Hattie Barton lives a settled and content life with her husband and two young daughters, but everything changes overnight when Charles dies in a freak accident on October 24, 1929, the day of the historic New York Stock Market crash. Reeling from her beloved husband’s shocking death, Hattie then discovers that Charles had made some risky investments and she is now virtually penniless. Hattie has to sell everything she owns, get a job, and move herself and her children into the small apartment of her stepson, Richard, who is also in mourning for his father.
Hattie and Richard deal with their emotions in different ways; unable to reconcile her anger at Charles’ seeming betrayal, Hattie drifts into an uneasy relationship with her new boss, Seth Snoddy, while Richard, a young lawyer, throws himself into investigating a crime (the real-life murder investigation of Greenville, SC, Sheriff Sam Willis). Eventually, Hattie and Richard come to terms with their loss and draw upon their individual strengths and the power of their family unit to rise above the circumstances and learn to hope again.
RISING ABOVE IT is the fourth installment in Katherine P. Stillerman’s Barton Family Series, and the good news is that one need not read the preceding novels (Hattie’s Place, In the Fullness of Time, Over the Mountain) to be able to quickly grasp where we are in the saga. This is mostly due to Stillerman’s skill in engaging the reader and the sweet simplicity of her prose, but also, unfortunately, due to the opening chapters occasionally drifting into “exposition dialogue”, a slightly plodding attempt to catch the reader up on important facts from the prior books by having the characters voice them. Some stilted lines aside, the story takes off running with the simultaneous events of the historical stock market crash and a genuinely surprising twist for a main character.
Although Stillerman’s pacing seems uneven at times–the description of the food at a picnic or what Hattie wears to a job interview takes up the same amount of space as the details of Charles’ accident– there is no question that she’s a born storyteller, drawing us into the world quickly and deftly and taking us on a true journey. Readers may yearn for a bit more of the background of the historical period than every detail of the murder trial, but the story’s main characters are good folks, well drawn and sympathetic.
Katherine P. Stillerman’s tender regard for her characters and the sweet simplicity of her prose makes RISING ABOVE IT an engaging read and the Barton family more than worthy of the reader’s time.
~Shari Simpson for IndieReader