Home for Erring and Outcast Girls
Julie Kibler 3.33

 

This story is told by three different narrators and covers three decades. Cate is a university librarian where she is handed some information about Beracha, a home for unwed mothers. She begins her research on the home, the founders, and many of the women and children who lived there. The home was founded in the early 1900's by Reverend J.T. Upchurch and his wife Maggie Mary. It was founded for the protection and redemption of 'erring' girls and life circumstances. These circumstances included prostitution, rape, poverty, addiction, abuse, and pregnancy. Although there were many homes for these type of needs, this home was a faith based haven for the outcast women. This is where the women did not have to give up their babies.They received training and skills to prepare them for the outside world.Mattie Corder and her son, Cap, arrive at the home in 1904. Lizzie comes with her daughter, Docie. Both women  have a common back story, similar to the other women who find themselves at Beracha. They have all suffered from heartache and loss. They have had to make difficult choices in their past. They were out of options. Mattie and Lizzie become friends. They help each other to adjust with this new life in a home which is very different from the ones they left behind.As the story continues, time moves on. Both women will make different choices as to how they will live their life. Lizzie will find that she has grown and changed, unlike the family that she had left behind. Mattie will use her education and life experience to make a new life for herself.The Beracha home existed for thirty years. The home held yearly reunions for the women who had once lived there. Lizzie would attend as she had stayed there for many years. However, Mattie never did.

Ask Again, Yes Mary Beth Keane 3.5

The year is 1973. Francis Gleeson, immigrated from Ireland, and Brian Stanhope, saying he is Irish also but back a few generations, have graduated from the police academy and are now partners in the Bronx. When Brian recommends that the two of them stop off at a bar for a drink, Francis reminds Brian that they are on duty. Brian goes in anyway for a quick drink. Francis tells Brian of his future wife Lena, who is of Polish-Italian descent, and Brian talks of his future Irish bride Anna.

 

Disturbed by what Francis sees on the street every day, he purchases a home outside the city in the town of Gillam. He and his now wife, Lena, move into their home and begin a family. They have one daughter, Natalie, and Lena is pregnant again. The house next to them sells and when the new owners move in, Francis recognizes Brian from when they were partners. Lena is excited to have a new neighbor and quickly tries to be Anna’s friend. Anna wants nothing to do with her. When Lena becomes pregnant again with Kate, Anna is also pregnant. Anna gives birth to a baby boy named Peter. Peter and Kate become close friends. They do everything together. Anna however, is not happy with their relationship. Kate’s family learn early on the Anna has a temperament and is unrealistic. Brian ignores his own household. He comes home every night, grabs a drink, sits in front of the television, and continues to drink. When Anna goes to the grocery store one day, an incident occurs and Francis helps Anna. Anna has forbid Peter from seeing Kate. They are now fourteen and Anna does not trust Kate with her son. She has forbade Peter to see Kate. Peter and Kate make a plan to meet outside at midnight. This act leads to a series of events that are devastating to both families.

 

The novel continues with the Gleason story, the Stanhope story, until the two stories merge once again.

The Great Alone Kristin Hannah 3

Ernt Allbright was twenty-five when he met and fell in love with Cora. Cora, sixteen was still in high school but she fell hard for Ernt. She came from a very well off family. When Cora became pregnant with Lenora/Leni, Cora and Ernt ran away and eloped, leaving Cora’s family behind. They were very happy until Ernt went to Vietnam where Ernt’s chopper went down. He and his fellow soldier, Bo Harlan, were captured and became prisoners of war, POW. They were tortured and Ernt was forced to watch his friend, Bo, die. When Ernt returned home after the war, he was a different man. He had scars over his arms and back from being tortured. Gone was the loving and fun husband and father. He now suffered from nightmares, mood swings, paranoia, and was distant. When the weather was cold, dark, and gloomy, so was Ernt. He drank to escape and became violent when provoked or jealous against Cora. He took his anger out on Cora physically. Leni heard him beating her and would see the results the next day. Cora always excused his behavior on the war and that is not how he use to act. She loved him no matter what he did to her and he was always sorry after. He could not hold a job so they moved around from one place to another, one town to another. Leni was not able to make friends in school since her parents kept moving. The day that Ernt was once again fired from a job, he received a letter from Earl Harlan, Bo’s father. Bo had left instructions with his father that if anything happened to Bo, he wanted Ernt to have his forty acres and cabin in Alaska. Ernt saw this as a perfect opportunity for his family to have their own house and to live off the land. They would live a more “simpler life away from all the bullshit down here. We could be free”.

