All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stoweby Josi S. Kilpack Published 05 Sep 2017
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When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet's sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.
Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed-being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman's life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband's heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.
Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.
Can their love endure, especially after "I do"? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?
"All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe" Reviews
I'll have to admit even though I had heard of Harriet Beecher Stowe I didn't know much about her. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, Harriet Beecher was the seventh child of the Reverend Lyman Beecher, a Congregational minister and moral reformer, and Roxanna Foote Beecher.She was an American abolitionist and author.In 1836, she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, professor of biblical literature at Lane. This fictional tale was fascinating to read as some of it is based on fact. The story focuses on her and Calvin's early married life. They had 3 children in 2 years and ending up having a total of seven. In this story,Hattie,as she is called since she also has a daughter named Harriet is frustrated and insecure. She would rather write than do her duties of caring for the house . When the babies come along she is even more overwhelmed with child rearing duties and doesn't know how to manage her time properly. Calvin brings his mother in to teach her how to manage the house and children which while giving her help it also makes her feel as a failure. At the point of exhaustion she collapses and is sent way to recuperate. Missing her children and husband dreadfully she does recover and her husband is more understanding of her needs once she returns home. Harriet Beecher's most famous work is Uncle Tom's Cabin,she was one of the best-selling authors of the 19th century. I love historical fiction books like this that are steeped in facts as I am always willing to learn more!
Pub Date 05 Sep 2017
Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
I knew nothing about Harriet Beecher Stowe before I read this book, although the name was familiar. It was fascinating to learn about who the real woman was- most known for authoring Uncle Tom's Cabin, while also enjoying a fictionalized account of a portion of her early married life. (In the afterword the author tells chapter by chapter what is based off research, accounts, and letters, which I appreciated). I had many feelings while reading this book! The author does a skillful job of showing the perspective of both Harriet and her new husband Calvin, and making the reader sympathetic to both sides. It made me remember the first year of my marriage and the transition from being centered on one's self to being required to care for another's desires as well. Harriet's circumstance is more extreme of course, with the role of a wife still strongly traditional, not being raised to keep house but rather pursue intellectual edification, and becoming pregnant quickly and giving birth. Although they love each other, Harriet and Calvin are opposite in nature and the frustrations that build ebb and flow until a breaking point is reached (which was surprisingly emotional for me and I had to wipe away a few tears). I loved Harriet's strong desire to keep a hold of herself and continue what she and many viewed as her God-given talent and purpose of writing, especially to persuade her readers to a new opinion or viewpoint. Her struggles with keeping a balance in her life are all too real, and the pressure from several people whose opinion she values add to her burden. It shows how important it is for a couple to take each other into consideration and be compassionate while still feeling heard and respected. Sometimes it seems impossible, but as Harriet and Calvin each turn to God in prayer their hearts are softened and the answers that they seek begin to come, along with the blessing of peace. I loved that this story was based on a real woman who had a major influence on our country's history, and it showed that she like so many struggled with, learned to manage, and found joy in the balance of self and home.
(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)
What a beautiful story. I had a long drive home a few days ago and downloaded this audiobook for my trip. I had my four daughters all with me and although they started out protesting listening to another book of mom's choice, wanting an adventure or fantasy book to listen to of their choice, they were instantly hooked. It took us the whole drive to listen to the story and if I paused it or we stopped for a break somewhere, my daughters were all asking right away to please turn back on the story. It's an emotionally captivating story for sure and had us in tears at several different parts. One of my daughters was hiding her face a little at a part closer to the end. When I asked her if she was ok, she hurriedly wiped at her eyes, looked at me with tears still brimming over, and said "I can't stop crying. This is making me cry. I don't know why." With what was happening in the story and the build up to that point, I knew exactly why she was crying. We paused it and talked for a few minutes and it was a sweet moment to discuss this with my daughters.
This was so wonderful to learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe. Everyone probably knows that she was the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I can not even begin to count the numerous times we talked about that book and named the author in school growing up. I've actually never read it. It's been one I've thought about lots, especially after watching and rewatching The King and I or Anna and the King. I think I really need to change (or add to) the association I have with the book by actually reading it.
This book starts off with Harriet on her wedding day and her hopeful thoughts of what she will accomplish with her life married to Calvin Stowe and the good man that he is. How he values her educated mind and her opinions and wants her to succeed in her writing endeavors. Harriet's sister sheds some doubt on that and then we jump right into their married life. I cannot say how much this made me pause and think back on my married life. Especially those early years of creating a life with my husband. We were young and naive and full of hopes, dreams and love. To say everything was always perfect is not true. We had moments where we saw things differently, had different expectations and had disagreements. It wasn't all roses or peaches and cream. It was learning and growing and sacrificing and becoming one together, supporting and giving and loving. Not taking away each other's dreams but supporting and finding a good balance to make sure we both had our needs met. Sometimes it was hard. Other times it was easy. And almost two decades into our marriage it still takes work and time and sacrifice, and it will continue to throughout our whole lives.
