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One Step Enough is Carla Kelly’s latest release, and a sequel to her wonderful novel, My Loving Vigil Keeping. Book 1 was based on the 1900s Scofield mining disaster, but it also had a h and a H, whose lives entwined with the chaos of it all. Carla Kelly gave such vivid narratives of everything about a mining town, the lives of its inhabitants and how a tragedy can shatter hundreds of lives, that for me who had no idea about this disaster, it was an experience TBH!
My Loving Vigil Keeping was released in 2012 and I read it in 2015. Initially I thought it was 2017 but then I had to check the date of my review on goodreads to be sure. No wonder I had forgotten many intricate details of the story that had taken me time to remember! Don’t get me wrong, I remembered the story and what happened but this book had many characters so there were many details to remember, littlest things that seemed inconsequential at that time but had quite the profound meaning in book 2. I didn’t want to do a reread because I was too impatient to read One Step Enough. But can you blame me though? I thought book 1 ended very abruptly, yet, seeing the time that had passed since the publication, frankly I didn’t think there was any sequel planned for this book. I’m so glad that Ms. Kelly decided to give us another tour of Della and Owens’s life. I practically screamed when I saw One Step Enough on Amazon!
My Loving Vigil Keeping begins with the story of our h, Della Anders. She was an orphan whose father died, who had never met her mother but was told she ditched them when Della was an infant. At 12, after her father Frederick’s tragic death in a Colorado mine, Della came to live with her rich uncle Karl’s home only to find it no home of any kind. Frederick had loved her, and even poor, took care of her as best as he could but this house here was cold and cruel. Her aunt Caroline never took to her and found immense pleasure in taunting, berating or maligning Della to anyone she could find because she was poor; because her father was the proverbial family ‘blacksheep’ who brought ‘shame’ to the prominent Anders family; because she didn’t look like the tall and blonde Anders clan. But mostly because Della was illegitimate. Her tormentors included her two cousins as well. Della was never given a chance to mourn her father properly because Caroline forbade any such thing if she’s to live with them. Karl pretty much let his wife abuse the child and ignored it all so he himself can live in peace.
And so Della had to made herself grow up. It was such a wonder that she grew up to be a good, honest and hardworking young woman. She had the looks of her Greek mother, with dark hair and eyes and a head full of wild, curly hair. That, with her illegitimate state made her a target of the bullies in school as well. Della weathered it all and never complained. She found part-times to earn little money on her own. But what finally made her go enough-is-enough was Karl’s refusal to finance her university tuition. I think you can already guess who was behind that too. She was very much looking forward to it and soon found out that it wasn’t going to happen. Della was disappointed and heartbroken. This time she knew that if she’s have her own life, she needs to find a way out of this miserable house, which she does promptly when she gets a job at a faraway mining town. Being a school teacher was something she could do. Karl and Caroline were, of course, unhappy. Off she went with the threat to never have any more ‘help’ from her only living relatives. But then, Della didn’t give a rat’s ass. It was never home to begin with.
In Scofield, Della’s live became the epitome of one adventure after another. She’s never been into any mining town before so everything was new to her. She was discovering new things, meeting new people and making new friends. :) I had fun learning about a mining town inside and out alongside Della since I felt like she and I stood on the same ground at this; every detail and the many characters that Della met and how revered she was as a school teacher among them cause the miners wanted a better future for their children. They were aware that nothing beat education. For the first time in her life, Della began to feel like she belonged somewhere; among the sea of people who were strangers only a few months ago.
Della had a beautiful singing voice and the Winter Quarters mining community had a choir. Here I wanna note that the story draws heavily from the LDS/Mormon background, though thankfully that didn’t overpower the core of it. Though a clean romance, romance began between Della and one of the Welsh miners, Owen Davis, whom she met through a friend. Owen also had an amazing baritone voice that Della fell in love with, as much as she did with the man himself. He, in turn, convinced her to join the choir so they can sing together. A widower, Owen had a 6 yrs. old daughter Angharad whose mother passed away right after her birth. She was the daughter of the community in a sense because Owen had to seek out nursing mothers of the community to feed his infant to keep her alive. He was mad with grief cause he deemed Gwyna his one true love and losing her made his life miserable. But he did everything he could to raise Angharad as a sweet, thoughtful little lady.
