All Things New

Written by Lynn Austin
Review by Rebecca Cochran

All Things New is a captivating novel about Reconstruction in the South. The story focuses on three women: Josephine Weatherly, her mother Eugenia, and their former slave, Lizzie. Their once-prosperous Virginia plantation, White Oak, is now in ruins, and Josephine’s brother, Daniel, returns from war filled with bitterness and violence, unable to re-establish the plantation. Josephine tries to help her family change, but new challenges every day only make her resentful towards God. Eugenia refuses to acclimate to her new situation and will not accept the changes. For Lizzie, life is just as difficult as she copes with choices and an uncertain future.

Alexander Chandler, a Yankee with the Freedman’s Bureau, attempts to help by opening a school in town for Negroes and creating a sharecropping system to benefit both plantation owners and former slaves alike.  But Alexander and the freed slaves only find hostility and violence as Southerners, in despair, turn from their faith in God.

As always, Lynn Austin enchants. The struggle each character endures is heart-rending and real. I especially appreciated her attention to historical detail and the way each subplot interwove into the main storyline, connecting everyone.  With romance, faith, drama, and history, this story has it all. Highly recommended.