Book Review: The Resurrection of Nat Turner

Sharon Ewell Foster has written a memorable novel, The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witnesses, based on the true character Nat Turner (1800-1831), a slave born on a Virginia plantation.

Nat Turner’s mother, enslaved after being kidnaped from her home in Ethopia, was raped by her master, Benjamin Turner, resulting in the birth of her son. Nat was much loved by his mother who often spoke about his upper-class African heritage. Benjamin Turner allowed Nat to be instructed in reading, writing, and religion. He was an exceptional student, to the dismay of other slave owners, fearing an educated slave could cause trouble.

And trouble he caused. Nat Turner became a preacher who claimed he had been chosen by God to lead slaves from bondage.

The novel goes into some detail about the kidnapping of Africans, bringing them to America to be sold to land owners as laborers. Ill treated, often without proper clothing for the cold Virginia winters, nor given adequate food, the plight of a slave was dismal. Punishments, often undeserved, were harsh. Families were often separated for profit.

At first Nat Turner tried talking to various people about the injustices of slavery, claiming it was against God’s will. When that failed, he led an uprising that left over fifty white people dead. The resulting trials were a mockery of the law with unsubstantiated testimonials, unreliable witnesses, and death to many innocent slaves whose execution actually brought profit to their owners. Nat Turner’s rebellion brought nationwide attention to slavery and fueled abolitionists’ cause.

The Resurrection of Nat Turner discusses the injustice and horror of slavery. The novel is quite graphic and at times relentlessly grim. The cruelty and bigotry of people who considered themselves Christians was troubling. The novel, though at times dark, is obviously well researched. I enjoyed Sharon Ewell Foster’s writing style and appreciated seeing another view of African religion and its parallels to what we call Christianity.

This novel’s sequel, The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part Two: The Testimony, reveals the story of Nat Turner through his own eyes.

For another view of our nation’s history, read The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witness. It’s stark frankness is enlightening and answers questions about attitudes, slavery, and hardships of the period.

Book Review: The Last Town on Earth

Being from the Northwest, I especially loved this novel, but it would appeal to anyone with a sense of history and an appreciation of a good story. Thomas Mulien has captured the spirit and essence of the lumber industry during the unsettling years of World War I.

The small mill town of Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against anyone entering or leaving, hoping to protect its citizens from the highly contagious Spanish Flu, the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. In order to protect itself from outsiders, armed guards are posted at the only road leading to or from the town.

When a cold, exhausted and hungry soldier appears at the check point begging for sanctuary, young Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’s founder, is unsure about his moral obligation. But his watch partner has no qualms about what must be done to protect the town, particularly his own family. Shots are fired, resulting in a chain of events that affect everyone in the town. Consequences of the fatal encounter challenges love, patriotism, community, family and friendship. The very essentials of life are threatened, resulting in neighbors turning on neighbors and family members doubting each other’s loyalty.

The Last Town on Earth is a moving, well researched novel. Author Thomas Mulien poses moral ramifications that made me wonder about what I would do faced with such dire circumstances. I found this moving novel well-written and realistic.

A Gift for Your Family: A Survivors Detailed Record of Your Personal Information

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Although no one likes to talk about it, death is a destination we all share. A wonderful gift to your survivors would be a detailed account of your personal information. In the event of a simultaneous death of both spouses, such a record is an invaluable aid for the executor of your estate. It’s hard enough to cope when a loved one dies. But it can be less painful if the survivor has a guide through the complicated and possibly unfamiliar records in order to settle your estate. It’s amazing how many details are involved in the maze of social security information, insurance, finances, automobile details, etc.

Following is a template that we’ve put together. You might want to use this as a guide, tailoring it to fit your own situation.

It’s important to name this document in such a way that you can find it on the computer to update, or sadly, when you need it the most. Perhaps the best way is to put the computer file name on the document itself.  Look over the document at least once a year to ensure it’s up-to-date. I’m always surprised how many things have changed during the year. Give a printed copy of the document to the executor of your estate or show him/her where in your files she can find it.

