A Light Within by Ann Heinz, 340 pages, March 29th, 2017, Genre: Historical Literature and Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
A Light Within is an impressive work of literary, historical fiction. Heinz portrays the etiquette, history, style, manner of speaking, laws, and social conflicts of America in 1859 with incredible accuracy. At no point did I feel as though I weren’t visiting that time.
Cora Fielding is a bright young woman, passionate about becoming a doctor and helping alleviate the suffering of others. Continually frustrated in her ambition, Cora demonstrates she will go to any lengths to achieve her goal, even if it means pretending to be a man. Her twin brother Carl discovers her ruse and tells their father. Rather than put her in her place, he sends the twins off to Pennsylvania to their respective gender appropriate college of medicine. In 1859, the nation is heading towards Civil War, but is not yet on the cusp of it. Cora begins working part time for an attorney named Peter Ware who is actively involved in the Underground Railroad. Sharing his abolitionist views, Cora joins him in trying to help slaves gain freedom and prevent Southerners from stealing free people off the Northern streets to cart down south into slavery. Her experiences in her new town build her ethical resolve, driving her to take action. Cora finds friendship, love, and grows closer to her twin while in Pennsylvania.
Heinz employs a third person narrative style. Her narrative voice bears a resemblance to authors of classic 19th century literature such as Anne Bronte. Settings are adequately described without an overabundance of detail. The romance is a subtle subplot, tenderly played out. Carl, initially irate with Cora, learns and grows over the course of the story. Dialogue and etiquette are accurate for the time-period. Pace slows a bit towards the middle but picks back up again and keeps you reading till the end. There are many historical and societal threads to weave together here and Heinz does so with precision.
My favorite supporting characters were Reverend Sebastian Cooke, though he appeared but briefly, and Emmeline. Reverend Cooke took a beating and lost an important item, but was not deterred from serving the cause of justice. Emmeline was willing to do the right thing, even if it meant causing discord within her family and losing her place with them. Both were characters to be admired.
Overall, I enjoyed reading A Light Within. I’d recommend this book to those who relish a historical read and enjoy literary fiction. You may find this book at Amazon for Kindle at A Light Within .