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An Absence So Great (Portraits of the Heart, #2)
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An Absence So Great (Portraits of the Heart #2)

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  338 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by WaterBrook (first published 2010)
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Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane KirkpatrickLove to Water My Soul by Jane KirkpatrickAll Together in One Place by Jane KirkpatrickNo Eye Can See by Jane KirkpatrickEmma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick
Best of Jane Kirkpatrick
8th out of 37 books — 4 voters
Sewing with Nancy 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew for Your Home by Nancy ZiemanThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski100 Banned Books by Nicholas J. Karolides100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die by Jennifer Posh101 Great Classroom Games by Alexis Ludewig
Authors from Wisconsin
14th out of 22 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 592)
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The only reason I picked up this book was for a challenge. I didn’t realize that this was the second book, but it didn’t seem to matter, I was able to figure things out. In fact, I am glad that I didn’t read the first one as I know I would have had issues with it. The first book seemed to deal with the emerging relationship between Jessie and Fred. My issues with the relationship is that she was 15 and he was over 40, married and had kids closer in age to her than he was.

The relationship and it
Sep 01, 2016 Amy rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2014 Tabitha rated it it was amazing
An Absence so Great by Jane Kirkpatrick caught my attention because it is about a young female photographer living in an early 1900 Midwest. Her journey particularly takes her to southeastern Wisconsin. A really interesting tidbit about this book is that it was inspired by actual photographs taken by the author’s grandmother. As you read through the book you will also see actual photos and get to read the story behind them. Jessie Gaebele’s continuing passion of photography keeps her connected t ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok
I am drawn to historical fiction and I liked the cover, but this book was just so-so. Too much of a romance and I couldn't see the attraction.
Elizabeth S
Aug 13, 2014 Elizabeth S rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Molly (Cafinated Reads)
Apr 01, 2010 Molly (Cafinated Reads) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Molly (Cafinated Reads) by: Waterbrook Multnomah
An Absence So Great is the continuing story of Jessie Gaebele. It is well written by a talented author. I was able to be captured a bit easier with this book than I was with A Flickering Light, as it wasn't as slow to start off as book 1 was. However, I do still have an issue with the romance area of the book.The detail in this book with the historical events and scenes was just a wonderful blend with the characters. The detail on mercury posioning was not only well done, but also an educational ...more
Mar 27, 2010 Debbie rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, fiction
"An Absence So Great" is a historical set in the 1910's in the northern Midwest of America. Though fiction, the novel was based off the story of the author's own grandparents. This was the second book about Jessie and Fred, and I haven't read the first one. You don't need to read the first book to understand this one, but I suspect it'd be better to start there if you're interested in this story.

I found much of this novel creepy and depressing. The characters were very realistic and had realisti
Kristi (Books and Needlepoint)
This book was ok, but not really what I expected. It is a partially fictionalized account of the author's grandmother. It was interesting in it's portrayal of women in the early 1900's, especially those who wanted to pursue avenues outside of the traditional wife and family, and how they were perceived by society. At the same time, it just didn't feel like a happy book. I know, not all books have to be happy - but you must admit that generally it is more fun to read a book that makes you feel h ...more
Kathleen Kelly
Mar 28, 2010 Kathleen Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
My thoughts:
Again I found myself reading a book for review that has books preceding it. So it is better of course if you read the first book, The Flickering Light as it is the first book in the series. Jessie is a young woman who has a passion for photography and her goal is to have her own studio. One of the obstacles she faces is the time she lives in where if a woman wants to branch out from being a wife and mother, she is told to "let your husband/father/brother do this sort of work and you
Mar 30, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
From my blog...