I loved how Josi Kilpack showed all of that in this book. I think there were added hardships with Harriet and Calvin's marriage that came with their families (not purposefully), the time in which they lived, their work, a previous marriage for Calvin (his wife was Harriet's best friend and had passed away only a few years into their marriage without having any children). Every marriage has struggles to sort out, some have more and others have less. But regardless of whatever struggles there are, the important thing is to work together. To be united. The love you have for your spouse makes sacrifices and change and growth easier to deal with because you want wants best for them and they for you. Communication is a must. Without it, there is no comfort, no understanding, constant frustrations. Without it how can two people truly know and understand the other's needs and desires, dreams and struggles?
I think this book will resonate with so many people. They will look back and remember struggles within their relationship. They will remember the joys of overcoming those struggles. They will remember so many moments of learning how to be a wife/husband, mother/father, shedding independence and putting on the responsibility of someone depending on you.
Honestly it was just beautiful. It was emotionally taxing at some points. Harriet's struggles were real and there were so many outside forces that forced her to grow. Her love of writing was hard to put aside and her husband's beliefs of what their marriage would entail were not always in line with what she believed it would entail. Through struggles and change and heartache, separation while Calvin traveled for work, children, exhaustion, a mother in law living with them to teach her, Harriet came to realize who she was and what she was made of. Through love and forgiveness and understanding Harriet and Calvin come to learn what marriage is and how to give and sacrifice as needed.
I loved how her writing was spoken of and showed the reader what brought her to write about slavery and standing up against it. It wasn't just a one moment decision but many years of watching and learning to understand and to be guided by God that she came to the point in her life where she wrote her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book barely even mentions her writing that book in the epilogue at the very end. So if you go into this thinking you're going to learn all about her writing her book, it's not about that. It's about her becoming the woman she was to write that book.
I didn't intend for this review to be as long as it turned out to be. I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share and then I just kept typing as more thoughts came into my head. If you're looking for a great historical fiction I highly recommend this one. There is an opening author's note about the timeline as well as chapter notes that you get a better understanding of why the author wrote what she did and about certain events. I would also recommend this author's other historical romance books about Sir Walter Scott and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott
Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton
Content: Clean. Some talk about intimate relations between Harriet and Calvin but was not graphic. I had all my daughters listening with me and was not embarrassed or trying to skip past those spots while listening. Some moments of peril, and illness throughout.
I listened to an audiobook on my Deseret Bookshelf account.
This story resonated with me as a wife and mother. When I began reading this novel, I expected it to explain how Mrs. Stowe's experiences as an abolitionist motivated her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. While this novel did depict how residents of the free state of Ohio dealt with the volatile issue of slavery, it focused mainly on the marital relationship between Calvin and Harriet Stowe. This reader would recommend the study of this novel to all engaged couples. It should be required reading during premarital counseling.
In this novel, we witness the first two years of the marriage of Calvin and Harriet Stowe. Harriet marries against her older sister's wishes. Catharine Beecher, a confirmed spinster, warns Harriet that she's giving up a promising writing career to do what any woman without her talent could do. She tells Harriet her voice will be drowned out by the cries of babies and the opinions of her husband. Harriet, naive and inexperienced in running a household, ignores her sister's words of caution, confident she's marrying a man who values her talent as a writer.
Most married women, including this reviewer, could tell you just how right Harriet's sister was. The man you date is not the man you marry. Being husband and wife is quite different from being engaged or simply dating. The responsibilities of marriage bring new roles and expectations to a relationship. Becoming one is not a seamless transition. It take a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and compromise. Having grown up in a home with servants, Harriet was ill-equipped to live up to her husband's expectations for a wife. [spoilers removed] I was impressed with the concessions Calvin Stowe was willing to make to improve his marriage. Most husbands during the Victorian era or our modern era would not be that understanding.
Harriet Beecher Stowe came from a very religious family. Her father was the president of Lane Seminary, and her husband was a biblical professor at the seminary. The influence of faith is woven throughout the conflicts and resolutions in this novel. In the epilogue, the vision that inspired Harriet to write Uncle Tom's Cabin is explained in a fictional story. After the epilogue, the author devotes several pages to explaining which aspects of each chapter are based on actual facts and which aspects are the creations of her imagination.
I was given an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
I am not familiar with the name Harriet Beecher Stowe. Although, after reading this book, I had to go learn more about this woman. Harriet showed a lot of courage and backbone to stand up and lend her voice to the injustice of slavery. The world can not have enough of strong women; who are smart and not afraid to speak up.
Another reader commented and said that she did not like how in the beginning of the story, Harriet acted like a spoiled brat by not doing any house chores. I agree that Harriet did come off that way and it was not fair as she did make a commitment when she married to honor, cherish, love her husband. Part of marriage is making an effort. Yet, I was not put off so much by Harriet's attitude as I was her husband, Calvin. He was too demanding, whiny, and not very supportive of Harriet. So, I really had no lost love when he went away.
Yet, after he came back, it took a little while for me to warm up to him but I did warm up to him. In fact, as the story progressed, I found Calvin and Harriet to be a good couple. The things they did together to help abolish slavery was great. This is a lovely read.
A sweet story based on primary sources—letters. Though she loves her husband, Harriet Beecher fears that marriage to Calvin Stowe has silenced her voice. Her first attempts to “find a place for Harriet” in her marriage fail and end up strengthening the selfishness of each partner. God shows her that only through sacrifice and a love that puts God and others before herself, can she find her true voice and share her talent in a worthy and influential way. The rest is history :)