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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Laurel was a young woman from a middle-class family who followed her beloved father into teaching. When she meets and marries Justin Worth, a professional photographer, her life will change forever. Justin has a sense of adventure and, realizing that photography alone cannot sustain a family, he moves Laurel and his young children to a ramshackle hut in the middle of the Pisgah Forest in the mountains of Western North Carolina to set up a logging team. Set in the early 1920s and flowing through to the war years, Laurel’s Choices by Exie Wilde Henson takes us on a remarkable journey with this incredible family as they endure the hardships and dangers of life in a primitive logging camp, the privations of losses of the Great Depression, and the heartbreak of World War II. All through this, Laurel and Justin attempt to bring their family up with love and respect for each other, and the utmost love and respect for their neighbours, the wonderful, proud, but hard-living mountain people of Western North Carolina. They face all their trials and tribulations with humour, dignity and a profound sense of faith in a power greater than them. Anything the Worths can do to help their fellow man or woman, they will gladly do.
I read a lot and few books have moved me as much as this simple story of familial love and devotion presented to us by Exie Wilde Henson in Laurel’s Choices. I am sure the story, although fictionalized, was a recounting of the author’s own experiences growing up and, as such, it provides a truly wonderful social commentary on that particular region and that particular period of history. The two main characters, Laurel and Justin, were selfless, dedicated and showed compassion and love beyond what anyone could expect, given the difficult circumstances they faced. This was truly one of those books I didn’t want to end and deliberately slowed down as I came to the finale. The writer’s style is so natural, flowing and so easy to read. Her knowledge of the area and the social history is extensive and lent an absolute realism to the story. I love historical novels, but most importantly I love historical novels with a purpose and a message for us in today’s world. This book truly does that with its simple, yet profound comments on what constitutes a “life well lived.” I can’t recommend this story highly enough – it’s an absolute winner.