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Ever Faithful–Yellowstone in 1933

Ever Faithful

by Karen Barnett

Ever FaithfulYellowstone National Park, Wyoming


The middle of the Great Depression

Ever Faithful is the tale of young people from various walks of life joined by employment at Yellowstone. Some are pack rats (porters), some pillow punchers (maids), and others pearl divers (dishwashers). Additional college students working the summer are tour bus drivers and laundry workers. Throw into the mix a contingent of down and out, unemployed and often uneducated young men from the cities, part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) founded by President Roosevelt to combat unemployment and the problems that can arise from idleness and defeated attitudes. All of these young people have pasts that affect their presents.

Elsie, the daughter of a park ranger, loves Yellowstone and has spent many summers working hard at the inns at the park to achieve her dream—to go to college to become a teacher. She and her friends have romantic entanglements typical of summer romances. Some, however, seem more serious than others. Vaughn, a park ranger, sets his eyes on Elsie as does Nate Webber who has taken a CCC job to get out of trouble and provide money for his family in New York. Secrets abound and some are potentially deadly as they are linked to wildfires that could destroy the dry, pine beetle infested forests of Yellowstone.

After an interesting story with a historically accurate setting, author Karen Barnett moves the story ahead four years with a quite satisfactory epilogue. Then she provides information on the main aspects of this work of historical fiction and notes a few minor discrepancies as well as how the park has changed.

Yellowstone with its bears, bison, geysers, and vistas is on many a bucket list. Some of the original inns remain while others have been replaced. There are probably too many tourists, but it is still a park that belongs to the people, and it is a wonderful setting for this tale.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: 1. Thematically a part of the Vintage National Parks Novels but remains a standalone in terms of characters, setting, and plot.

2. Gentle reminders of God’s presence and plan.

Publication:   June 18, 2019—WaterBrook (Penguin Random House)

Memorable Lines:

“It’s hard for men to be out of work. It wears at their souls, tears them down piece by piece like a crumbling brick wall.”

It was odd how teaching both energized her and sapped her at the same time. During class, she flitted from one student to another, each one’s progress sending a wave of satisfaction through her chest. But when the room emptied, her strength seemed to go with them.

Nate reached into his pocket and pulled out the pine cone he’d picked up at Roosevelt and squeezed it in his fist. The scales were closed, glued shut by sap. According to Ranger Brookes, without fire it wouldn’t open to disperse the seeds hidden within. God could bring good out of disaster.

Where the Fire Falls–Yosemite National Park

Where the Fire Falls

by Karen Barnett

Where the Fire FallsThemes abound in Karen Barnett’s work of historical fiction, set in Yosemite National Park, and they intertwine and work together well. In Where the Fire Falls, the Park itself almost seems like a character as it and its God-created beauty are central to the book. The novel has the Christian focus of man’s relationship with God through His grace. The two main characters have pasts they are struggling to both hide and overcome: Olivia, a rising watercolor artist, and Clark, a former pastor and currently a guide for tourists who want to mule pack into the wilderness.

The main characters are likable and the plot is surprisingly complex with some chaste romance throughout. Supporting characters include socialite patrons, an art agent, rangers at the park, other workers at Yosemite, a hermit, and Olivia’s two younger sisters and her Aunt Phyllis. Olivia has to overcome fears of the past, her inexperience with the outdoors, and her own naiveté. She has to peel off the mask she has created as a shield for herself and as a tool to promote herself in the art world. Clark seeks God’s guidance and direction but is unable to hear it because he feels unworthy.

The descriptions in this book are so well written that I can imagine standing at the various scenic spots as I am taken in by the beauty. Likewise, I can almost picture Olivia’s priceless watercolors that attempt to evoke an emotional response rather than provide a realistic depiction.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series as the plot held more puzzles and surprises. The characters in the two books do not overlap so each actually is a standalone. It is my hope that the author will continue the Vintage National Park Series with new characters in a different national park.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to WaterBrook (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Christian

Notes : A Vintage National Parks Novel


Publication:   June 5, 2018—WaterBrook (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

The impulsive decision now hung on her like a dress two sizes too large.

“Scripture says faith can move mountains, but I’ve found time spent in the mountains sometimes moves us toward faith.”

“God saved up the best bits of creation and spent them here.” Viewing it from this angle, she could almost imagine a divine artist smiling as He carved the valley away from the giant monoliths.

Dis-grace is a human term, Clark. God invented grace. No one can take it from you.”