To use the document, note that the printing in caps are the subject headings–you just fill in the blanks.

VITAL INFORMATION FOR (Persons listed)

SAFE COMBINATION  (if you use one; otherwise where important papers are located):

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS

Person 1, Person 2

BIRTH DATES

Person 1, Person 2

DRIVER’S LICENSE NUMBERS

Person 1, Person 2

CARS

(Car/truck model, license numbers)

INSURANCE

Automobile Insurance

Company name:Policy #:

Contact (Name and phone number)

Home Insurance

Company name

Policy #

Contact

Health Insurance

Person 1, Person 2

Company name

Policy #

ID number

Contact

Life Insurance

Person 1, Person 2

Company(s)  name

Policy #

Contact

Burial Insurance

Person 1, Person 2

Company name

Policy#

Contact

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Checking Account

Name of Bank

Account #

Contact

Savings Account

Name of Bank

Account #

Contact

Credit Cards

Company

Account #

Contact

Investments

Company

Account #

Contact

Mortgage/Loans

Company

Account #

Contact

Tax Consultant

Contact

WILLS
Where Wills are located

With the Wills are:Durable Power of Attorney documents appointing one another as Attorney-in-Fact, or  (Name of executor) if neither are able to serve

Community Property Agreements

Living Will

Disposition Authorization for Cremation

Brief burial instructions (regarding body viewing [or not], etc.)

We are organ donors (or not)

Draft copies of your obituaries

CURRENT INFORMATION

On separate sheet is listing of finances (IRAs, Investment account(s), 401K, etc.) with totals as of 12/31/XX of past year. Update the document each year. The purpose of this listing is so that the person handling affairs will have an idea of the value of various accounts and know what to look for.

 

Book Review: Home to Wyoming

Harlan Hague’s novel, Home to Wyoming, continues Caleb and Mei Lin’s story as told in A Place for Mei Lin. The couple has moved from Idaho’s Stanley Basin gold mining country to wide open Wyoming ranch country, near Jackson Hole and the magnificent Teton mountain range. But not all is left behind. Old grudges have a way of cropping up at unexpected times.

The turn of the twentieth century brought hardships to those brave enough to endure the harsh conditions of the New West, especially Wyoming’s notorious severe winters. Caleb and Mei Lin forge ahead, carving out a future in cattle ranching.

The author offers vivid descriptions of the rugged country and the struggles early settlers faced. For ranchers to endure the death of their cattle due to relentless freezing conditions is heartbreaking, let alone financially devastating. It takes a tough constitution and determination to make a living under these harsh conditions.

Caleb and Mei Lin’s strong love carries them through the rough times, through sickness, even death. Caleb is quick to defend Mei Lin, a Chinese immigrant, against those who rail against her.

The two novels, A Place for Mei Lin and Home to Wyoming stand alone, but I’m glad that I happened to read them in the order they were written. Nevertheless, in the second book the author does a good job of bringing the reader up-to-date as a natural part of the story.

Home to Wyoming is a fun, absorbing read.

To learn more about the author, visit harlanhague.us

Book Review: The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars, a novel by Peter Heller, is an intriguing post-apocalyptic story of survival and hope.

Hig, the main character, survives a flu pandemic that killed an estimated 99 percent of the population. Everyone he knew is dead including his pregnant wife. He lives in the hanger of an small abandoned airport in Colorado and shares the airport with his beloved dog, Jasper, and another survivor, tough gun-toting Bangley.

Hig spends much of his time flying his 1956 Cessna checking out the health of the land and spotting good hunting and fishing sites. Hig and his dog often go hunting and fishing and his catch, plus the vegetables he grows in his garden, keep them well fed. Bangley spends his days patrolling their area and devising ways to protect them from marauding intruders.

