In An Absence So Great, Jane Kirkpatrick tells the second part of her grandmother's story. The novel is based on a true story and tells of real people. Fiction exists to fill in the blanks.
The setting is unique—a small town in the early 1900's, just before World War I. Jessie Gaebele is a young woman determined to overcome the mistakes of her past by opening her own photography studio. She travels to other towns to work as a photographer's assistant where needed, usually because a photographer has died or become ill due to mercury poisoning, leaving his spouse in need of help to keep the business going.
I didn't know as I read the story that it was a sequel. As the author kept referring to issues from the past, I kept expecting a flashback to explain the mystery. I finally noticed, on the back of the book in the author's bio, that this book is part two of the story. This was disappointing to me.
I also was disappointed in the storyline. It wasn't really a happily-ever-after or triumphantly-overcoming-hardships kind of novel. It was really about a bunch of people making a bunch of mistakes and muddling through, trying to make the best of things. I know life's often that way, but for a novel, something was missing.
And, for a Christian market novel, Christ was practically absent. For a time, Jessie worked with a minister, helping to promote his evangelistic services, she took piano lessons from a minister's wife, and, on occasion, she realized she wasn't reading her Bible enough. But she never acted on that thought. God wasn't really a part of her life—or anyone else's in the story.
Kirkpatrick did an amazing job of fleshing out her grandmother's story in an unusual historical setting. I appreciated that skill. A reader with an interest in photography or the struggles of women in the early 1900's may find this book interesting.
This book was provided for review by the Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group.