An Absence So Great

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by Maudeen Wachsmith

An Absence So Great continues the story of Jessie Ann Gaebele, the author’s grandmother, who readers first met in A Flickering Light. In early 20th-century Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, Jessie is one of many women trying to make it in a man’s world as she strives to become one of the first female photographers. She meets plenty of people who not only doubt her abilities but think she should do what other women her age are doing – marrying and raising children. She even meets a man who is reticent to sell her his photography business simply because she’s a woman.

Kirkpatrick’s research into the photography methods of over 100 years ago is impeccable. She even includes some of her grandmother’s actual photographs, which adds detail and depth. She describes the photos and the events surrounding them in Jessie’s own voice, which makes the book read like more like a biography or autobiography than a novel. Readers will root for Jessie as she learns her way about the photography business and deals with several losses along the way.

Although published by a Christian press, this book is not at all preachy. While there are, of course, many references to religion and God, there is nothing here that should bother a non-believer. There are many characters to keep track of and thankfully, Kirkpatrick has added a helpful cast of characters as well as several maps.

This is one series one really needs to read in order, but this may not necessarily be a bad thing, as the first in the series is just as good. Kirkpatrick shows why she has won many awards and why her research and sense of place have made her popular with readers of novels about the West. An Absence So Great is highly recommended.