Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson is one of the best period fiction novels I have read in a while. I was hesitant to review a book that takes place during one of my favorite time periods to study – that being the American Civil War period. Whenever I read any book – fiction or non-fiction – about the Civil War, I ask several questions:
- Will the book be historically accurate? (Although I have no problems with fictitious characters meeting real people as long as it fits into the real historical timeline.)
- Will it weave enough history into the fictitious characters' lives to bring the past to life?
- Will it be an enjoyable story that needs to be set in history?
After reading and reviewing Engraved on the Heart from Tyndale Fiction, the answer to all three questions is a definite YES for me!
The story by Tara Johnson is primarily that of two individuals: Keziah Montgomery and Dr. Micah Greyson with their hometown of Savannah, Georgia as the backdrop. From the very first chapter, I was blown away and intrigued. I believe I finished Engraved on the Heart in less than a week. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the book.
Engraved on the Heart focuses upon Keziah, a young woman from a Confederate family who is suffering from an illness that her family wants to hide. This illness has kept her single much to the annoyance of her match-making parents. Right before the American Civil War starts Keziah's old schoolmate, Micah, returns from Philadelphia where he had trained as a doctor. In addition to learning his medical skills in Philadelphia, Micah also learned a lot from Abolitionists in the North, too.
|Ma Linnie's words reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.|
Keziah and Micah renew their friendship and embark on a dangerous journey together helping slaves escape in the Underground Railroad. In addition to their adventures helping slaves find freedom, they also grow to like, and maybe love, each other. While Keziah's illness has kept her single, Micah has his own secret that he believes will keep him single. All these details are wonderfully woven into the story.
Throughout the book we clearly see Keziah and Micah's strong relationship with God and their faith that He will provide for and aid them in all endeavors. We also see Dr. Greyson giving up the work he does to God. He says, "The Almighty is the one who deserves the gratitude," when thanked for medical services (217).
There are great descriptions used by Tara Johnson. For example, one of the characters is described as getting old: "His gentle movements reminded her more and more of a clock slowly winding down" (63). What I also like about the book is that there was one of those 'catch your breath,' 'Oh, NO!' moments towards the end. Maybe I didn't even see it coming because I was so caught up in the story but Johnson took me by surprise.
I recommend Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson to anyone interested in historical fiction, Christian fiction, or fiction set during the American Civil War. While it tackles a difficult subject – slavery and the Underground Railroad – it is not a difficult read. I will be looking for more books by Tara Johnson in the future!