 

Once they arrived in Alaska, they headed to the small town of Kaneq. It was located at the very end of the Kenai Peninsula. You could only get there by plane or by boat. There was only one store in town and was owned by Large Marge. Large Marge helped them by picking out the supplies and food that they would need to get started. She was a transplant to the island herself as were many others who lived there. She explained how many people would come to escape the chaos of their lives in the lower States but many did not stay. It was a hard life to live there and they had to be willing to work long and hard to survive the long dark winter. She also told them that residents would barter for goods. Ernt was glad to hear this. He was very good at construction and mechanics. Large Marge gave them directions to the cabin. As they dove closer to the cabin, the roads became worse and over grown. When they reached the entrance to the cabin, they were unable to drive any further. They trudged up to the cabin taking only what they needed for the time being. When they reached the cabin, they were shocked. The cabin was broken down, small, and filthy. Ernt was still excited to make this place his own but Cora and Leni were not. They cleaned what they could for the day and Ernt had to chop wood before he could heat the house. The next day, Large Marge and another woman, Geneva, arrived and helped them clean and fix up what they could in the cabin. They told the family what they needed to do right away in order to be able to survive once fall and winter came. Leni learned that there was a school and she could start right away. Leni was excited. On her first day of school, she learned that it was a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher. The only other student that was her age was Matthew Walker and she was to sit next to him. The Walker family had been on the island for generations and settled the land. They owned businesses, property, and a plane to go back and forth to other towns and conduct business.

 

Ernt wanted to meet Earl Harlan, known as Mad Earl, and pay his respects and give thanks for the property. The three of them went and Ernt took a half gallon of whiskey with him. Mad Earl was a survivalist and was ready for the next war. He had guns, gas masks, arrows, and ammunition. He was ready for war. He was convinced that the Commies were everywhere, that the immigrants and Negroes were taking over the States. Ernt became excited. This is exactly how he felt. The more Ernt and Mad Earl talks, the more they drink. Cora knows this is not going to end well.

 

Ernt, Cora, and Leni work non-stop. Alaska is mostly daylight during the late spring and summer months. This means that there are more hours to work non-stop. It also means that they are not sleeping well. Ernt does not sleep well as it is because of his nightmares. As time goes on, Ernt spends more time with Mad Earl; the more he drinks, and becomes a survivalist like Earl. He will then come back and take out his anger and frustration out on Cora. As winter approaches, so does the darkness during the day.  Ernt does not fare well in dark, gloomy, bad weather. He drinks more and takes his moodiness out on Cora.

 

The rest of the story centers on: the relationship between Leni and Matthew, Ernt’s drinking and violence against Cora, the resentment and jealousy Ernt has against Tom Walker, the relationship between Cora and Leni, and the choices each make and how it effects other people’s lives.

My Dear Hamilton A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie 3.5

Elizabeth Schuyler, aka Betsy as a child, and then Eliza as an adult, was the daughter of General Philip Schuyler. General Schuyler was a Senator in the New York State Congress then later in the United States Congress. He lived in Albany with his wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer. Both Catherine and Philip came from very prominent families. They had fifteen children, eight survived. They built a family mansion in Albany and a county house.  Betsy often traveled with her father as he visited other districts in the area. He had a relationship with the Iroquois Indians and he could speak Mohawk. Betsy learned as well. The Iroquois adopted Betsy as a member of their tribe. This relationship becomes very important later on when she assists General Washington during the American Revolution.

