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Sorrow's Joy Review by Amanda Hopkins

Meara Kelly

The summer of 1863 was a memorable one for this nation. It was one that would change the town of Gettysburg forever. We all know that the Civil War came to that town during the summer of 1863, but do we know how the families, especially the kids of Gettysburg felt during this time? Meara Kelly tries to help us understand in the beautiful story of Sorrow’s Joy.

In this 102-page paperback book, Meara introduces us to the family of Samuel Wade. Through Samuel we see the town of Gettysburg. We see the mother who has a son on each side of the family and we see as Samuel’s older brother takes a side and goes off to fight. We meet Jeramiah, a boy the same age as Samuel who used to be a slave, but escaped to Gettysburg three years earlier. And we meet the war as it comes to town.

While reading this book, you are drawn into it. You feel the way Samuel feels. You have been there, you are there. You can see what he is seeing and you can hear what he is hearing. Sorrow’s Joy is one of those books you don’t want to set down, even when you have to. It is one of those books that you will read time and time again.

There are some simple illustrations throughout the book, and this helped the kids with a visual, but even they agree, the one in our heads is so much more graphic thanks to the words on the pages. The words are the pictures, and they are all we needed.

Sorrow’s Joy is a true story of sorrow and joy. Literally. There are so many inspirational quotes in this book, and not from the famous people of the war, but rather those within the town that had to witness this war at their front door. Out of all of them, the one that I keep going back to is from the character Jeremiah, “Every day we would try to find at least one thing to be joyful about. From big things like a weddin’ or gettin’ our work done early to small things like the sun not shinin’ so hot or rest on the Sabbath.” To me, this is something we should all live by, no matter who we are or where we are from.

Sorrow’s Joy was a book that I couldn’t put down. This was a book that my kids couldn’t stop reading or listening to me read aloud. This was a book that taught us about the war in an easy to understand way. This was no history book telling us the facts, this was a story of someone’s life. Of their fears, their joys and their sorrows.

The story is followed up by, “A Truthful Tale,” or the facts that actually happened to Gettysburg and the Wade family. (This story is based off of and highlights their life and the battle of Gettysburg.) These two short pages mean so much more after you have read the story. After reading this book, I will never look at the battle of Gettysburg in the same way.

I highly recommend this book to any family that is studying this era in history. I recommend this book to anyone who has heard of The Battle of Gettysburg. I recommend this book to everyone. It has been a while since I read a book that left me missing the characters when I was done. A book that made me laugh and cry. One that made me realize “You can’t have joy without sorrow.”

-Product review by Amanda Hopkins, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016