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Ten-year-old motherless Annie is partially paralyzed and spends her days in her father?s shop in post?Civil War Memphis. She is often in the company of her friend Art, who is nine years old and visually impaired. The children?s world is restricted because of their disabilities until the day Annie?s father brings home a locked trunk from an auction. Inside they find a journal written by Gracie, a wife and mother, during the war years and afterward.

Bitter and heartbroken, and having turned away from God, Gracie begins the journal as a way to cope with the loss of first her five-year-old daughter and then her husband. Through Gracie?s writing, Annie and Art learn about this tough, scrappy southern woman?s struggle to survive on her own and to cope with the bitterness that too often causes her temper to flare. Their limited world widens as they learn about Gracie?s life at a critical time in U.S. history and as Annie has the chance to travel by steamboat.

To her surprise, Gracie finds love with a northern soldier and starts a new family, and she and her husband hear God?s call to find new life in Him. Inspired by a neighbor?s daughter and by Gracie?s example, Annie, her father, and Art learn that God has a purpose for them that overcomes disability, hardship, and loss. Although different in time, place, and circumstances, the stories of these ordinary people are woven together as each finds God and finally breaks free of the bonds that held them captive.

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