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Children's LiteratureThis inspirational work of historical fiction is the second book in Austin's "Refiner's Fire" series. The setting is the American Civil War, where the lives of two very different young women intersect. Julia, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, sets out to prove that she is not as vain as the man she loves thinks she is. She is determined to become a nurse, and she must overcome quite a few obstacles in order to do so. In the process, she is transformed into a much more mature and compassionate person. Phoebe, a tall, homely girl from Western Virginia, dresses as a man and joins the Union Army rather than be confined to wearing a dress and working for Miz Haggerty. The well-written story portrays a mixture of romance, greed, grief and transformation. Although this book won the Library Journal's Best Christian Fiction Award for 2003, it is not a preachy, one-sided, stereotypical Christian book. Some of the Christians in the book are compassionate, caring human beings while others are not. Likewise, some of the strong characters are not Christian. In the end, love and strength of character prevail. This book is recommended for young girls who have a love for the stories of history. 2003, Bethany House, Ages 12 to 16.
—Kathy Egner, Ph.D.