Book Jacket


rank 2328
word count 14550
date submitted 22.02.2011
date updated 03.07.2011
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Chick Li...
classification: universal

Her Life as She Knew It

Karen Schwind

A young woman uncovers secrets that lay bare the shame of her people and force her to learn about love and letting go.


Karen Schwind brings us Caroline McKee, a girl on the cusp of womanhood who is determined to right the wrongs former friends did to her. She gets her chance when Billy Taylor, a veteran of the Great War, returns to Greensboro and opens a newspaper in the spring of 1919. Together they dig into the lives of townspeople until Caroline discovers a secret that lays bare the sorrow and shame of people she’s known all her life. Publishing a front-page story of betrayal and tragedy, Caroline learns a lesson that only her devout Christian father could teach--about love, loyalty and letting go.

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caroline, christian, historical, north carolina, southern, women's fiction, young adult

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RossClark1981 wrote 985 days ago

- Her Life as She Knew it -

(Based on the prologue and chapters 1 and 2)

Hmmm, what to say about this? Not much from a critical standpoint, that's for certain. Her Life as She Knew It is a very classy and polished piece of writing that works as historical fiction, coming of age drama, and, I think, romance. I was a shame time constraints forced me to leave off when I did because Caroline's job at the newspaper looks to be where the real thickening of the plot comes.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, back to the prologue. This weaves a lot of personal history with the wider events of the time, The Great War in particular. This is a good example of where telling not showing can work. Although we have a list of events, we still somehow have a good sense of who the characters are and the author's voice and writing skill are such that the reader trusts we will get into the real meat of the story soon enough. The only point I wondered at was why Jenny died. Perhaps I missed it but there didn't seem to be a reason.

One typo in the prologue: 'proceded to kill like nothing we had every seen.'

The first chapter is very good. There are a lot of undercurrents there as we hear of familial relationships, religious impacts and the after effects of the war on the community. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between Caroline and Billy. Although we have never seen him interact as such before, we still have the sense that he has been somehow hardened by his war experience. We also feel the chemistry between the two characters and have a good sense of Caroline's stronger and cheekier side.

Chapter two is just excellent. The plane ride and the amazement it causes is a great indicator of the time and also the slightly rebellious streak in Caroline.

One typo: 'no one seemed to noticed.'

As I say, very classy all round. I really enjoyed this and wish you all the best with it,


grantdavid wrote 990 days ago

A fascinating, often breathless, poetic and even profound piece of writing. Yes, there are blips, pointed out by the experts, but I'm convinced, as I was by "your Vermilion", that this uniquely exciting story is going places, Karen.
High stars and Shelved,
David Grant,
"Pompey Chimes"

katie78 wrote 991 days ago

i'm enjoying this. i think your pitch is great (and i'm picky about pitches)

i really liked the opening comparing the mother to a hen. really sets the tone.

i like the matter-of-fact way you explain these dramatic shifts that happen in 'the great gust'.

she doesn't go to the funeral. interesting. i want to know more about this and i'm willing to wait for it to unfold.

EDIT: to defend a country he had not even seen a picture of -PUNCTUATION NEEDED- to fight a war.....

love how she contemplates the meaning of 'a woman who wears her hair down', that they can 'neither fathom nor pry it from our mothers'.

a few transitions at the end of the chapter seem to happen a little too fast - the next moning, later that night, the next day. could be smoother.

hope this helps. thanks for the read.

Nigel Fields wrote 1022 days ago

I love the writing in this work. Just excellent. I'm stingy with my stars, but you, Karen, deserve all 6!
Have a great weekend.

Skoob Press wrote 1030 days ago

Hi Karen,

I really like this. The writing is lyrical and lovely, and you do a wonderful job of evoking a particular time and place. By the way, I've spent some time in Greensboro - my daughter attended Guilford College for a year.

You also do a very nice job with character. I felt I knew these people instantly, and wanted to take the journey with them.

I've well starred this and watch listed for now.

I do hope you'll take a look at Animal Cracker. It's nearing the desk, and your backing and/or rating would help a lot.

