A Tendering in the Storm, written by Jane Kirkpatrick as the second in her Change and Cherish historical series, teaches valuable lessons about giving to others and allowing them to give back. Based on a true story, it focuses on Emma Giesy, the stubborn and independent wife of a Washington Territory pioneer. She has spent the last five years trying to extract her family from the suffocating constraints of a Christian communal society. Just when she has almost succeeded, Emma finds herself a widow and mother of three young children. This story is about her struggles to maintain her independence and keep her family together in the wilderness. Kirkpatrick is brilliant in bringing Emma to life. Readers quickly become attached, suffering and hoping alongside her.
Although told chronologically and mostly from Emma’s point of view, a great deal of perspective and flavor is added through journal pages of Louisa, the wife of the leader of the Christian community from which Emma is so desperate to escape. Her character and ponderings bring fullness to the story that could not have been added otherwise. In fact, all of the characters, even the minor ones, are well developed, and readers come to love those whom Emma loves and to despise the ones who treat her badly. Since most of the story is seen through Emma’s eyes, readers feel her every hope and heartbreak, especially when she makes a horrible choice in a relationship without consulting God or the ones who love her. When she realizes that things have become worse and not better, all of her hopes fall to the bottom of her heart, and the reader’s hopes go along with hers.
The basic storyline is rather ironic, as the widowed Emma Giesy struggles to maintain independence from the close-knit Christian society she grew up in, all the while needing its help to survive. Foolishly, she chooses to try to take care of her family apart from her community, and she ends up making a desperate choice that leads her and her loved ones into a horrible relationship and more danger than they ever knew before. Eventually, she has to go back to the very people (and God) she has been running from and learn how to receive help.
Emma is a marvelously complex character. She is stubborn, independent, and embittered by her husband’s death, yet incredibly loving and caring toward her children. The other characters in the book create an even more diverse and rich atmosphere, especially Louisa. Hers is the only viewpoint other than Emma’s shown in the book, and she gives opinions and examples that put a much different light upon Emma’s. And, though they often disagree, Louisa proves to be an inspiration and a safe haven for the widow and her family. Emma’s in-laws, though not as deeply explored as some of the other characters, serve as clear examples of why she wanted to escape from the colony and, at the same time, why she needs it so much. Finally, Emma’s oldest son Andy innocently shows the uncomplicated consequences of the choices made by Emma and the colony, both good and bad.
It is easy to believe that the characters in this book were once real people; they are complex and beautifully crafted. Jane Kirkpatrick did an excellent job bringing them back to life and recreating the world they lived in. However, Emma experiences a lot of discouragement, and unprepared readers will find themselves becoming depressed right along with her, so real are the circumstances. This story is not meant to entertain readers who want to escape their reality; it is for those who wish to understand it. – Kate R. Miller, Christian Book Previews.com
Emma Giesy, a strong-willed German-American, believes her young family will thrive in the light of their newfound freedom, after she and her husband branch off from their close-knit and repressive religious community in the spring of 1856.
Determined to raise her children on her own terms, Emma suddenly finds herself alone and pregnant with her third child, struggling to keep her family secure in the remote coastal forest of the Washington Territory. With loss and disappointment as her fuel, she kindles a fire that soon threatens to consume her, making a series of poor choices that take her into dangerous relationships.
As clouds of despair close in, she must decide whether to continue in her own waning strength or to humble herself and accept help from the very people she once so eagerly left behind.