Monday, October 28, 2013

Fields of the Fatherless by Elaine Marie Cooper--review and giveaway

The battle of Concord comes alive through the utterly sympathetic character of Betsy Russell, an authentic 18-year-old farm girl from colonial Massachusetts. Diary posts inspire this fictionalized account of the emotionally charged months leading up to the first shots of the American Revolution. Betsy's vulnerability and honesty carry a tale of grit, loss, and ultimate triumph through faith.

Betsy battles her growing fears in the changing times in Menotomy, a small town on the road between Concord and Boston. Young men she knows have already joined the militia, while older men like her father would shelter her from the horrors to come. But even wise and faithful Jason Russell cannot spare her innocent eyes forever.

What transpires among her family and close-knit townsfolk on that fateful April day will affect her the rest of her life, but not without passing through the filter of an earthly father's prescient wisdom and a heavenly father's sovereignty. Betsy must learn which battle lines to draw and which to surrender to the Lord's love.

Written with a tender authenticity and faithfulness to the times, Elaine Cooper has opened a portal to a world gone by, and yet drawn parallels to a world not so different now. This is a beautiful novel ideal for young students of history and literature, as well as for adults who cherish the power of a good story.

I'll be interviewing Elaine on Wednesday, and commenters today and then will be entered to win a print copy of Elaine's fabulous novel. Be sure to leave your email addy with comment.

At the end of the week

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Civil War novella "A Soldier's Heart" by Tamera Lynn Kraft, review with giveaway

Every now and then, a story comes along that goes straight to the heart. Entertainment and romance and even authentic history are all nice, and this had all of that, but it is a rare read that reaches past those earthly pleasures and touches you with a word of encouragement and truth.

Civil War pontoon bridge at Cincinnati, OH
Ms. Kraft has written a powerful story of healing and overcoming in "A Soldier's Heart", her novella about a soldier struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and guilt over the death of the men under his leadership. When Sergeant Noah Andrews musters out of the 7th Ohio regiment after three brutal years of service to Lincoln's Army, he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life on his farm with his young and lovely wife Molly and put the war behind him. But when anxiety and claustrophobia overwhelm him in the cheering crowds welcoming him home as a hero, he realizes the war still lives on in his head.

Molly has waited for her husband for three long years working his farm and managing all its hard duties. She believes all will be well if Noah only returns safely home to him. They have loved one another since childhood, and yet their marriage was only a day old when he left for war. The man she loves finally comes home to her, but something drastic has changed in him. She is unprepared for the battle for her marriage that his strange condition foists on them.

soldier's letter from Ohio
Filled with a cast of hometown characters and authenticity that can only come from thorough research and passion for the time period, this story rings true on every level. From the quaint terms of the time, including the title term for PTSD before it was an official diagnosis, to the unique aspects of setting such as Buckeye trees and flat farmland, I was transported to rural Civil War Ohio. The town's preacher, Reverend Obadiah Haskell and Noah's best friend and brother in law Aaron provide moments of poignant wisdom that help Noah on the road to recovery. But the town Copperhead, Horace Greene, picks a fight with Noah, fearing Greene's son will be drafted because Noah refused to reenlist. And one of the town ladies, Mrs. Townsend, asks him to share what he is unready to revisit in his mind. Realistic episodes of anger, and visions of enemies that aren't there make him feel he is a danger to the one he loves best--Molly. Will he have to sacrifice the peaceful life he has longed for to protect Molly from himself?

This novella packs so much into its pages. For students who wish to learn what life was like in this turbulent time, I can think of no finer read. And for Civil War buffs like me who expect a lot, it delivers. For lovers of a sweet romance or those who identify with the hero's struggle with past traumas, "A Soldier's Heart" has a message for everybody. Read it. Savor it. And tell your friends.

To enter in a drawing for this novella, leave a comment below about a time in your life when a friend or pastor helped you through a hard place. A winner will be selected Friday evening via Giveaway prize is in E-copy format only. Good luck!