Friday, August 22, 2003

Review: Thorns in Eden

Reviewed by Shirley Johnson

Thorns in Eden, by Rita Gerlach, is perhaps one of the most outstanding books I have read in quite a while. Set in 1773 in Fredericktowne MD and England, this novel takes you into the intimate world of the people trying to birth a free Nation, under God. You become one with their struggles and the very essence of their lives is etched in your heart forever!

The main characters are brought to life by the author to the point that you feel a deep kinship to each one. Rebecah Brent, the daughter of a slain British Officer who is thrust into the arms of her less than appealing uncle, Samuel Brent, who is given charge of her life. Rebecah is a young woman that is determined to taste liberty, not only in government but as a woman.

We have the uncle, Samuel, who harbors a deep resentment for his now deceased brother, the mystery of why has not yet been unfolded, although you are given several hints. His loving wife Kathryn, submitted to a harsh hurting man; his children, young Hugh, a lively wonderful boy who seeks out the love and attention of Rebecah. The two woman cousins, Lavinia and Dorian, who are as different as day and night. Dorian being quite stuck on herself and her beauty, does not like the idea of the attractive cousin coming to live, and sweet Lavinia immediately befriends Rebecah and a deep relationship is seared between the two. None of them realize how important each one will be to the other in this drama of their lives.

The author brings into light the one trying to win Rebecah's heart, and the one whom has been chosen for her, rich Cecil Lanley. I, like Rebecah, did not like this self-centered man and cheered when she refused his attention. However, she is reminded that a woman has no say so on whom she will marry. Rebecah had other ideas, good for her!

My favorite characters were the kindly Nash family, Lady Margaret, Sir Rodney and their son the young patriot John Nash, who was trying to make his life in the colonies.

Nash was a patriot, and was against the control that the British had on his new land, this was a death wish for him and his family, one that becomes the main focal point of this entire story.Through only the hand of a higher power, Nash and Rebecah find each other, but the battle is on, not just for the liberty of a new land, but for the liberty of a new love.

It isn't very often that you read a book where the author is able to blend the deep faith of the characters into the story without being preachy or religious. Rita has done just that, in a way that lets you understand all the decisions that they make, throughout this wonderful read, are based on their commitment to a Higher power that is leading their destiny. Only the hand of an exceptional writer could pen the words in this way, bringing to life the true heart of the people who gave their lives for our liberty.

Oh how this story twists and turns as the life of each player surfaces and merges with the others, like a muted sunset at the close of day.

Battles, emotional, physical and spiritual rage throughout the confines of these pages. Deep conflicts of the soul and spirit are wrestled within each character as they bring to life a novel that will draw you into the making of a nation, through the shed tears of the past. As I read the final pages my heart broke, not just for what was behind, but for what lies ahead for the characters I had grown to love.

If you only read one book this year, I recommend Thorns in Eden, a story of love, a story of faith, a story of freedom, a voice from our past, a prayer for our future! Outstanding!

Shirley Johnson/Reviewer
MidWest Book Reviews
Denise's Pieces

Friday, August 15, 2003

Highland Grace: A Moving Conclusion to the Blue Ridge Legacy

Gary Parker’s three-book series, Blue Ridge Legacy, concludes with Highland Grace. Continuing the story of 100-year-old Abby Porter, this final part tells of the Porter family during the years 1945 to 1974. Finally we see where Abby’s great-granddaughter, Lisa, fits into the family tree; and Lisa, the one learning the story from Abby, can make the family faith her own as well.

As begun in Highland Mercies, the previous book, the story now focuses on Abby’s children, as the post-World War II generation takes over from the previous one. Abby and Thaddeus are still around, but more in the background, and brother Daniel is soon removed from the scene. Much of this story revolves around Abby’s wayward younger son, Steve Waterbury. Now that Abby and her generation have their faith in God, the next generation must go through its struggles – and will Steve find his way back home?

The story is told in three sections: 1945 to 1946; 1946 to 195x; and from then to 1974 – but as with multi-generation stories, sometimes many years are skimmed over before more action occurs. Along the way the family lives through the turmoil of those years, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

The highlander ways have passed, as the first part of Highland Grace makes clear. This first part concludes lingering plot elements from the first two books: the long-standing conflict with the Clack family; and Daniel’s vow to get back his family’s land (now lost over 30 years before). After a few interesting plot twists, those two problems are resolved, and the story can move forward. Much of the next two sections deal with a familiar story theme: sibling rivalry between two brothers, with an inferior-feeling younger brother envious of the older.

Still, it is interesting to follow the lives of these characters, much like a real family with many relationships to each other. Even another Clack character comes around to play the brief role of villain, in Jim Waterbury’s brother-in-law (his wife’s side of the family). It also is neat to see the story come up to the present, to fit the modern-day Lisa into the picture along with her early life in the 1970s.