Search for:

An Absence So Great, by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Book Review & Giveaway

From the back cover:

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.

The Author:

Jane Kirkpatrick is a writer, a teacher, and author and a public speaker.  She has been published on over 50 periodicals and has written 16 books, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.  Of her fiction titles, many are based on the lives of real people or incidents.  Her works have been nominated for Christy, Spur, Oregon Book Award, WILLA Literary Award and Reader’s Choice awards.

She won the  2007 WILLA Literary Award for Best Original Paperback with, A Tendering in the Storm; and made the Library Journal’s Best Books of 2009 list with A Flickering Light, the prequel to An Absence So Great.

My Thoughts:

I found An Absence So Great to be quite startling.  It came to me via a Christian publishing house and the main character is portrayed as a Godly woman, but apparently a Godly woman who had no concept of the 7th Commandment.  An Absence So Great does not tell of of a young girl yearning for God to fill the emptiness in her soul.  Jessie pines for a married man 26 years her senior.

The book is based on the true story of the author’s grandmother and it is extremely well written and a compelling read.  I watched Jessie struggle with her choices and I kept rooting for her to make the right decision. [Spoiler alert.] For that very reason I was horribly disappointed when she didn’t.

Fred and Jessie have an affair which resulted in him divorcing his wife and the two of them marrying when Jessie was 5 months pregnant.  There the book ends, supposedly happily ever after, but I found myself wanting to know when their sins were reconciled with God.

Since this book is based on a true story and sin is a very real part of our lives, I am not so much disappointed that Jessie and Fred didn’t make the “right” decisions.  I am disappointed that they defended all of their actions and felt vindicated when the family members finally consented to speak with them and visit.  I came out feeling that Fred and Jessie believed they were righteous in their decisions and deserved apologies rather than repentance.

I am disappointed in the book not for the story or the writing, which indeed were superb, but for the message that adultery does not require repentance and leads to happily-ever-after.

The Giveaway:

I have a copy of this book up for grabs.  Leave me a comment telling me that you are interested in reading this book, and I will put you in the drawing.  The drawing will close at midnight on March 31st.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. 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.”


  1. I don´t really need a copy of this book, but I just wanted to tell you I love that your opinion is so much like mine.
    Many people feel the way it is described in the book, that once people start accepting the “sin” that they committed (i.e. talking to them), they feel righteous in their decisions. I´ve seen it here many times and it´s so sad. With time it´s even harder for them to repent and feel remorse for they did.
    I´m so glad you gave your honest opinion to this book.

    1. Betty — I struggled with deciding how to review this book. I wanted to be fair to the author, who wrote a true story and wrote it well. I think my greatest disappointment is with the publisher for marketing it as Christian. As you say, many people will use such a thing to justify breaking commandments designed to hold our hearts and our homes together.

  2. Well, it seems to be a true reflection on how people live their lives. People justify so much in the name of “love.” An odd story for a Christian book.

    1. Nessa — yes, it was where I found the story that caused me the most distress.

      Btw — are you entered in the drawing? So far you stand alone. 😉

  3. Thanks for your honest review. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that had trouble with this book.

    (I obviously don’t need to be entered in the drawing)

  4. I read one Jane Kirkpatrick book years ago and didn’t much like it, though the writing itself was excellent, but I can’t remember what the book was or what I didn’t like. But it was something like this — something I thought as obviously wrong and was surprised to see in a Christian book — not the subject matter so much as the portrayal of it as right. I appreciate your honesty here. As Linda said, obviously I don’t need to be entered, either.

  5. society, psychiatry teaches people today that it is ok. Better to find new people if you are not happy with what you have. Having sex is ok and normal in highschool. abortion is ok.everything is ok. its ok to run away from your problems.
    The real teaching is people are not perfect and you can;t judge a person without judging yourself as well.
    If you love some one, the love doesn’t go away just because you found the person imperfect. Life is about change and adaptation and every one must know this before they marry. There is always a need to keep what is important in your life close and valued no matter what you do or where life takes you. Life and marriage is something you work on. Its not something you run from the moment things get tough.
    What does it mean irreconcilable differences?
    People marry for the wrong reasons today and then they split up for the wrong reasons too. No one said life was going to be easy. Things are a lot more important and meaningful when you have to fight to keep it together.You learn and grow together.:)
    Otherwise all you learn is how to run. lol

    1. Lady — yes. And look at all the brokenness and pain. The Bible isn’t a book of constraints.It is a book of common sense and wisdom, underscored with selfless love.

  6. actually, i wouldn’t mind trying out this one 🙂
    you may hate me for saying this but i think adultery is overrated anyway

    1. Polona — as you know, words have connotation and demotion. In America when one talks of fidelity in relationship terms, they generally mean (connotation) both emotional and sexual exclusivity. For myself I know that I am unwilling to participate in physical intimacy if I cannot trust my partner with my emotional well-being as well.

  7. Her name sounds awfully familiar… I wonder what else she’s written… I’m going to have to google her. But no… I don’t think I’m interested in this one…

Comments are closed.