Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Divine Compass: A Review

Reviewed by Phyllis Andolsek
Interlacing of individual lives in day to day life often appear to be random and without special purpose until those lives are viewed in retrospect. Several collections of personal letters and journals (circa 1860-1910) revealed that premise to inspire this historical novel, Divine Compass by Irene Bonk Koch.

In this condensed saga, the characters are neither good nor bad but merely human as they negotiate their circumstances within the limits of inherent strengths and frailties. This tale deals with bargained marriage, spinster independence, divorce, deception and thievery in a fictionalized account of real persons interacting by chance or by choice. During the aftermath of the American Civil War, many persons were lured to the western territories in search of independence and prosperity. A diverse mix of people crossed paths to form connections that ultimately affected their lives.

The story explores family influence, personal ambition, luck and disillusionment with magnificent accuracy of the era's language and attitudes. Although times and mores change, each generation reveals similar needs and motivations in the inevitable compromise of each life. The final outcome is an understanding that attempts to balance gratitude and regret. A good read, the tale moves swiftly without sacrifice of description or character detail in a manner that vividly reveals the subtle motivations and personalities engaged in particular circumstances. The reader is left with an understanding of the characters as real persons and empathy for their struggles. Most profound is the author's ability to accurately portray male and female attitudes and behavior in keeping with their time while confirming that times change but the inner workings of humans remain much the same from generation to generation

Phyllis Andolsek can be reached at: ikewrite@adelphia.net

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