Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Historical Novel Review

It's been a year since I started a painful summer followed by three major surgeries and all of the therapy and life changes that brought about.  During that time I've read a lot of books and stacked up more reviews than Meridian Magazine can handle so I've decided to post some of those reviews here on my blog beginning with this one:
MATTIE by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., 238 pages, paperback $10.31, kindle $6.99 .
Mattie by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer is an historical novel based on the diaries of her grandmother who lived in the early 1900s in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. It begins with the death of Mattie's father when she was eleven years old. She'd been close to her father though he was an old man with three wives.  His death was the beginning of her struggle with faith. 

George Washington Sevey's first wife had stayed in Utah with her grown children when George moved to Mexico with his two younger wives to avoid being sent to prison and having his property confiscated by the federal government because of his plural marriage status. After one of the younger wives died, the two families were combined and Mattie grew up one of twelve children in the household. The first part of the book deals with her friends and activities in the small, dusty town, including her friendship with Alonzo who makes no secret of his feelings for her.

The story abruptly shifts to Arizona where Mattie goes as a young woman to live with an older sister and her family.  She works as a waitress and falls in love with a handsome, charming man who isn't the man he claims to be.  The experience leaves her shaken and she eventually travels to Monterey, California to marry Alonzo.  There she lives with another sister for a time until a violent earthquake changes her life dramatically and she returns to Mexico without marrying her childhood sweetheart. 

Life in Mexico has become turbulent and dangerous.  The Mormon settlers are often attacked and murdered.  She marries a young man she considered almost an outsider when they were children and is among the women and children who are evacuated by train to El Paso when the warring Mexican factions threaten the colony.  One of her sisters, with Mattie's assistance, gives birth to a baby on that nightmare journey.  They finally reach Elm Paso and are treated graciously by the people there, but she is anxious to return again to Mexico to be with her husband who is running a freight business and trying to stay neutral between the many warring generals battling for control of the country.  She gives birth to two daughters during that turbulent period and faces many frightening experiences. 

I had mixed feelings while reading this book. I found the historical events and background fascinating.  Much of the day to day life and the mixed loyalties of that period are presented from a fresh viewpoint.  However, I had difficulty with the abrupt and unexplained time and place transitions.  Some of the events are breathtakingly realistic and well-written.  Other parts read like a rough draft.  Even with its rough spots this is an unforgettable novel and well worth reading. 

Mattie is an interesting character.  She is stubborn, a little shy, but determined once her mind is made up, she's a bit judgmental, has a great deal of courage, but doesn't always make wise choices, and she struggles with faith in God.  With time and experience her faith grows and she learns to rely on God though she still occasionally questions. The author is at her best when she describes the everyday events of that era and she does a great job detailing Mattie's doubts and spiritual growth.  The plot works well and follows the actual events of that turbulent period in history. 

Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She left there at the age of nine and lived in Peru for ten years.  She then moved with her family to Tucson, Arizona.  She and her husband now live in Pasco, Washington, and are the parents of five children and count thirteen grandchildren. 

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MATTIE by Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., 238 pages, paperback $10.31, kindle $6.99 .

1 comment:

M. Ann Rohrer (Ann) said...

Thank you Jenny, Author or the Bracelet series. I have them all. I appreciated your review and happen to agree with your critique.