Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Veiled in Smoke




Back Cover

The flames took so much.  
She can't lose her father as well.

Meg Townsend and her sister, Sylvie, seek a quiet existence managing the family bookshop.  Meg feels responsible for caring for their father, Stephen, whose spirit and health are both damaged from his time as a prisoner during the Civil War.  Her one escape is the paintings she creates and sells in the bookshop.

Then the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago's business district.  The fiery explosions and chaos stir up memories of war for Stephen as he runs from the blaze and becomes separated from his daughters.  Days later, when the smoke has cleared, Meg and Sylvie manage to reunite with him.  Their home and shop are lost, and what's left among the ashes may be even more threatening than the flames, for they learn that a close friend was murdered the night of the fire - and Stephen has been charged with the crime.  After he is committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum, where they cannot visit him, Stephen feels as lost to them as the shop that now lies in rubble.

Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove the truth of what happened that night, before the asylum truly drives her father mad.

Review

Wow.  What an incredible read!  With her vivid imagery and fantastic character portrayal, Jocelyn Green has penned yet another engaging historical story.  As the Great Fire roars through Chicago, I envisioned the flames licking my my own heels as Meg, Sylvie, and their father raced to safety from the impending destruction.  I felt their fear, desperation, and dashed hopes as their home and livelihood went up in flames.  
 
But even with the raw emotion that was written across the pages of Veiled in Smoke, I don't think could ever fully grasp the depths of despair that many people in Chicago felt as the fire ripped through their homes.  I grew up in an area prone to wildfires, and during the summer, there was always the awareness that one small spark or forgotten campfire could start a terrible fire that had the potential to decimate my small hometown.  But for the citizens of Chicago in 1871, they didn't have to imagine such a thing - they lived through it.
 
And that's why stories about people such as Meg and her family are inspiring to read.  While this is a fictional retelling, it is a glimpse into how the citizens of Chicago took what was burned to ash and began to rebuild.  And while they mustered courage for rebuilding a life that was as good or even better than before, for the Townsends, another forceful tragedy will rip through their home as Mr. Townsend is arrested for murder and thrown into an insane asylum.  I couldn't imagine such a thing happening to my own family!  It is from these emotional roller-coaster of struggles that Jocelyn Green has written a moving historical drama centralized around a family that refuses to give up, that leans on God when seemingly all hope is lost, and learns that there is light at the end of even the darkest of tunnels. 


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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