If there was ever a book that I wanted to hold close to my chest, this would be the one. From the very beginning, I was hooked. My heart went out to the Townsend family, the main characters of this story, and I found myself wanting to know more about them. Jocelyn Green knows how to grab her readers and pull at their heartstrings. The struggles the Townsends face are all too real.
Veiled in Smoke follows this family of three – father Stephen, and daughters Meg and Sylvie – right before, during, and after the Great Fire of Chicago. Ever since returning from a POW camp called Andersonville during the Civil War, Stephen’s mind has not been all together sound. He is constantly held up in the past, protecting his home from dangers unseen, from “Johnny Rebs” no longer in the picture.
Stephen was pacing the flat, block-long roof, patrolling to keep his property safe from dangers only he imagined.
Because of this condition, later known as Soldiers Heart, and the rough replica of Andersonville Stephen creates in his backyard, he is seen by his neighbors and passersby as a complete nut job. It is this position that lands him in the asylum for allegedly shooting his friend Hiram in cold blood during the night of the fire.
The story was believable, as if a true retelling, and at times I wanted to yell at the men running the asylum, reach in and help Meg and Nate (a reporter for the Chicago Tribune) find the truth about what happened that night and get Stephen back. I wanted to know if my hunches were right about certain people in the story, though at times I wanted to be wrong. I was in this story for the long haul, and I happily indulged.
As great historical fiction novels do, this story left me wanting to know even more about the fire that is still widely known to this day. Jocelyn Green brought it to a place I never knew, and I loved learning through the eyes of her characters, through her beautiful use of prose.
As a Christian, I appreciated the way the author brought God into the story. He was real, relied on, and conversed with. And at times, questioned. How these characters interacted with Him became mini-lesson in and of themselves.
What a mercy that God was not limited by that which limited her. What grace that His power and presence remained, regardless of whether she felt close to them. She must trust Him for what she could not see. Wasn’t that the essence of faith?
This story is well worth the read, especially if you love learning about history, seeing it play out before you, and growing deeper in your own faith in the process.
I received an advance copy of this book thanks to netgalley and Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group
Find more fiction and non-fiction books by Jocelyn Green on her website
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