 

General Washington  was host to many British Generals, Majors, soldiers, and politicians. Betsy knew them all. As the men came in and out of the house, they noticed Betsy and she became friends with a few. In 1780, Betsy went to stay with her aunt in Morristown, New Jersey. Nearby was General Washington’s camp. Betsy attended a dance and it was there that she met Alexander Hamilton, and aide-de-camp to the General. They became engaged in April 1870 and married in December 1870 at the Schuyler mansion. Betsy left home to travel with her husband from camp to camp. She assisted him with his writings and tended to injured soldiers. She became a close friend to the General’s wife, Martha Washington.As time goes on, the roles that Eliza and Alexander play to the founding of this country is vital. Washington, Adams, Monroe, Madison, and Jefferson, their actions politically and through their friendships created the basis of what started this country and the two party system. “He’d fought and won a war and built a federal government. He created a coast guard, a national bank, and invented a scheme of taxation that held the states together. He founded a political party, smashed a rebellion, and put in motion a financial system that was providing prosperity for nearly everyone.” Unfortunately, some of the very people he helped would also be the ones to betray him. Eliza and Alexander were parents to eight children. As Alexander was often away, the running of the household and the children were Eliza’s responsibility with the help of their slave, Jenny. Slavery was another issue brought up in this book. It became public knowledge that Alexander had had an affair. There were also accusations that Alexander had taken money from the treasury, which was false. Eliza and Alexander loss their oldest son, Philip, to a duel. Three years later Alexander would suffer the same fate. After his death, Eliza learned of Alexander’s debt. Many of their belongings, including their home were to be sold.Eliza lived another fifty years after Alexander’s death. Eliza had the gift for charity. She founded a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning. She was intimately acquainted with the management of all her endeavors. At the same time, she had to endure the bad press and false allegations from the very people she had once had in her home. It took her several years of inquiries and meetings with these very people, Presidents, during their terms, requesting Alexander’s pension from the time he was in the military service. Eliza left no correspondence behind. However, Hamilton made copies of every letter he sent. There was a vast amount of information in the archives as well as from others during that time. There were also many other story lines that were part of this story but too numerous to include. Such as, her relationships with her sisters, brothers, parents, friends, her own children, betrayals, even the origination of the word gerrymandering. Politics and elections from the very beginning are still the same as they were then.

 

History really does repeat itself.

The Boys in the Boat

Nine Americans and Their Epic

Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics  

Daniel James Brown  4

Daniel James Brown learned that his neighbor’s daughter had just finished reading one of Daniel’s books to her father, Joe Rantz. Daniel knew that Joe had been of the nine rowers that won the Olympic gold medal in Crew in the year 1936. As Daniel crossed over the cedar fence that surrounded Joe’s property, he knew that Joe had hand-split the cedar logs into fencing and posts and that he had dragged them down the mountain himself. There was 2,224 linear feet of pasture fence. This shows just the work ethic Joe had made for himself beginning as a young boy trying to survive on his own, through college, crew, and throughout the rest if his life. Joe was now dying from congestive heart failure and his daughter, Judy, was staying with him. As Joe and Daniel began to talk, the conversation went to his rowing days and his life. Daniel asked his permission to write a book of his life and experience at the University of Washington, which led him to the Olympics. Joe agreed to write the book, as long as Daniel made the book about the boat. Not exactly the boat he rode at the Olympics or at U.W. but, the boat as an entity of friendship, work, and a shared experience.

When Joe was three years old, his mother died of throat cancer at the same time that Joe’s brother Fred was in college. Harry found it difficult to raise Joe by himself. Harry, overcome with grief, sent Joe to live with his aunt while he headed to Canada. Fred became a principal and moved to Idaho with his wife, Thelma, and he sent for Joe to come live with them. Thelma’s twin sister, Thula, met Harry and although she was much younger than he, they married. Harry sent for Joe to come back to live them. Life was difficult with Harry. He was always moving around from one job to another, one town to the other. After Thula and Harry started having children of their own, Thula wanted Harry to send Joe away. She thought it was too much work to care for him and the other children. On his own again, Joe became quite self-sufficient making a home for himself in the town of Sequim, going to school where he meets the love of his life, Joyce, and finding many ways to make money to support himself.  Joe applied and was accepted to the University of Washington. The UW known for its crew team, many freshmen, including Joe, tried out for the team. The men would meet in the shell house, a type of hangar, where the boat/shell builder, renowned George Yeoman Pocock, had his workroom. The head coach of the team, Al Ulbrikson, was an alumnus of UW and rowed crew for them. The freshmen soon found out that rowing crew was very hard physically. In a manner of days/weeks, more freshmen dropped out. The freshmen coach, Tom Bolles, was responsible for training and selecting the men who would now be on the actual crew team. Joe was one of those chosen. As training continued in all elements of weather, the coaches would decide who would ride on what team and which seat position fit the person.

