Kilpack, Josi. All That Makes Life Bright. Salt Lake: Shadow Mountain, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-341-9. $15.99 USD.
Josi S. Kilpack has once again introduced me to a historical figure who somehow managed to pass me by, yet managed to make the story come to life and improve my understanding of them beyond the mere footnote it was before. I was impressed with how Kilpack interpreted the many factors in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s literary and political development, and that, unlike many of the other prominent female authors in history, who spent most, if not all, of their lives unmarried and childless, she was a married woman and, as a result had to struggle to balance motherhood with indulging her creative spirit. And as Kilpack’s introduction makes clear, this factor makes her all the more relatable to many of the female writers of today, who are balancing families and writing…and sometimes a day job as well.
Working with and playing with the historical record, Kilpack also does a wonderful job showing the evolution of Harriet and Calvin’s relationship in their first year or so of marriage. And even though their lives were eventful, as indicated by the timeline at the end of the book and many outside sources, Kilpack’s isolating this time period and showing the happy resolution to their problems there, as well as a snapshot of their future, helps to provide a different definition of the happily-ever-after than in many purely fictional historical romances.