About the Book
Title: Every Word Unsaid
Series Info: Stand Alone
Author: Kimberly Duffy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Info: Bethany House Publisher/November 3, 2021/358 pages
Augusta Travers has spent the last three years avoiding the stifling expectations of New York society and her family’s constant disappointment. As the nation’s most fearless–and reviled–columnist, Gussie travels the country with her Kodak camera and spins stories for women unable to leave hearth and home. But when her adventurous nature lands her in the middle of a scandal, an opportunity to leave America offers the perfect escape.
Arriving in India, she expects only a nice visit with childhood friends, siblings Catherine and Gabriel, and escapades that will further her career. Instead, she finds herself facing a plague epidemic, confusion over Gabriel’s sudden appeal, and the realization that what she wants from life is changing. But slowing down means facing all the hurts of her past that she’s long been trying to outrun. And that may be an undertaking too great even for her.
Every Word Unsaid is another excellent novel by Kimberly Duffy. The story gripped me from the opening scene with vivid descriptions and luxurious prose and never let me go. Page after page, Duffy brings the setting to life from dusty Deadwood, South Dakota, to the plague-ridden streets of Pune, India. Skeptical? Try this snippet and tell me it doesn’t make you want to read this book.
“America, with its youthful zeal and brazen thirst, whispered a sonnet to Gussie’s heart. But India sang, her voice a thunderous roar, to the percussion of drums. It reached inside her and wrestled with the accusations that had chased her across the ocean.”
The heroine, Augusta (Gussie) Travers, wants to shrug off the restraints of New York society and be a travel photographer. Her family indulges her temporarily, hoping the urge will pass, if she keeps her identity secret. When she is outed to New York Society on her sister’s wedding day, the ensuing scandal sends her to India, far away from the gossip but not from the unkind and often cruel words that her family have spoken over her which plague Gussie’s memory. In India, she reconnects with her childhood friends, Catherine and Gabriel. I loved Gabriel. I loved that their romance was a slow, steady burn built on a solid foundation of friendship. The romance is there but not as integral to the story as this romance lover would have preferred. If I must find fault with Every Word Unsaid, it would be that I would have enjoyed scenes from Gabriel’s point of view. His unconditional love and acceptance are integral to Gussie’s journey of self-acceptance.
I admired Gussie’s spunk and determination to follow her dreams. She is a strong yet complicated heroine who is not only independent but also shackled to the discouraging words spoken over her by her family who wish her to conform to their expectations. These words cause her to doubt her talent and Gussie struggles to believe she can use the gift God has given her to its fullest potential. When Gussie arrives in India, she has the opportunity not only to show the beauty of an exotic land through her Kodak lens, but her images can show simplicity, pain, sorrow, compassion, strength, poverty, disease, suffering, and resilience. It can transport people to another time and place where they can learn to think about the world beyond themselves not simply admire its beautiful landscapes. Through it all, Gussie learns God has given her a unique talent and an audience whereby she can make a difference by sharing the honesty of the human experience—both good and bad.
Some of the reviews I read for Every Word Unsaid seemed to think the heroine too selfish, and her catharsis too minimal. I would have to politely disagree. First, I like flawed characters. They seem realistic and relatable and look whole lot more like myself and those around me. These are the characters and stories that bid me to look deeper inside myself, to examine my own heart. and in the end, strengthen my faith. Second, while the heroine undoubtedly made some selfish decisions throughout the story, Gussie grew and changed emotionally and spiritually. God used the people she met and the experiences she had in India to widen her perspective, to soften her heart. She learns compassion and understanding. Isn’t that all we can ask of others, of ourselves—that we learn, grow, and change for the better by the end of our own stories?
I cannot end this review without a mention of the strong cast of secondary characters Duffy brings to the page. From the endearing Uncle James, who I kept hoping would choose to stay with Gussie in India, to her mentors Bimla and Ramabai—each brought life and depth to the story. They seemed to innately understand her emotional wounds while gently challenging Gussie to step from the shadows into the woman God had created her to be.
Five enthusiastic stars to Every Word Unsaid!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Pulishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
“Stop running from the things God has called you to because you’re afraid of what other’s will think.” ~Ramabai
“Don’t let what people say define you.” ~Uncle James
“There is beauty in loving those who cannot love you back . . . No one chooses not to love. Their own scars, their own brokenness, prevents them from sharing what God has given so freely.” ~Bimla
And from the Dedication page, “A life totally committed to God has nothing to fear, nothing to lose, nothing to regret.” ~Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati
Gussie is a deeply wounded character. She takes with her the scars and brokenness of “never being enough” for the people in her life, especially her family (with the sole exception of Uncle James). I could relate to Gussie who struggled to get unkind words spoken to her out of her head. Words have the power to lift us up or tear us down, and the most dangerous ones are the ones we repeat in our own mind every day. As the story unfolds, Gussie learns to cast off her emotional wounds and not allow the hurtful words from her past define her. As her friend and mentor, Bimla, tells her, “Nothing anyone else says or believes of me can diminish my value—that my worth is found in Christ and He is meant for everyone, even those who mistreated me.” Every Word Unsaid brings a powerful reminder that we have eternal value not because of what we do or say, or because other’s have a favorable opinion of us, but because Christ purchased us with his shed blood on the cross. That is what completes, what makes us ‘enough.’
About the Author
Kimberly Duffy is a Long Island native currently living in Southwest Ohio. When she’s not homeschooling her four kids, she writes historical fiction that takes readers back in time and across oceans. Her books feature ahead-of-their-time heroines, evocative settings, and real-life faith. Kimberly loves trips that require a passport, recipe books, and practicing kissing scenes with her husband of 20 years. He doesn’t mind.
I’m giving away an eBook copy of Every Word Unsaid. To enter tell me your thoughts about flawed characters—like ’em or hate ’em? Do you like to read more light-hearted fare?