In any case, good luck with this.

Animal Cracker


I'll check it out this weekend. Thanks:)

Andi Brown wrote 1031 days ago

Hi Karen,

I really like this. The writing is lyrical and lovely, and you do a wonderful job of evoking a particular time and place. By the way, I've spent some time in Greensboro - my daughter attended Guilford College for a year.

You also do a very nice job with character. I felt I knew these people instantly, and wanted to take the journey with them.

I've well starred this and watch listed for now.

I do hope you'll take a look at Animal Cracker. It's nearing the desk, and your backing and/or rating would help a lot.

In any case, good luck with this.

Animal Cracker

Nigel Fields wrote 1048 days ago

Happy to back this fine work.

Barbara Jurgensen wrote 1085 days ago

This is delightful. I'm putting it on my watch list and will move it up soon. I want to read and read, but I must make dinner--not roast beef, but you've whet my appetite. I'll read more as soon as I can. Please keep writing. And when you have a few minutes could you look at my book, which I'm currently calling WAUCONDA, but may change to KIRSTEN. Thank you. Barbara Jurgensen

Jan K. wrote 1091 days ago

Excellent historical fiction......Would love to read a sequel (or a series) that delves further into Caroline's life, especially into her next phase of life. I purchased this novel to find out what happens! You won't be disappointed!

writingwildly wrote 1095 days ago

Beautiful writing, Karen. Steve makes great points, but I would say overall your writing is exquisite, the pace and prose hypnotic. Good for you. Easily backed.
- Genevieve
"Under the Same Sky"
published January 2012 by Berkley/Penguin USA

Steve Hawgood wrote 1097 days ago

Karen - the return read. I've no literary qualifications nor ever published so feel free to deal with these comments as you wish. I'll also add chick lit isn't my usual genre but have read a few.

The initial intro with the 'view of my mother' didn't work for me. Apologies but perhaps for others.

Ok into the read. The preface is initially a wonderful opening, with the landscape almost painted for the reader. You've chosen two events, milestones now, with Spanish Flu and World War 1. Good choices but I feel you've slightly rushed the characters through this period. Jenny for example is a best friend then dead and of flu, while mother has come and gone to Charleston. Billy joined the friendship and then rushes to war.

The scene, the times, it all cries out 'nostalgia' to the reader; these are the memories of our grandparents and the writing is excellent but I felt cheated but knowing about this wonderful friendship and more of Jenny. Introduce us to characters but don't pluck them away in the next paragraph if you wish us to commit to them in the story.

Then Billy returns. Again the descriptive scenes you paint are excellent. Her father is crystal clear in my mind as I read. This is a slower pace in life and it reads that way. The meeting with Billy works well, dialogue fits the story and again I can visualise them together, her slight nerves, meeting a man alone. That slow builds very gently and all works until she makes her next trip after defying her father.

It's a nice portrayal of the times and works for me from this Chapter.

Chapter 2 and this shows your writing strengths. The innocence of the time in human relationships, the arrival of the plane, set alongside the fine detail of Higgins Road and cotton dresses. I've seen no typos nor any grammar I'm uncomfortable with. The intro the plane jarred just a little - propeller in the front 'of course' - would she know, but the flight and her joy at being accepted worked. I did feel others would have been pushing forward but, then perhaps not - these are different times.

Chapter 3 and your continuing along the same lines. We view the world through Caroline's eyes and you've caught the times. I did feel her fathers reaction, and her own clutching his legs, didn't quite work for me, but that's a mute point. The excitement of the planes arrival and Billy's opportunistic nature are the drivers for the reader here.

Would suggest reading out loud to yourself. Paragraphs start often along these lines - Billy sent a boy - Billy stopped talking - Billy snapped into action. I just felt in the middle of this Chapter you can tighten it further. But again the overall quality of the read is good.

Karen as I said I'm not a chick lit reader and the overall story is better commented on by others. But the writing does work for me and the descriptive scenes are excellent. I'm not sure the preface contributes anything to this but from Billy's return home it starts to gather pace. This is very focused on the characters themselves and their reactions being precise - couple of times I felt it jarred slightly but again just my reaction.

