Through the Deep Waters: A Novel by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Kim Vogel Sawyer’s historical fiction asks a penetrating question of her readers, “How can a person born with overwhelming disadvantages ever hope to live a normal life, in peace with herself or himself and with God?” The book, Through the Deep Waters, explores the tentativeness of new relationships, budding friendships, family ties, and personal fulfillment, all wrapped up in the history of the early years of business dependence on the expansion of travel by railroad.
Dinah Hubly’s childhood was less than ideal. By the time she was sixteen, she was considered a pariah in her community, deprived of a father’s provision and care, without a mother’s tender love, unfamiliar with family life, and without a friend in the world, except possibly for Reuben, the house cook. She wasn’t even allowed to call Tori “mother” or “ma” in public because business would suffer if it were known that Tori had a child. At school, no one was allowed to be her friend because they all believed she was one of “Flo’s girls.” She was born and had grown up in a brothel. Desperately, Dinah wanted to escape the “gilded cage” if only she knew how. One day, Reuben showed her an ad in a newspaper. Fred Harvey was looking for hard-working girls to be servers in his famous eating houses interspersed along the Santa Fe line out West. From that moment on, Dinah dreamed of becoming one of “Harvey’s girls”–a new life where no one knew who she was. But at what price was she willing to pay for that freedom?
Amos Ackerman, on the other hand, knew what a family’s love was like. He knew the security felt when you are loved by your parents and siblings. But when he was only eleven, a wagon ran over him and broke his hip. It hadn’t healed properly, so now he walked with a marked limp. It was chronically painful, especially in cold weather. When it came time to choose a life career, he broke family tradition by becoming a chicken farmer. He was not able to walk a farm large enough to grow wheat as his father and brothers were doing. He purchased a small farm with just enough to start a tiny flock of Leghorns. He delivered eggs door to door in the nearby town of Florence, Kansas. It was a good beginning.
Ruthie Mead was a cheerful butterfly. She worked as a chambermaid at Fred Harvey’s Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. She has heard that she will soon have a new roommate, another chambermaid for the hotel. She was looking forward to making a new friend. Her family was local, but so large that she helped them as much as possible with her earnings from the hotel work.
Dinah had difficulty making friends, even in Kansas. She had grown up learning not to trust anyone. After only a few days in her new job, although the other staff welcomed her warmly, she kept to herself, not allowing anyone close. She had only one goal–to impress Mr. Harvey what a hard worker she was so that when she turned 18, she would be allowed to train for a server’s position. Mr. Harvey’s girls were highly respected; Dinah had wanted to be respected since early girlhood. But was gaining the coveted position more important than friendship?
Amos’ dream was to have a flock of chickens large enough and healthy enough to provide the Clifton Hotel with four or more dozen eggs daily. But he was beset with setbacks from predators, thieves, health complications, and inclement weather. After he met Dinah soon after she arrived from Chicago, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. But he wasn’t confident he was going to be able to win her favor. Even though he was 24, his uneven gait was a deterrent to most young women. In the meantime, Ruthie took notice of Amos and set her cap for him. When it appeared he preferred Dinah, Ruthie had to battle jealously among other feelings Dinah stirred in her unintentionally.
I enjoy reading character-driven stories. This one touched my heart in so many ways. The three main characters, Dinah, Amos and Ruthie, became a triangle of entanglement, misdirected impressions, and internal struggles as the three young adults attempted to cope with life’s challenges, twists and even U-turns. No one could fight their battles for them, and where close friendship could have guided them through the labyrinth of trials together, they avoided being forthright with each other. Instead of helping, they hurt each other. The reader is left to wonder if the trio would ever discover how valuable good friendship is. If relationship drama draws you in, then be sure to have some tissues on hand while reading this book.
Another good impression I derived from reading this book is how beautifully the author portrayed the spiritual awakening for Dinah, who grappled with the concept of a loving God; for Ruthie whose offer of friendship had never been rebuffed before, leaving her baffled and filled with wrong impressions and insecurity for the first time in her life; for Amos who had to confront his reluctance to place complete trust for his future in God’s capable hands. The author skillfully entwines these trials together, using them as the catalyst for the trio’s life lessons. This was so compelling to read that I had a difficult time putting the book down. For me, this book was a real page turner.
Thirdly, this adventurous read is placed in the true-to-life historical background of the Santa Fe railroad, the roadhouses which sprang up along the line, and the superior service and reputation of Harvey’s Girls–servers who had to meet stringent qualifications and restrictions to gain the position. I enjoyed the research the author did for this story. She writes all this with flare. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Christian romance and historical fiction books.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this ebook from Blogging for Books on behalf of Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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