Angharad was also Della’s student and worshipped her since the beginning. Della was smitten with the little girl, yet falling in love with her father who she deemed a friend wasn’t a part of Della’s plan. But it happened, however subtle it was. The attraction was there, only Owen was reluctant to move on. Amidst the slow going storyline, I was still being amused by the day-to-day lives of a mining town and the characters who were also beginning to feel more like friends. But Della and Owen’s friendship-turned-romance was quite frustrating since it took Owen foreverrrr to finally decide that he’s a lucky man to have two women to love him as much as they did. One was gone, but is he going to let the other slip by as well? Because, believe me, Della had suitors who would’ve snatched her up in no time, a fact that Owen was aware of and didn’t like at all. LOL But lucky him that Della only had eyes for Owen.
I knew where the story was leading up to but didn’t think it’d impact me so deeply as it did. We’d never know what exactly happened on that fateful day but Ms. Kelly’s narratives seemed quite close to what may have happened. The day of the disaster was a fine May morning and they were planning a dance later on.... But Della watched in horror when her friends, one after another, turned up dead after the explosion; some so unrecognizable that it broke her heart. But the worst was when she thought Owen had also perished in the accident. It pretty much shattered her like the countless other families. She looked to Angharad as her lifeline, knowing this little girl now had no one much like another 12 yrs. old she knew. This time though, Della would make certain that Angharad wanted for nothing. She’d be her reason for living. She’d make Owen, and Gwyna, proud.
However, thankfully (yes THANKFULLY!) Owen turned up alive, though beaten and bruised and completely devastated by the loss of his comrades.
One Step Enough pretty much takes up from where My Loving Vigil Keeping finished, so I’d recommended reading the books back to back. At that point, Owen had already decided to marry Della so they simply get to it ASAP. After the aftermath of such an immense tragedy they didn’t want to apart any longer. Bishop Parmley of Winter Quarters agreed wholeheartedly and performed the hasty ceremony. Della’s life as a married woman began in Owen’s small house, where they were in the middle of moving. He would stay here for a while trying to help the families whose father, brother, husband had perished. But he wanted Della and Angharad, who was already rather traumatized by it all, out of here. Della found a distant relative she met before her arrival in Scofield. The Knights were extremely rich and generous people. They were sad hearing about Della’s childhood and felt guilty for not being able to help her. Then again they had no idea of her existence. So Amanda and Jesse helped Della getting settled to Scofield, and more when she needed help. Owen wanted his little family to be as far away from Scofield as possible and he knew the Knights would not turn their backs on them.
The Knights unsurprisingly don’t disappoint Della and Owen. They help them settle in Provo once more. But the trouble began when Jesse Knight comes up with a proposition for Owen who was out of job and looking for one desperately. Della had requested Owen to never ever go back to the mines again but there’s a saying among them— ‘the lure of the mine’. Apparently no matter what, miners feel that pull towards mines and it’s difficult to hold them back. Jesse Knight knew Owen was a brilliant, if self-taught engineer of sort. He definitely was a master carpenter, as we read the description of his various wood works all through book 1. One of Jesse’s mines was so accident prone that he was worried about keeping the miners and his own investment alive. People have perished and he wanted Owen to inspect it and come up with some sort of solution. Owen wouldn’t have gone, but the pay offered was pretty huge. He was also riddled with the survivor’s guilt. It was eating him up so badly that he wanted to do something. This felt like the opportunity he was looking for. But how can he convince Della?
Of course Della was very disappointed at Owen but she agreed anyway knowing it’s one of those things she can’t fight about. She was quite familiar with Owen’s survivor’s guilt and how much he wanted to do something in the memory of his lost friends and the ones alive still. They were finally settling down, and here they were on the move again where Owen was stationed for work. Their HEA, it’d seem, wasn’t smooth after all. Then again, can anyone move on so easily after weathering such a tragedy?