An Absence So Great is the second novel in Jane Kirkpatrick's Portrait of a Heart series, the first novel being A Flickering Light. It was not until I had finished the novel and read the author's notes that I discovered this series is based on her grandmother's life. An Absence So Great is a beautifully written novel, which takes place in 1910 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jessie Gaebele, an unmarried 18-year old has left her hometown of Winona, Minnesota to work as a photographer in the
Sep 23, 2011 Vicky rated it liked it
This is the second in a series about a real-life woman named Jessie Gaeble, the author's grandmother. Set in the early 20th century, Jessie is a courageous woman who wants to make her own way in the world. She has a love and passion for photography. Against her family's wishes she pursues the life of a female photographer in a time when women were supposed to be married off into their husband's lives, not create their own. Jessie's singular obsession leads her into a forbidden love and sends her ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Carly rated it really liked it
After reading and thoroughly enjoying A Flickering Light, I was anxious to read the conclusion to Jessie’s story. Just like A Flickering Light, An Absence So Great is very well written and an interesting look at the history of the author’s family. This is one of those books that the reader needs to allow his or herself plenty of time to read it. It is written in such a way that reads slowly, but I did not find it boring. I could understand some readers feeling impatient with the pace of this boo ...more
Clockstein Lockstein
Mar 31, 2010 Clockstein Lockstein rated it it was amazing
An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick is the powerful sequel to A Flickering Light. The author calls it historical speculative fiction as she writes about the story of her grandmother Jessie Gaebele as she tries to make her way as a professional photographer in 1910. The story picks up shortly after the events of the first book in which Jessie had fallen in love with her married employer, Fred Bauer, and their relationship crossed the boundaries of what is acceptable, so Jessie fled to Milwauk ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Paula rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book by one of my favorite authors! An Absence So Great carries on where A Flickering Light left off in the life of Jane's grandmother, Jessie Gaebele. Jessie is now eighteen and living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has gone away from her family and hometown of Winona, Minnesota as a punishment to herself for the longing of a married, much older man; her boss and mentor Fred J. Bauer. In Milwaukee, Jessie is working for Suzanne Johnson, a woman who has lost her husba ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Deborah rated it it was amazing
Jessie Gaebele's life couldn't be better. Armed with the knowledge to run her own photographic studio, she decides to help owners run their studios while they are sick with mercury poisoning. She steps closer and closer to owning her own studio, and she scrimps and saves until her goal is within her reach.

Despite Jessie's good intentions, it seems as if she is an impasse in her life. She cannot move forward with her studio plans, nor is she making progress with overcoming her infatuation with he
Apr 19, 2012 Heather rated it it was ok
I'll begin by saying that truth is stranger than fiction, but fictionalized truth is even stranger. Jane Kirkpatrick 's work was cited as one of the best in 2009 by Library Journal and judging by the first page I could see why. Her writing draws you in with engaging, thought-provoking observations. Photography in 1910 presented unique challenges and I delighted seeing how the character managed a baby shoot. Add the rarity of a woman starting her own business without the benefit of marriage in th ...more
Apr 03, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok
This book left me feeling torn. It is a partially fictionalized story of the authors grandmother, Jessie Gaebele. On one hand I felt the book was beautiful. It's set in Wisconsin in the early 1900's. Your given a real sense of the historical account of photography from this era which I found very interesting. The author also addresses a lot of the struggles that women faced during this era, especially women who were more of the independent mind set which the main character Jessie was. The charac ...more
Holly (2 Kids and Tired)
The second in the Portraits of the Heart series, this is a sequel to A Flickering Light, which I haven't read. The series is based on the story of Jessie Ann Gaebele, the author's grandmother. Jessie, now an eighteen-year old woman sets out to succeed, on her own, as a photographer. She leaves behind a forbidden romance with her married employer, Fred Bauer. Jessie truly wants to succeed as a photographer and own her own studio. She hones her skills working for other photographers as she tries t ...more
Lydia Presley
Apr 02, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it liked it
In An Absence so Great, Jane Kirkpatrick tells the (continuing) story of her Grandmother, Jessie Gaebele.

This is the second book of the series, the first being A Flickering Light. I had not read the first, but aside from a bit of confusion in the beginning, it didn't matter all that much.

The story is that of a young woman photographer in the early 20th century. Her struggles with establishing herself as a photographer of merit, working toward owning her own photography studio and her battles wit
Linda B
Mar 27, 2010 Linda B rated it liked it
An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick is a beautifully written book of historical fiction loosely based on the author’s grandmother. The story revolves around Jesse, a young girl in the early 1900s trying to make her mark in the field of photography on her own, but finds it difficult as a woman without legal rights. Her connection and insight into the photographs is what made the story interesting and compelling.

