Captivating Historical Fiction.

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Review of All That Was by Tanya E. Williams:

In 2015 Seattle, Emily Reed is tasked with archiving a church's historical records in anticipation of the church being sold to developers and moving. Her plan is to immerse herself in her work but when she learns that it is the very church that her late-parents were married in, the trajectory of this project starts to shift. Amidst the church's archives, Emily discovers volumes of diaries written by Elizabet Thomas who died in 1935. Emily is captivated by her words but the two, living worlds apart, have more in common than they think. Emily chooses to hide from the pain and grief of losing both of her parents ten years prior while Elizabet lived a life basking in the memory of her late-husband. Both chose to mourn in vastly different ways but both women learn that they truly haven't been living their lives with purpose or happiness. All That Was weaves in historical elements to tell the tale of two strong and brave women living in two different times.

I have learned that I have not been reading enough historical fiction books lately. I find myself captivated by the historical details in books and enjoy how they are intertwined with fictional stories and characters. I absolutely love the idea of going back in time (hence my love for the Outlander series). What I would give to find the diaries written by someone who lived a hundred years before me! The stories those diaries could tell... Williams' wrote with such attention to detail that I found that I was easily able to conjure up an image of the scene I was reading. She seamlessly linked the lives of two women living through their grief and it was a pleasure reading how they each unwittingly grew from each other. I did however, find that some of the writing was repetitive and the dialogue between characters felt too perfect and scripted, but I found myself enjoying the storyline more. I appreciated the Author's Note at the end where she accounted for the historical aspects of the book. All That Was is a novel told from dual-perspectives, with strong female characters, that will have readers reflecting on how they're living their own lives. With wise commentary, this is a fantastic soul-searching book that can inspire hope to those who may have lost it.