Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer - Review

Tarsie Raines became friends with in ill Mary Brubacher and did what she could to doctor her. After losing her aunt Mary was the only true friend Tarsie had. Mary was married to Joss who spent most of his money in the saloons and kept just barely enough money to keep the run down apartment and enough food to feed his family which included little Emmy and Nathaniel. Not only did he squander away money drinking in the saloons, he also gambled and owed a huge debt, which was about to come due or he would probably lose his life.

Dreams of going to Drayton Valley, KS were always in Tarsie's mind and she shared the book about Drayton Valley with Mary. Mary knew that she didn't have much time left in this world so she managed to talk Joss, who really did love Mary but was unhappy that they had children, to move the family to Kansas and she included Tarsie. Joss was not happy about Tarsie going along but he would do anything to please Mary and since he didn't have the money to pay his gambling debt he knew he had to get out of New York and fast, so it didn't take a lot of convincing from Mary.

The five of them take the train to Des Moines, IA, then have to take a wagon to Drayton Valley. The only wagon train that is leaving immediately is an all black wagon train and Joss, thanks to his drunk of a father detests blacks. But, he knows he needs to move on and Mary's health is deteriorating so he agrees to go. He refuses to camp in the circle with the rest of the wagons and doesn't even associate with them.

When they arrive at the Missouri River where they would cross to go through White Cloud, Mary was so weak Joss had to lift her out of the wagon and carry her to the banks so she could see Kansas. Mary's prayers were answered, she'd seen Kansas, the place she wanted Joss to live and raise Emmy and Natty. As they were waiting to cross the river, Joss went to see if they could cross first so they could go find a doctor and Mary drew her last breath after asking Tarsie to promise to marry Joss, bring him to God and to raise her children.

Joss reluctantly agrees to marry Tarsie, so he goes to town to find a preacher, when he returns they are married. When they arrive to Drayton Valley, Joss locates a small house for them to live in and gets a job doing dock work. Joss refuses to spend nights in the house and plans on leaving Tarsie and the kids for Chicago after he gets enough money saved up to sustain them for 3 months.

When the dock breaks loose and floats down the river Joss finds himself without a job so he goes looking at the vineyard outside the other side of town. He gets the job but the foreman is a black man, now he's even more determined to get out of Drayton Valley. When he eventually moves to the vineyard, avoiding Tarsie and his children Tarsie takes the first chance she gets to leave town forcing Joss to raise his own children. Soon Joss finds himself in jail and Tarsie is picked up by a couple of thieves and is forced to pretend to be married to one of them. With them being separated and in different towns, oh yes, and not really married, will Tarsie fulfill Mary's last request? How will Joss handle working for a black person, being in jail, and who's going to raise his children just when he was getting close to them and learning how to be a papa to them?

The faith Mary had that her plan would be carried out was very touching and as you read this book you'll find yourself wondering if it's going to happen. Do you think when you make a promise to someone who is dying that you have to carry it out no matter what? Is it right to promise a dying person something, knowing you possibly/probably can't keep that promise, just so they can die in peace 'knowing' in their mind that you would never break a promise to them? If you break that promise is it the same as lying to them?

The book was a pretty good read and I would probably choose it again. I can recommend it to others that like books set in pioneer times.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Hidden Truth by Judith Miller - Review of the 1st book in Home to Amana series

Dovie Cates's mother has passed away without sharing much of her life story. When Dovie's father gets transferred to Texas she decides that this would be a good time to go to visit her mother's family in the Amana Colony East in Iowa. Just maybe she'll find out why her mother would never share anything about her younger life, why her grandparents moved from there and never looked back. Her mother used to write to Cousin Louise Richter but stopped suddenly, Dovie really wants to learn more about her mother's family and why she never talked about her past.

About the same time Dovie arrives in Amana East to spend time at Cousin Louise's home, the Richter family is getting a new shepherd to help with the sheep. Karlina, Dovie's cousin who is about the same age as her, is upset because she thinks she'll no longer be allowed to care for the sheep, after all that isn't a woman's job. Anton has been sent to East because he can't control his temper, so the Grossebruderrat sent him away from his home to learn some control.

Dovie and Karlina become so close they are like sisters. Karlina helps Dovie learn the ways of the church as she's helping Anton learn to care for the sheep. As time moves on Dovie finds her self being disappointed when Cousin Louise refuses to answer her questions about her mother. Even when Cousin Louise lets her read some letters she saved, she doesn't learn anything. One day while dusting Dovie finds some different letters from her mother that Cousin Louise didn't share with her, she takes a chance and starts reading them. She doesn't get through all, but does get some clues so now she tries to discover the rest of the story.

When Dovie tries to help a family that is suffering from the influenza she convinces Karlina to help by taking medicine and going daily to care for them. The problem is, they do not belong to the church and live off of their property, it is against the rules for them, especially women, to leave the property and go into a non-member's home alone. When Karlina becomes sick with the flu, Dovie tells Cousin Louise the truth about what they'd been doing and now the whole family has to go before the Grossebruderat to find out what the punishment will be.

Will Dovie have to leave the community and  never find out about her mother's past, will Karlina have to give up caring for the sheep and how bad will the punishment be for Dovie's caring for an outside family and dragging Karlina into the situation with her.

Very interesting book, I learned a lot. I am from the midwest and always thought, don't ask me where I got the idea, the Amana Colonies were Amish. But the more I read, they seemed more like Quakers than Amish so I looked it up and they were part of a religious movement called Pietism. Their belief, one shared by many other Pietists, was that God, through the Holy Spirit, may inspire individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration, or prophecy, was the basis for a religious group that began meeting in 1714 and became known as the Community of True Inspiration.

So, not only did Judith keep me interested by the story, I was also intrigued with their faith, I didn't do the research until I finished the book so I could see if I could figure it out. Thank you Judith for giving my a learning experience as I read this book, wonderful job.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255