Set in the early 1900s this Christian historical centers around Jessie Gaebele who has a heart for photography. She finds herself working for Mr. F.J. Bauer in his studio and darkroom, learning the techniques. As time passes, Mr. Bauer suffers debilitating illnesses at two separate times, leaving Jessie and her friend Voe running his studio, while he recovers at home with his wife and children. Jessie proves more than competent as she excels at both the art and business side of studio photography. She branches out and encourages F.J. to do the same, (photographing at a parade and wedding). The conflict is that working closely with "Mr. B," as they sometimes call him, proves to be dangerous ground for Jessie.
The historical detail in this novel was interesting and educating. Kirkpatrick deals with subjects such as the beginning stages of photography with its related illnesses and women's roles during that era. We see motor cars and horse drawn carriages, and there is a scene including President Taft.
I found the main plot line a little slow moving and was more engaged in the side stories involving both the Gaebeles with little Roy, and the Bauers with their past and present trials. The secondary characters were well developed and added depth to layers of the story. I appreciated Jessie's transformation and growth in her faith although it felt a little fast at the end of the book.
Kirkpatrick creates believable characters in illuminating settings. Readers learn about history and human nature as well as the beauty of grace and second chances.
I am glad that there will be a follow up book, An Absence So Great due out later this year. There were a couple of unanswered questions and unresolved problems, especially in the engaging side stories that I hope to see addressed!