I won’t go into too much detail because this book generally details the ups and downs, the bumps and earth-jolting ruts in Owen and Della’s life; some were general martial issues, others related to the life itself. Owen’s decision to stick to working in a mine, even as an inspector working to better it, plays quite a vital role creating chasm in their relationship when he decides to send Della and Angharad back to Provo. This meant they had to be apart for long stretches of time. Della certainly wasn’t happy but she tried to understand and carry on as best with Angharad. They would both worry about Owen’s well-being. She would’ve loved to have a baby of her own but that wasn’t happening so soon either. However there were also loving times when Owen would be back for a visit, or Della and Angharad would share a good time together and she’d write to Owen about that.
One of the saddest things in the story was Della’s sudden... PTSD? about mines in general that came into light when Owen began working for Jesse and they were living in Knightville, a mining town that Jesse Knight built himself. Remember she was never given the chance to ever properly mourn her father? That, mixed with the guilt of how they parted on that fateful day—on a less than cordial note while Della went to school and Frederick to the mine that’ll eventually take his life—had been eating at Della for a long time. She never had a proper way to let it out. She’d never confided to anyone, not even to Owen. So when there’s an accident in the mine while Owen was inside, it seemed all hell broke loose inside of Della. The description of her behavior as a whole was so eerie that scared even the stalwart Owen. I don’t even know how to explain but Owen understood because he knew about Della’s childhood. He stood by Della and held her when he could to help her get over it. Della couldn’t quite recall anything after those ‘incidents’.
In between, as the story progressed, Della was encouraged by Owen to forgive her uncle and aunt, something she was very reluctant to do, and for good reason. Her aunt was already dying, if I guessed correctly, of cancer. It was never really specified but she was very ill as Della comes to know in one of her visits to Karl’s office after Owen convincing her to at least try. His reasoning, to make peace with everyone she can be at peace with herself. Her reluctant visits to Karl do yield some results and there seems a sliver of hope; a very fragile bond begins to form between the uncle and the niece without Caroline’s poisonous interference. There were surprising revelations too, stuff that made Della even prouder of her ‘blacksleep’ father. She also learns that her mother never left them on her own, which was noted by Frederick in a letter Caroline never let her read until Karl gives it to her. Olympia Stavrakis was dragged away by her own father before she and Frederick could marry. They had no news of her after that. Then Frederick died and with that, all hope of ever reuniting or even knowing where her mother was, was lost to Della. Then again, she was told that her mother left them so why would she even hope to see her again?
In the end though, Owen gives up on mining altogether after his assignment with Jesse Knight was over. He was done leaving his family to worry about him. The decision was for sure welcomed by his little family! But as I felt the story nearing the end, I began wondering if Ms. Kelly would do Della one more kindness and reunite her with her mother. I was hoping and praying that it happened...........I’ll leave you to read and find out more about it.
All in all, I was extremely happy with how the story finally folded. Life for the Davises will go on as I could tell, and they’d continue to weather the ups and downs together because they loved each-other and had loving family surrounding them; something many of those miners’ family that passed away in Scofield disaster couldn’t say. Della and Owen acknowledged that and they were extremely grateful for their good luck. Yes the story at times felt slow moving but I was still hooked because I loved being a part of their life. I enjoyed seeing them finally conquer their demons to grab a hold of that happiness. Owen, who lost any interest in singing after the disaster, was singing again. Della found out she was expecting. Their life felt complete. Frankly, if there was another installment in the series, kind of a follow up for the other characters we met, I’d read it without a second thought, but I don’t think there’d be any more. 4 stars and recommended.
PS: there was a great afterword by the author where she includes many notes regarding her research on Scofield mining disaster, and the real (yes!) people who were featured in both My Loving Vigil Keeping and One Step Enough. I loved reading more about them and their lives after the disaster. And for those who don’t know, much like the Welsh folk song Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) in Book 1, another song was featured prominently in book 2. The phrase One Step Enough derives from an old hymnal titled Lead, Kindly Light that I’ve never heard of before. I managed to find some lovely renditions in youtube, but my favorite would be this one. Owen and Della had often sought courage and comfort from this song and its message. Give it a listen if you haven’t already. :)