Sunday, August 15, 2010

Liz's Latest

I count Liz Curtis Higgs among the few modern authors whose work I enjoy past the "good read" state. Her Bookends fell into the latter pile for me, but the Thorn In My Heart trilogy (and its add-on book, Grace In Thine Eyes) I found more compelling. Liz has a way of taking your heart, pulling it away, and twisting it all around -- you care about her characters that much. 

This spring, Here Burns My Candle was released. I fussed over not having the time to read it until summer came (forgive me for not being a speed-reader, but having to read books like The Mill on the Floss in two weeks on top of other work just doesn't leave much extra reading time for me). Then once summer did come, I found I needed a break, not more reading. So it took me a while to start. Then to get into the book.

Once I did, however, well, Liz did it to me again. Here Burns My Candle is loosely based upon the book of Ruth in the Bible, which means that if you know that story, you already know where the novel is headed. (As in, you already know who is going to die and how. . .) That should just spoil any suspense or tense emotion, right? Nope. In the beginning, I was sitting around waiting for it to happen ("Hello, dead character. When are you going to go ahead and die?"), but when it finally did, the moment was just as heartbreaking.

I find the angle Liz took with this story interesting. I assumed that mother and daughter would, from the beginning, have a natural kinship, leading to Ruth/Elizabeth's decision to stay with her. But Liz gave them a natural antagonism which builds into a deep bond as the two go through individual growth. 

Bringing a Bible story to late 18th century Scotland sounds . . . odd, but it's perfect. All the events that need to happen tie in, and Liz Curtis Higgs has done her research, from people and colloquialisms down to food and habits. Recommended if you like a good dramatic historical novel whose substance will last past the pages.

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