PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2012
It’s 1883, and Lily Young is on the search of her life. Her younger sister has been lured to the taverns and brothels of the lumber camps, and Lily is determined to search every single town in Michigan until she finds her.
Connell McCormick, boss of the McCormick lumber camps in Harrison, Michigan, works hard to earn the respect of his father, a wealthy lumber baron. When Lily comes blazing into town searching for her sister, she challenges everything he has known about the lumber business and about himself.
As more and more evil comes to light in the town of Harrison, Connell and Lily must work together to save the town from the man who has held it in his grip for far too long. But will it be in time to save Lily’s sister? And will the differences between Connell and Lily be too much to overcome?
Having enjoyed Jody Hedlund’s previous novel, The Doctor’s Lady, I was very interested to read this one. I have read a few historical novels taking place in lumber camps, but I don’t recall reading one that came so totally at the story from the angle of the many social ills that existed in these places.
If I take the book as a whole, the overall story was riveting. The idea of one man controlling an entire town and using it for his sordid gain was a bizarre but fascinating concept, and it was amazing to find out that this is based on actual events in Harrison, Michigan, during this time period. The ‘rescue’ scenes were very exciting and thrilling to read, especially the final one. The flow of this novel was very well done also. The order of events made sense, and I never felt as if I was missing out on anything that was taking place.
The main characters in this novel were such that, even now, I have a hard time deciding what I think about them. On the one hand, for the majority of the novel they frustrated me to no end. On the other hand, I will hand it to the author for creating characters that were not at all flat but were very multi-dimensional. They came across as real even if I was annoyed with the way they were acting. Connell is so apathetic to his situation and surroundings, but Lily is the other extreme. She is idealistic to the point that she is reckless. Both of these attitudes had me aggravated with them for most of the book. Ultimately, however, these characters do experience growth, which redeemed the book overall.
One important thing I do want to mention is that I would not recommend this novel for younger readers. One of the main storylines revolves around taverns and brothels and young girls being forced into prostitution. I felt that this book was grittier than what I usually prefer to read – and sometimes unnecessarily. While I appreciate the author staying true to the time period and wanting to give a complete description of events in which readers can be fully immersed, I would have liked the novel better had it been a little less graphic in its descriptions.
While this novel ultimately has excellent themes of forgiveness and unending devotion, I was disappointed with how the characters got to that point. Lily and Connell both realize a need for God to have His way in their lives, but at no time is Christ ever mentioned as the way to get there. I am becoming more and more disappointed with Christian books that mention God throughout but have no mention at all of the saving grace that comes through faith in Christ alone. I am not saying that every Christian book must be have a conversion story, but when characters experience any sort of spiritual growth (as they do in this novel) without acknowledging Christ, to me it is lacking.
I will say that this book is an excellent treatise on the horrors of forced prostitution. It is easy to think that women who were involved in selling their bodies did so because they had no other way to get work, but it is more than likely these women were held against their will. And this is something that still occurs today all over the world.
So, I guess I have mixed emotions about this novel. It had both a compelling story and remarkable themes of love and forgiveness. But throughout the novel I felt something was missing. Even just one mention of Christ’s love and redemption through the cross would have made it so much better for me.