One day while flying Hig hears a faint radio transmission. The thought that there may be a better existence outside their tightly controlled perimeter lures him to take a chance on attempting to find the source of the call. With limited fuel, he flies past the point of no return. What he finds is beautiful, haunting and hopeful.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It took a little while to get used to Heller’s writing style, no quotation marks for dialog, for instance, but I was soon absorbed in the story of survival. I laughed at Heller’s frankness in describing the human condition. I admired his descriptions of fishing and hunting, and especially of flying. I found The Dog Stars a captivating, highly entertaining read.

Book Review: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a novel by Jan-Philipp Sendker is a magical love story set in a rich Burmese background.

Julia Win, a budding New York attorney, travels to Burma to learn why her father abandoned his wife and two grown children four years earlier. Julia traces her father, Tin Win, to the small town of Kalaw, Burma after finding a love letter among his possessions addressed to a woman named Mi Mi. She stops at a tea house where an old man, U Ba, promises to tell her the story of her father’s life in Burma before he came to New York.

According to the story, Tin Win’s mother abandons her son when she learns from an astrologer that her son, born on an unlucky day, is cursed. Shortly after his mother leaves, Tin Win becomes blind. A loving neighbor takes him in and he attends school at a monastery. One day he meets a beautiful, crippled but lively young woman, Mi Mi. They form a friendship that over a period of years turns to love that knows no bounds. Mi Mi rides on Tin Win’s back, she directing him through their treks by pressing on his shoulders, and he giving her the freedom of travel.

Tin Win’s rich uncle in Rangoon sends for him out of need to avoid a prophecy given him by an astrologer. According to the astrologer, the uncle must give aid to Tin Win or suffer dire consequences. Although broken hearted, Tin Win is bound by tradition to obey his uncle. One event leads to another—Tin Win’s vision is restored, he is considered brilliant and sent to college, and eventually goes to America to represent his uncle’s business interests. In the meantime, the uncle learns of Tin Win and Mi Mi’s love and thwarts their efforts to communicate with each other. Yet, their strong love transcends time and distance.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a story rich in Burmese culture and tradition. Sendker’s detailed descriptions evoke vivid pictures of countryside, people, even tiny insects. It is a love story of amazing depth and endurance.

To learn more about Jan-Philipp Sendker and his debut novel, visit http://artofhearingheartbeats.com/

Book Review: All She Left Behind

Jane Kirkpatrick has again done what she does best: written a well-researched, memorable novel. All She Left Behind is a compelling historical novel about a true-life woman who longs to become a doctor, rising above an intolerable domestic situation and the barriers placed on women in the mid-1800s.

Jennie and Charles Pickett were married when Jennie was only seventeen. They made their home with her sister and her family, since their husbands both worked at the Oregon State Prison. It was difficult, crowded together with so many people under one roof, but even more so when Charles becomes abusive through his excessive drinking. They have a son and eventually move into their own home, but their troubles continue.

Although she experiences difficulty in reading, Jennie is well-versed in the healing properties of herbs and oils. Finally, abandoned by her husband, left destitute and in debt, Jennie and her son Douglas move into her parents home. She manages to get a job taking care of an older woman, Elizabeth, who suffers a fatal illness. To better care for the woman, Jennie and her son eventually move into Josiah and Elizabeth Parrish’s home.

Jennie’s life takes an unusual turn with the possibility of life-long love from a man thirty years her senior. Although guilt lingers with the shame of divorce, hope begins to rise that Jennie may even have a chance to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

Knowing All She Left Behind is based on actual facts makes this story even more precious. In back of the book, the author has listed “Jennie’s Herbs and Oils,” with the caution that these remedies should not be used today without proper education and instructions.

Kirkpatrick’s All She Left Behind shows how love can bridge age, time, and loss.

Book Review: Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Parker Palmer, writer, teacher, dedicated Quaker, and activist, shares his philosophy of life to people in many walks of life. In Let Your Life Speak Palmer invites us to listen to our inner teacher to learn a sense of meaning and purpose.

The author shares his own search for finding his vocation. For years he attempted to force with grim determination what he thought should be his life’s work. Eventually, he learned that in order to remain true to himself, he needed to listen within to find a meaningful and lasting vocation.

