Review: A Light in the Storm

A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin, Fenwick Island, Delaware, 1861 (Dear America)A Light in the Storm
by Karen Hesse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Light in the Storm (The Civil War) / 0-590-56733-0

"A Light in the Storm" is the definitive civil war diary in the series. Young Amelia Martin lives and works in a lighthouse off the coast of the "neutral" state of Delaware, which is neither a slave state nor a free state, yet contains citizens who feel passionately about the issue on both sides. As the country is torn by war and succession over the issue of slavery, Amelia's own family is torn apart for the same reasons. Amelia's father is an abolitionist; her mother is staunchly pro-slavery and detests African Americans. Amelia herself was raised to believe in "Negro inferiority", yet after saving the lives of a shipwrecked family of escaped slaves, she realizes that these people are just as strong, just as intelligent, and just as human as she herself.

The tempest within the lighthouse, as Amelia's family tears itself apart, serves as a microcosm through which the entire war can be viewed. To Amelia's despair and heartbreak, neither side is willing to negotiate or even communicate with each other, each more interested in causing hurt than in coming together for the sake of their union and their offspring. As Amelia tends the lighthouse faithfully (saving lives and preventing shipwrecks), she finds comfort and solace in the daily routines of the lighthouse and the certainty she finds within its walls.

For parents, there is no violence or sexuality in this novel. There is some mild distress when a friend of Amelia's dies in an ice-skating accident, but the matter is handled delicately. Note, though, that the quiet war of wills between Amelia's parents is acute, and their eventual divorce is very traumatic for Amelia and may possibly be triggering for young children who have experienced divorce first-hand. However, Amelia handles the experience with grace, and it is clear that the issues between her parents are not in any way her fault, so this could be a good discussion point for young children who irrationally fear that they may have "caused" a divorce.

~ Ana Mardoll

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