Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

Historical Fiction, 2020

We know Winston Churchill as an influencer in history, but how much do we know about his wife?  Though I had heard bits and pieces, this novel makes Clementine (pronounced Clem-en-teen) a lead character all her own in a story she had undeniable influence.  Historically anchored, author Marie Benedict immerses us in Clementine’s thoughts and feelings by choosing first person voice.  We discover her fight for women’s vote, her tireless work to improve conditions during London’s blitz, how she edited her husband’s speeches and negotiation strategy.  I was especially fascinated in the meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt and how it influenced Eleanor’s work in America and beyond.  But what motivated Clementine Churchill?  Was it love or ambition? No matter how you answer that question after reading the book, you will know more about the woman behind one of the leading political forces during a volatile time in world history.

 

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Historical Fiction, 2021

This is the little known story of the sinking of the steam ship Pulaski on its fourth journey 180 years ago. The Pulaski loaded 186 passengers for the two-night trip to Baltimore.  Often called the Titanic of the south, 128 adults and children lost their lives either in the explosion or from taking one of the 4 not so seaworthy life boats or not surviving the 5 day float without food or water before they found land. Only 58 survived.  The story itself draws you in, but Patti Callahan does more.  She builds a believable contemporary story around the historical one that helps readers take an even deeper look a “surviving survival.” She handles her alternating contemporary and historical seamlessly and with helpful storytelling movement. Her writing is rich and textured but not overdone. This book shares an inspiring story to remind us that we are not pawns of fate but the sum of the choices we make no matter what tragedy comes to change whatever we expected.

 
 

Counted with the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

Biblical Fiction, 2016

Connilyn Cossette is one of the respected Biblical fiction writers in a genre growing in popularity.  She crafts wonderful, research-based stories, complete with details that put you in the middle of a Jewish camp or an Egyptian home.  Each part of this Out of Egypt trilogy tells a stand-alone story, but don’t read them that way.  You’ll miss a plot twist that will surprise you like it did me.

 

Counted with the Stars -1

Using Egyptian Kiya who throws her survival into the hads of the Jewish people after experiencing the terrors of the plagues, we follow her nail-biting escape to place her survival into the hands of the Jews and their God. 

Shadow of the Storm-2

The Jewish Shira who also escaped from Egypt and was responsible for saving Kiya,follows the story for the first year of the wilderness journey. When Shira faces an enemy from her Egyptian past, she must learn what to do with fear and Who was always with her.

Wings of the Wind-3

The last book in this trilogy introduces motherless Alana, a Canaanite, who is as quick with her arrows as she is with her tongue.  Rescued from death in a skirmish between the Jewish army and her people, she must marry her rescuer according to the Torah they follow.  This opens the possibility for a first person perspective about what happened at one of the best known stories in our Old Testament.

Jennifer Chiaverini has always written stories with history.  Now she delves deeper to tell even more history with her story.  Based on the true story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, born a slave who built her dress-making business so that she could buy her freedom.  Her work was so good, she became the preferred seamstress for the elite of Washington D. C. When the Civil War split the country, Elizabeth or Lizzie as she was known, stayed and became the personal seamstress and trusted friend to Mrs. Lincoln.  While it reads like a biography, it is an engaging read, especially when it tells the heartbreaking story of what happens when a publisher convinces Lizzie to tell her story.   

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

by Jennifer Chiaverini

Historical Fiction, 2013

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by Betty Smith

Fiction, 1943

 

When a book transports you to a different time, slips you into a slice of life that you could never know without the word upon carefully chosen word to tell it; that is the magic of story.  Such is the gift and legacy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  In some ways, Francie Nolan is every girl with dreams, but because she lived in Brooklyn in the 1900’s before the first World War, it is a story that captures the American Dream in its early, hopeful, and undefiled innocence.  It is the story of family and struggles and coming together and losing so much you think you can’t survive even when you know you will.  The dream, like the tree the family planted in their tiny patch of inner city, thrived as a reminder that pluck and persistence is more important than circumstances.