Forcing ourselves into a vocation based on “shoulds” often results in burnout, trying to give what we do not possess.

Palmer shares a dark period of depression in his life. He describes depression as an ultimate state of disconnection: between mind and heart, between people, and between one’s self-image and reality. I found his painful journey one of the most enlightening of the book.

A section of the book, a look at self through seasonal metaphorical lenses, held profound meaning for me: Autumn, a time of seeding for ultimate growth. Winter, an opportunity to face harsh reality. Spring, though sometimes ugly with mud is also a time of rebirth. Summer, a time of abundance.

In just six chapters, 114 pages, Palmer has written a little volume of gentle wisdom and insight. I highly recommend Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation especially to a young person just beginning to search for meaningful work.

Book Review: The Letter

Kathryn Hughes’ compelling novel, The Letter, takes place in England and Ireland, and toggles between the early days of World War II and the 1970s.

While processing donated clothes where she volunteers at a thrift store in Manchester, England, Tina discovers an unposted letter in the pocket of a man’s old suit. The letter is obviously very old and she can’t resist opening it. Written by a distraught young man to the woman he loves, the letter apologizes for his behavior when he learned the woman was pregnant. Tina’s curiosity drives her to learn more about the letter and the obvious tragedy behind it. Why wasn’t the letter delivered? Who were these people? In any event, the project takes her mind off her own troubles dealing with Rick, her abusive husband.

The story goes back to 1938, to the home of a domineering father, a doctor, his wife, a midwife, and their daughter, Chrissie. Chrissie, 19, is seeing Billy a young man whom her father disapproves. Much to her intense dismay, she discovers she is pregnant. When her father learns of her condition, he immediately sends her to live with his wife’s sister in Ireland.

The story goes into some detail about the horror of unwed mothers being sent to convents and the harsh treatment they endured, invariably ending with relinquishing their babies to adoptive families.

The Letter held my rapt fascination as it weaves the stories of Tina and Rick in the 1970s and Chrissie and Billy in the late 1930s. As Tina delves into the story, another character appears, an American, which adds to the mystery.

I enjoyed The Letter, even though some of the harsh treatment depicted, though believable, was hard to read. The author does a good job of describing the attitudes and conditions of the day of both generations.

Book Review: Seeking the American Dream

Heidi M. Thomas’ Seeking the American Dream, is a heart-felt novel based on her mother, a German war bride.

The story begins in war-ravaged Germany, 1944. Anna Schmidt, a nurse, deals with the horrors of war as she tends the wounded, and as she sees her homeland destroyed by incessant bombing raids. When she meets American G.I. Neil Moser, there is an immediate attraction. Although Anna speaks no English, Neil speaks German so they are able to communicate. She admires his calm demeanor, and she loves listening to his stories of Montana ranch life. When Neil is suddenly shipped out, Anna is left with little hope and a yearning for what might have been.

When Anna receives a letter from Neil declaring his love and a proposal of marriage, she is overjoyed. But the two-year ordeal of emigration procedures make the dream seem almost impossible. Finally, she arrives in Montana and into Neil’s arms.

But the truth is, her problems are only beginning. She meets hostility and prejudice among some of their neighbors. Eastern Montana is a hard land, so vast that their closest neighbor is miles away. Long, harsh winters, spring floods, and sweltering summers make daily living a chore. The lack of household conveniences available in Germany, such as indoor plumbing and electricity, add to their hardship. At first they live with Neil’s parents and Anna feels unaccepted. But through it all, Neil is gentle and patient.

The couple eventually moves to their own ranch and start a family. But the hardships continue—running a ranch is brutally hard work. When sickness strikes, their existence is threatened and Anna fears her American dream is crumbling.

Master storyteller Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a remote Montana cattle ranch, which adds authenticity to her stories. Thomas’ descriptions of Montana’s landscape, weather, and the mindset of neighboring ranchers bring scenes to life. I very much enjoyed Seeking the American Dream which is the first book of Thomas’ new “American Dream Series.”

For more information about the author and her work, visit http://www.heidimthomas.com/