My Loving Vigil Keeping – Carla Kelly

This is not a book for everyone, any more than any book is. But while I was wrapped up in the middle of it – wrapped up as if in a hand-stitched quilt – I couldn’t help wishing it was, that everyone could enjoy the simple lovely sweetness of this book. It was such a balm to read, good-hearted and earnest and straightforward, no cynicism and no double meanings and no pretensions … I enjoy many kinds of books, but those that make me feel as this one did have a special place in my heart.

I have no idea what possessed me to request this book from Netgalley. The title sounds like the most standard of historical romance novels; there must have been something about the description. Then it languished on my Kindle for a bit, until one weekend day I clicked on it, more to skim a couple of chapters so that I could decline it and move on, I thought, than to actually read it. Heh. Suffice to say I didn’t get much else done that day, and stayed up well past my bedtime, and while I didn’t call in sick to work just so I could finish the book, I did need to call in sick and happily (if painfully) settled in to read the end.

It reminded me, strongly and in good ways, of Anne of Windy Poplars, and of Christy. In all three books a spirited young woman leaves her home and goes off to teach, though Anne is never called upon to look after the spiritual well-being of her charges as Christy and Della are. (And Della’s home was something she was overjoyed to leave, as opposed to the other two.)

Della’s duty takes her to an isolated coal mining community in Utah to teach the miners’ children, mostly Welsh. Theirs is a filthy, horrifyingly dangerous existence – even with humane and careful mine owners, every day the men go into the mines is a day they might not come out. Della knows this well – her father was a coal miner, and died when she was very young, so this new life is familiar in ways both good and bad.

There was a strong Christian thread woven throughout this book – Latter Day Saints, specifically, which in its foreignness was a small hurdle for me and which in its LDSness will I’m sure be a larger hurdle for others. For me, though, whatever the trappings there was enough of a connection with the faith I grew up with and wish I still had. There was a sweet and gentle romance here, satisfying in its slow and natural growth and fruition; there was humor here, and a deep sadness that deepened when I found out that the mine disaster featured in the book was real. It was an old-fashioned story well told. I loved it.

My Loving Vigil Keeping:
Though I roam a minstrel lonely
All through the night
My true harp shall praise sing only
All through the night
Love’s young dream, alas, is over
Yet my strains of love shall hover
Near the presence of my lover
All through the night

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