Sold on a Monday–grab your heart

Sold on a Monday

by Kristina McMorris

Sold on a MondaySold on a Monday is one of those books that keeps returning to your thoughts—sad and soul crushing, but at the same time hopeful. Even the book’s title has a haunting echo: Sold on a Monday. What would it take for a mother to give up her children or further to sell them? Just how precious is a child to a mother and how can she survive when her child is gone? Sold on a Monday contains this theme within the story of a reporter’s drive for success, a secretary’s desire for secrecy, and families’ difficult relationships.

Sold on a Monday is set in the financial desolation of 1931 in Pennsylvania where Ellis, a reporter, snaps a photo of a sign “2 children for sale.” This one picture sets in motion the events contained in Kristina McMorris’ work of historical fiction that incorporates many elements of the Depression. It shows a poverty that brings out the best and the worst in people. Orphans are “adopted” to become forced workers. Mobs control cities, and Prohibition is for those without connections. Neighbors help neighbors, and shopkeepers set aside unsold goods for for the hungry, helpless, and homeless.

I was a little troubled by the romantic triangle in Sold on a Monday. At some points I felt the secretary with reporter aspirations, Lily, is being unfair to the two men interested in her. In fairness to her, however, although she has a four year old son, she is very young. At a time when being an unwed mother is a disgrace, she is attempting to make a living, take care of her child, and help her parents without whose support she would be in desperate straits. The author works out the triangle satisfactorily, if perhaps a bit too tidily, in the end.

I do recommend Sold on a Monday. It would be especially good for book clubs as it lends itself well to discussion. In fact, the author includes a section of questions for that purpose at the end of the book.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:   August 28, 2018—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

“Even when life’s downright lousy, most kids are still so resilient because…well, I guess ‘cause they don’t know any different. It’s like they only realize how unfair their lives are if you tell them. And even then, all they need is the smallest amount of hope and they could do just about anything they set their minds to…”

He dared to ask for a repeat of a point and instantly saw his mistake in the man’s hardened face. Everything about him—his eyes and nose, his build and demeanor resembled a watchful owl. Just biding his time until he swooped in for the kill.

Then she heard. “Can you tell me how it all started?” It was a standard question that blended the reporter in Lily’s head with the detective before her, and she wasn’t entirely certain which of them had asked.

The Angels’ Share–Is this homeless man Jesus?

The Angels’ Share

by James Markert

the-angels-shareIt is hard to pigeonhole The Angels’ Share in the sense of literary category, theme, or purpose. The author, James Markert, has a history degree and categorizes The Angels’ Share as “commercial fiction set during historical times.” The publisher classifies it as both General Fiction (Adult) and Christian. Four major threads compete for attention–the Depression, Prohibition, the bourbon industry, and a confusing Christlike figure.

Times are particularly hard in the fictional town of Twisted Tree where Prohibition has raised unemployment levels due to the closing of the distillery.  The family that owned the distillery mysteriously seems to fare well financially, but there are dark tones to their story.

Homeless people play a major role in this novel, as in almost any tale of this era. One, in particular, stands out: Asher Keating, who has already passed away when the story begins.  A much decorated war hero who saved the lives of hundreds of fellow soldiers, he quietly accumulates a following as he roams around healing, feeding the hungry, and providing clothing. Is he Jesus fulfilling the second coming? Is he a guardian angel? Is he a lunatic?

The title The Angels’ Share emphasizes both the process of making bourbon and the religious and philosophical questions posed. According to the author,  angels’s share is “the quantity of whisky lost to evaporation during the aging process.” Tradition says that distillers share their bourbon with the angels as an offering so they will protect the distillery from fire.

The Angels’ Share is a very different book and a worthy read. The characters and their struggles are interesting.  The setting, both locale and time, are essential to the plot. I don’t consider it to be a “Christian” book because it doesn’t follow Biblical tenants and prophecies. It does have religion and relationship to God as thematic elements, and it does provoke thought about God, the homeless, and gifted individuals. The Angels’ Share is well-written with its complex threads telling a story with depth. The dialogue is appropriate to the era with lots of slang that has fallen out of popular usage, giving a realistic touch to conversations. The relationships of the various characters result in an interesting web as they move in and out of each others’ lives. There is even a romance that is integral to the plot, but does not dominate it.  As The Angels’ Share concludes, many questions are answered about the characters, but others are appropriately left to the reader to ponder.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:  January 17, 2017 — Thomas Nelson

Notes: I was intrigued, but not surprised, that the passages I highlighted as I read this book mostly deal with Asher Keating, the Christlike figure. There are many selections that made comparisons with or echoed Biblical text; they lead the reader to pose questions about Keating and his purpose on Earth.

Memorable Lines:

Hope can change even the most stubborn of men.

In the author’s historical notes: …there are now more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky than people.

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