26 years older than she, and any normal teenager would have thought he was a dirty old man going through a midlife crisis. Well, his marriage was in crisis after the tragic death of his son, but that gave him no right to lust after a teenage girl even if they did have similar interests. When Jessie left the man behind in the last book, I was thrilled. Little did I know that Fred would pursue her relentlessly whether she wanted him to or not. Even Jessie recognizes their relationship as the temptation it is and makes weak attempts to turn from it. Granted, Fred Baur’s wife, also named Jessie, is going to counseling with the pastor to deal with the loss of her son and her troubled marriage, but she allows herself to become infatuated with the pastor, so in her heart she is as adulterous as her husband.

Bottom line, when the phrase “absence so great” is used in this novel it speaks of the emptiness Jessie and Fred feel when they are apart. I feel strongly that the reality of an “absence so great” was the total absence of a personal relationship with Christ, and the total unwillingness to repent of their adulterous feelings toward one another. Fred’s treatment of his wife and family was abominable. His deceit was sinful. His divorce was wrong. He never once gave me the impression that he intended to turn away from his adulterous feelings for Jessie Gaebele. He pursued this teenage girl relentlessly.

Perhaps they found Christ later in life and repented of their willing sinfulness. I hope so, because this story didn’t even hint of a moment’s brokenness or repentance. The consequences of broken lives and relationships will be the legacy in my mind of Fred Baur and Jessie Gaebele, not their happily ever after. This was an adulterous affair from beginning to end. Romanticizing it doesn’t make it right.


Jane Kirkpatrick is a best-selling, award-winning author whose previous historical novels include All Together in One Place and Christy Award finalist A Tendering in the Storm. An international keynote speaker, she has earned regional and national recognition for her stories based on the lives of actual people, including the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Hall of Fame. Jane is a Wisconsin native who since 1974 has lived in Eastern Oregon, where she and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 rugged acres.

I received my review copy free from Waterbook in exchange for my review. I will be donating my extra copy to the local library.


Mocha with Linda said...

Thank you for speaking Truth in your honest review.

Jane Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Kim,
I too thank you for posting your honest review of my book. I wanted to add just one thing: you're right, the absence so great is the absence of God in their lives. Based on your review, I failed to convey that or their repentance but it was intended and there. I can tell you that they went on to have five children whose descendants became ministers, missionaries, involved in music ministries and teachers in Christian schools and whom we ascribe her faith as being a guiding light for that part of our faith journey. thanks again for the review and for donating the book to your local library. Warmly, Jane

Kim said...

Thank YOU Jane for being so gracious and kind. You are a blessing!