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Fire by Night by Lynn Austin

Updated on July 2, 2009

 Lynn Austin is a powerful writer reknowned for her compelling historicals that weave events in the past together with the universal struggles we face today with love, God, and our life's purpose. In Fire by Night, the story focuses on two women from completely different backgrounds whose experiences during the Civil War find them led to each other in the most unusual way.

Considered an historical inspirational romance, Ms. Austin vividly describes what life was like living in 1861 during the start of the war, and how no one was quite prepared for the number of lives that were lost. Julia Hoffman is a young socialite from Viriginia, with little thought to her future, other than to be married and have lasting happiness. But the war's cruel reality forces her to meet her fears and step out in faith. She leaves the comfort of her home to follow God's calling for her life, much to the disdain of her family. Phoebe Bigelow, a Pennsylvanian farm girl with no desire to fall into the expected womenly role of her time, is not afraid to show support to her country. Left as an orphan in the absence of her brothers' care, she leaves home and pursues a new life in order to show her loyalty. By the time Julia and Phoebe's paths cross, the war becomes deadlier than originally thought, and both women struggle to make sense of what they see happen around them as the war drags on for 4 years. They become friends, encouraging each other to live according to God's calling, despite the opposition they face from the people they respect the most.

Fire by Night addresses more than just the issue of sociological differences that divided the Yankees from the Confederates - it explored the raw suffering from both sides, the black slaves caught in the middle; yet there were also prejudices that went beyond color barriers during that time. Women's rights were nonexistant. Surprisingly, there were strong feelings for and against changing how society viewed women, just by women themselves! Few were the men who upheld the notion that women were more than just the husband's property.

This book is also a chilling reminder of how our nation once battled against its brothers over vastly different opinions, much like what goes on today. Just like the people in the 1860s, today many find it hard to tolerate new ideas, even to the point of making distinctions between classes, races, and political groups to prove their own agendas. And with our President Barack Obama in power, his role with America right now certainly mimicks in many ways Abraham Lincoln's term as President.

I was drawn to the book while seeking to better understand history, and I found that I didn't have to look very hard to find common ground with the characters. Ms. Austin makes the plot come alive with dynamic characters who could very well be our ancestors. It brings the matter of living in freedom and equality to another level. You cannot help but be filled with awe for the soldiers and medical personnel who so willingly did their duty to God and their country during that time, as well as in every war since then. My appreciation of those who've worked hard to shape this country has made me want to become a better person. To be transformed like that in just 429 pages is a gift. The author is truly enjoyable, and I heartily recommend Fire by Night as a historical must-read.


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