The Secret Diary of Sarah Chamberlain by Sarah Norkus
Publisher: Living Ink
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (199 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe
In the year 2008, fifteen year-old Emily Grace (Em) discovers a secret hiding place under a wooden plank in the attic of an old house in Petersburg. It conceals a 150 year-old-diary belonging to Sarah Chamberlain, the previous owner of the house. Carefully turning to the last entry, Em’s interest is piqued by the mention of missing confederate gold and a murder mystery. She slips the diary into the pocket of her capris.
As she reads the diary, Em is touched by Sarah’s deep love for her husband, Robert. Emotionally, Em’s life is spinning out of control and the diary is a welcome distraction. Each day her faith slips further and further away as she blames God for the many trials and tribulations she has had to endure. After rereading the last page and Robert’s senseless murder, she has one more reason to doubt God’s love for his creation.Em slips the diary back in her pocket planning to return it to the attic before helping her mother clean the old house in Petersburg. While scrubbing black scuffmarks off the kitchen floor, Em has an emotional meltdown airing her list of grievances, including Robert’s murder, before God. As she shouts that she doesn’t believe he really exists, vertigo suddenly hits with a vengeance and she passes out. Regaining consciousness, Em is dumbfounded; the kitchen has been replaced by a nineteenth century parlor.
Imagine helping your mother clean up an old house that is part of the Historical Society’s inventory and finding a loose board that holds an old, old diary. Would you tell your mother and give it up or would you keep it and read it? Emily Grace (called Em) did what I would do: She kept it to read.
Ms. Norkus mixes Civil War history, time travel, slavery, and a modern girl all together in a story that I found fascinating. The more of the diary she reads, the more Em gets caught up in Sarah’s life. When she finds out Sarah’s husband dies at the hands of the military, she is devastated.
The author makes Em a young woman who has begun to fall away from God and her church. She doesn’t believe God is there. None of her prayers get answered. Reading about Sarah’s husband Robert dying makes her angry and she shouts at God, giving Him her whole list of grievances. Em is fifteen and I remember what puberty was like; I cried all the time. Em carries a lot of anger. What she didn’t expect was to be transported back in time. Apparently God does listen. Going back 150 years means things are quite different there. She finds Sarah and they take her in but she has no real plan to save Robert.
The author works with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, so her information about the times and practices of the era are accurate. The only hesitation I had about the story was that Em changes history while she’s there. And, any change you make in history would affect the future, but the only thing that really changed in the future was the diary and a sign. I had a difficult time believing nothing else was affected.
Overall, this is a very nice read and young women readers should find it fascinating. There’s history, the beginning of romance for Em and it has a happy ending. It also might lead them to read more about the Civil War era. The Christianity is lightly stated and not overwhelming. Why not give it a try and see what you think?