Now that the teams were established, competitive races began between school on the west coast and then traveling to compete with the elite schools in the east. The main goal of all the teams were to be the team that would go to Germany in 1936 for the Olympics. During this same time, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression and the weather was causing windstorms, dust storms, and drought.  Joe spent his summers working hard to make money for the following years. One summer he and other teammates found themselves working together building a dam. Like Joe, some of the students came from families of loggers and farmers, paying their own way in order to have an education.

Germany was now under Hitler’s rule. Hitler wanted to show the world the Germany was a wonderful country and not what was reported. Before the other countries arrived, the area was sanitized to represent this.

Throughout the book, the author describes in detail the art of rowing, the competitive races (won and lost), and his relationship with his father. His research from written material and interviews with Joe along with other teammate’s families is the heart and soul of the book. Not only was the team successful at crew, but they became very successful in their chosen fields.

The sport of rowing, known as crew, dates back to Ancient Egyptian times. In the early 1800’s, in England, rowing became a popular sport and many rowing clubs were formed, including the universities.  Germany joined in shortly after. Rowing is a very physical and mental sport. It takes an enormous amount of strength and energy to burst in just a very short time. Physiologists have calculated that rowing a two hundred meter race, the Olympic standard, takes the same physical toll as playing two basketball games, back to back, in only about six minutes.

Empire of the Summer Moon

Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

S.C. Gwynne

3.2

 

The book has two storylines. One is that of the Comanches. It traces their journey from centuries ago. Feared by other tribes, they would raid and pillage any tribe they came across. They would rape, scalp, torture, and burn entire villages. Spain came to this continent settling in the area of Mexico. They brought the first horses over with them. When the Comanches first approached these new wild horses, the horses became calm. The Comanches were the only tribe to have the ability to fight while riding on the horse, not on foot as was the custom. The Comanches were able to stop Spain from entering into the northern land.  White settlers from the East came to settle this new frontier, unaware of the dangers they were about to face.

 

The second storyline is that of the Parker family. John Parker had been a soldier for the United States Army and had experience with other Indian tribes.  He was sent to Texas to build a settlement fortified against Comanche raids. The raids were making it impossible for other settlers to make a home for themselves. The government was hoping that Parker would be able to make a treaty with all the tribes. The Parker family had built a fort, Fort Parker, for themselves and extended family. One day, the Comanches raided the fort, catching the compound off guard. They kidnapped nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker, Cynthia’s brother, along with Rachel Parker, a baby, and her mother. A couple of the captives were brutally killed. Rachel, after fifteen months of captivity, was sold to a Mexican trader, who then sold her back to her family. She wrote a memoir once she returned. Cynthia remained with the tribe. She was adopted into the tribe by a Tenowish couple. They raised her as their own daughter and Cynthia became part of the tribe. She learned their language, and their way of life. She married Peta Nacona, a chieftan. They had three children together. Quanah was the oldest son.

 

Empire of the Summer Moon is an extensive history of the Comanche tribe. It details many of the battles won and lost with the army soldiers and the newly formed Texan Rangers.  The introduction of the Colt and Walker Colt pistols changed the way the army and Rangers were able to fight the Comanches. Samuel Colt was just sixteen when he designed the five-chamber pistol, made out of wood, and obtained a patent. In 1838, he began manufacturing the pistol. In 1847, with the help of Samuel Walker, he redesigned the colt to contain six chambers. In 1847, he convinced Eli Whitney to make the pistols. The book details the treaties that the government made, and broke, with other tribes. The Great Plains buffalos are also a main “character” in the book. As history has taught us over the years, the Native American Indians were forced to live on reservations, and their way of life was taken from them. Even the great Quanah Parker, had to succumb to the white man ways.