I enjoy period pieces and that you've done particularly well, both through the characters but also the scenes. Perhaps consider changing the genre. The mystery described in the long synopsis, of which I've read nothing yet, is still a draw. Only you know what that is. Trust this helps. Best. Steve.

Red2u wrote 1102 days ago

read the first chapter and enjoyed it Jenny dies and she run into Billy coincidence...anyhow have rated and placed on my Wl for further reading..
Regards Michelle

Skoob Press wrote 1104 days ago

I have made changes based on the comments below and uploaded 4 chapters of my novel, as well as a short story. All serious comments welcome!

Hall-Crews wrote 1125 days ago

This is a beautiful start to an engaging story. The main character, Caroline, is headstrong, ambitious, and carries the narrative well. Conflicts throughout the plot add interest, while the fast pacing helps to move the story forward.

The superb imagery and attention to detail when it comes to describing the settings, sometimes doesn't carry over with regard to characters (as some of the major supporting characters went without descriptions).

Also, I got a little confused when Caroline met with Billy and it's mentioned that he put out his cigarette at the bottom of the stairs after he was already seated on the edge of the desk.

All in all, this is a memorable story and I'll be very interested to see more of it as it unfolds--nice work.

CarolinaAl wrote 1126 days ago

I read your first chapter.

General comments: An engaging start. A fiesty, fascinating main character. Vivid descriptions that evoke the era. Good tension. Good pacing.

Specific comments on the preface:
1) ' ... how the papers' carried stories about Germany ... ' Remove the apostrophe after papers.

Specific comments on chapter one:
1) ' ... and stepped inside where silence like the tomb greeted me.' 'Silence like the tomb' is cliche. Consider creating a new, more original similie.
2) Start a new paragraph with the sentence that begins with 'An answering "Hello' floated down the stairs ... ' Each time you shift focus to a different character, start a new paragraph.
3) Consider starting a new paragraph with the sentence that starts 'My mother, had she seen me, would have ...'
4) ' ... sounding hollow, as if it were rising from the bottom of a well' is cliche. Consider writing the same idea, but in a unique way.
5) 'I could hear the beat of my heart ... ' Try to avoid using the word 'hear.' Just describe the sound so the reader can hear it right along with Caroline. This will engage the reader more deeply in your story. When you do this, 'I could hear' is implied.
6) ' ... how her astonding beauty stopped men in their tracks.' 'Stopped men in their tracks' is cliche. Consider writing the same effect, but in a fresh way.
7) Daddy shifted in his seat. Who owns it?" he asked. Insert an opening quote before 'who.'
8) Start a new paragraph with 'I held my breath then said, "Town?"
9) 'I could feel it on my neck and face and hair ... ' Try to avoid using the word 'feel.' How does this feeling manifest in Caroline? Describe it so the reader can experience it along with Caroline. When you do this, 'I could feel' is implied.
10) ' ... melting me like butter' is cliche. Consider finding a better way to convey this image.
11) ' ... and brought red to my face' could be 'heated my cheeks.' You're writing in Caroline's point of view. Caroline can't see the red on her face, but she certainly can feel the heat in her cheeks.
12) "Get .... get dressed .... get." When using ellipses ( ... ), only use three dots. Using more is unusual and pulls the reader out of your story while they try to figure out what you mean with four dots. You don't want that. There are more cases of this type of problem.
13) ' ... like a man afraid of being snake bit' is cliche. Consider inventing a new similie.

I hope this critique helps you further polish your all important first chapter. These are just my opinions. Use what works for you and discard the rest.

I'm looking forward to your reactions to "Savannah Fire."

Have a sensational day.


Cat091971 wrote 1132 days ago

A very compelling story so far. Backed and rated

Lies & Love

SusieGulick wrote 1146 days ago

:) I will comment on your books as soon as I have read it :) - let me know. :) Love, Susie :) p.s. I have gold ******-rated your book because "Caroline learns a lesson that only her devout Christian father could teach - about love, loyalty, and letting go."