Young couple Asa and Rebecca step through a portal in time into 19th Century America. The novel Caught in a Past Reflection tells their story.
Rebecca works as a seamstress in modern day Colonial Williamsburg. Her alcoholic mother makes home life unbearable. Rebecca gets away from it with picnics in the woods with her new boyfriend, an apprentice silversmith from the other side of town. She and Asa stumble upon a time portal in the woods. Rebecca comes back later, alone, to start her new life in the past.
Although he enjoys a good life in modern times, Asa chases after her. They reunite and begin their relationship anew in yesteryear. Given the boom and bust cycle of American cities in those days, Asa and Rebecca must soon leave Williamsburg for Dumfries, Virginia. There they live as a married couple and become better adjusted to the old days. Asa is homesick but Rebecca flourishes. Eventually they have to leave Dumfries to go west to Kentucky. With each of their travels come unexpected dangers.
The strongest aspect of Caught in a Past Reflection is the two main characters and their relationship. Rebecca and Asa are very well developed and the reader gets a sense of each of them as genuine people. Their affection for each other is warm, intense, and believable. Sometimes their love seems to be poured on a bit too thick, but that is balanced out somewhat by strains that crop up periodically in their relationship over the years.
Movies like “Forest Gump” and books like Winds of War use an everyman character to highlight big historical moments. There is some of that in Caught in a Past Reflection, but Cochran mostly uses Asa and Rebecca to highlight smaller, ordinary aspects of early American daily life including work habits, food, social norms, gender roles, church life, and politics. Although there is quite a lot of historical detail in the book, it is appropriate given the storyline and it does not suffocate the story.
The novel would best be categorized as historical fiction with a generous dose of science fiction and a dash of romance. There is some suspense too finding out what happens to the couple in the long-run. I recommend this book for readers interested in early American life. Caught in a Past Reflection is available on Kindle for $5 or $18 in paperback.