Book 1 in the Refiner's Fire series. The daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family from Richmond, Virginia, Caroline Fletcher is raised in a culture that believes slavery is God-ordained and biblically acceptable. But upon awakening to the cruelty and injustice it encompasses, Caroline's eyes are opened for the first time to the men and women who have cared tirelessly for her. Her journey of maturity and faith will draw her into the abolitionist movement, where she is confronted with the risks and sacrifices her beliefs entail.
Twelve-year-old Caroline Fletcher awoke to ear piercing screams. It was her Negro Mammy, Tessie screaming and begging someone not to send her nine-year-old son, Grady away. Regardless of her pleas the group of men threw the boy into the back of a truck with other Negros of all ages. Little Grady was being taken to an auction to be sold at the request of Caroline’s father. She was heartbroken as Grady had been her playmate and friend since the time of his birth. Caroline’s father believed that slavery was biblically acceptable.
At age sixteen, Caroline lost her mother after she gave birth to a blue baby. She’d lost her mother and playmate in four short years but she had Tessie, Eli, Ruby, Luella, Eli, Gilbert and the other slaves her father owned. Caroline never viewed nor thought of them as slaves or possessions but as people and family that she loved dearly and they loved her in return. She hated the fact that her father only saw them as something he “owned” to do with them as he pleased. Caroline wished in every way possible that they could be set free. After visiting extended family in Hilltop, Virginia and seeing “slave row”, the more Caroline strongly believed slavery was wrong and became a firm believer in the abolitionist movement.
Caroline then began distributing abolitionist pamphlets and bumped into a handsome man, but when she attempted to give him one he told her it was against the law. She later ran into the same man at a social gathering and they argued about slavery but didn’t even know each other’s name. Caroline later learned this handsome man’s name was Charles and they began to feel much fonder toward one another however, Charles did not at all believe in the abolitionist movement and didn’t agree that slaves should be freed. By the time the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, Caroline and Charles were engaged to be married.
Caroline’s closeness to Eli (one of her father’s slaves), was such a touching addition to the novel. She very often turned to Eli in confidence about her feelings and concerns about everything happening in her life and her worries about Charles fighting in the war. Gentle Eli tenderly guided Caroline with his godly wisdom, his understanding of scripture from the Bible and affectionately imparted his wisdom and clarified what exactly those scriptures meant in Caroline’s life.
One day Caroline received word that her cousin and friend, Robert Hoffman was being held in Libby Prison. She began to visit him, taking food and newspapers so he could read what was going on with the war. Robert and Charles were fighting on opposite sides and Robert eventually asked Caroline to ultimately become a spy for his side. How is Caroline going to decide what to do? How can she betray her father, her family, and her soon-to-be husband, Charles? If she decides to help Robert and is caught, she would be arrested and most likely hung. However, Caroline also realized that no matter what she decided, someone would eventually pay the ultimate price.
I was deeply touched and impressed with this story. Austin’s writing is phenomenal! Although written as a work of fiction, the depictions of the Civil War were so accurate that it could have passed as non-fiction. This was a wonderful book about deep faith, selflessness, forgiveness, courage, and strength during a time that was littered with hatred, injustice, bitterness, hostility, and prejudice.
CANDLE IN THE DARKNESS is a novel that you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the last page. I can hardly wait to read book #2 titled Fire By Night.