The story was disappointing to me because time after time Jessie made poor decisi
Apr 26, 2010 Cafelilybookreviews rated it liked it

The year is 1910 and 18 year old photographer, Jessie Ann Gaebele, has a lot of spunk. She believes that women are just as capable as men, and she can take on the world. Moving to get away from the memories that trouble her, she arrives in Milwaukee trying so hard to be a maverick - only to find out quickly that she’s still naive and young.

Especially when it comes to men.

Determined to save enough money and own her own studio back in Minnesota, Jessie sets out to be an independent woman with a n
Kylin Larsson
Feb 18, 2011 Kylin Larsson rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
1910, Minnesota. Jessie is a young photographer who does her best to distance herself from Fred, her mentor and the married man with whom she's fallen irretrievably in love. She moves to a new city to avoid temptation, but their love for one another is authentic and constant, despite the miles.

The author does an excellent job of weaving in historical details without putting in too much; it's done as naturally as breathing. The character of Jessie is based on a real woman, one related to the auth
Janalyn Voigt
Mar 30, 2010 Janalyn Voigt rated it really liked it
Lady photographer Jessie Gaebele tackles a man's world in this story of life and love set against the backdrop of America when the twentieth-century was in its teens. "An Absence So Great" and its predecessor, "A Flickering Light," explores the personal history of author Jane Kirkpatrick's grandmother.

We follow Jessie's struggle against a growing attraction to her mentor, Fred Bauer, who exists in a loveless marriage. Jessie makes mistakes as she attempts to severe her connections to Fred, gain
Sep 11, 2016 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Up until 1am finishing this book. This second book of the series was just as good or better than the first. Home run. Never really expected such an ending...actually anticipated the opposite. Bravo to this new author I have discovered! I really connected with the character, Jesse. Since this book is based on a true story, anyone critical needs to feed their fantasies with true fiction and not real life situations.
Margaret Chind
Apr 02, 2010 Margaret Chind marked it as dnf
Recommended to Margaret by: Ashley Boyer
An Absence So Great: A Novel was not really my cup of tea. I like to read books for an escape and adventure, but I found this one to be odd and depressing. I did not read the first in the series, but I am not certain that you would have to as the story was understandable. I hear that many people love Jane Kirkpatrick, so I was excited to give her a try again as I tried to read another that I did not quite like, but I guess her writing is just not for me. The historical elements are interesting, ...more
Nov 28, 2013 Nancy rated it it was ok
Shelves: listening-to
I'm a real Jane Kirkpatrick fan, but this is not one of her best. Jessie is young and a photographer with dreams of owning her own studio. It's the early 1900's and her mentor has complicated her life by also becoming a man she loves but can't have due to his already being married. The story chronicles her career and her on again-off again relationship with Fred Brower. Adding to the stickiness is his emotionally fragile wife who is easy to dislike and set aside. Parts of this were so hard to be ...more
Kitty Tomlinson
Eighteen year old Jessie Gaebele is at a crossroad in her personal life. Set after the turn of the 20th century, she has learned photography and aspires to one day own her own studio. Learned a lot about life in that time period.
I do not mind odd or depressing books; I actually find them a nice change to all the happily-ever-after types that tend to dominate historical fiction. Nonetheless, despite good writing and interesting characters, I had trouble with this one (and forgot I had read the first book until practically the very end). Maybe because even those the three characters had really difficult choices to make and the author tried to portray them realistically without "easy" answers or some sort of deus ex machin ...more
Aug 27, 2013 Angela rated it liked it
Like many others, I didn't realize or read the first book, A Flickering Light, but I never felt lost by coming in halfway. You have to keep in mind that this book is based on fact, real people, real events, in a real timeline. This helps to keep you reading, even when plot slows to a crawl. The author's writing helps also. Her descriptions, word choices and images keep you interested. I finished the book, not so much to see how the story ended but to savor the words and live in the details descr ...more
Nov 06, 2015 LeeAnn rated it really liked it
Another superb historical novel from a master of the genre. I've learned more from Kirkpatrick's books about the women who helped shape America than I ever did in history classes. Recommended.
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Kirkpatrick brings us a story of one woman's restoration from personal grief to the meaning of community."
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Other Books in the Series

Portraits of the Heart (2 books)
  • A Flickering Light (Portraits of the Heart, #1)

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