Truly Free is the fourth and final book in the Turning the Tide series, in which Carol Preston writes fictional accounts based on her own family history (which explains some of the odd character names!). The story has been researched extensively, and that gives it a sense of time and place that isn’t always present in historical fiction.
Bill has been found dead in mysterious circumstances, and granddaughter Betsy wants answers. In conjunction with her aunt Beth, Betsy finds there is a mystery to be solved, misunderstandings to clear up and major secrets to be revealed before everyone can truly be free.
The underlying theme of the story is freedom in Christ, and Betsy and her father, Nipper, are the two most important characters in understanding this: Betsy, because she has to forgive her father; and Nipper, because he has to understand the nature of
God in order to forgive himself and Betsy.
Beth’s father was transported to Australia when she was just a small child, and now she is eighteen, he has sent for her and her two younger brothers to join him in his new home. Beth has hopes that they will be able to live together as a family, but this is not to be, and she instead marries William, a strange man who has some deep problems of his own. Estranged from her family by distance and secrets, she has to learn to fend for herself in this strange and harsh new land.
This is the third book in the series that began with Mary’s Guardian and Charlotte’s Angel. The stories are fictionalised accounts of real historical people and events, a result of Carol Preston’s personal family history research (which explains why so many of the characters are confusingly called Elizabeth or William). Although there are a number of characters from the earlier books, this story can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. It gives an excellent depiction of the struggles of the early Australian immigrants, especially the ex-convicts, and has a strong Christian message about the ways family secrets and lies can affect us.