Eastbound from Flagstaff ISBN: 9781642793369 Morgan James Publishing copyright written by Annette Valentine.
The story introduces Simon Hagan, a man in his late twenties, in his small apartment in Albuquerque. His present activities include washing dishes at the hotel, classes in acting and first year pre-med college courses at the university. He is waiting excitedly for the love-of-his-life’s arrival from Flagstaff in an hour. Thus he leaves a little early to drive his typical crank Model T. Ford. At the bus station he learns that there has been a disastrous accident. The story moves from here to follow Simon’s life from its beginning on a rather successful farm outside of Elkton, Kentucky. He is the oldest son of a growing family – God devoted father who is a mentally, as well as physically, a strong man – a loving mother, a two-year younger brother Alain and several other siblings. Although never quite happy with the life of a farmer, he functioned well while dreaming of some other path in life. When he was eighteen, his mother was mauled to death by a bear which he had slowed but not stopped with the family shotgun. Unnecessarily blaming himself for her death and stimulated by his desire not to be a farmer. He leaves for Detroit, Michigan where Ford Motor Company was hiring workers for the very excellent pay of $5.00/day. The tale continues with his ability to equate easily with new people, and his activity on an assembly line. Through a chance remark by one of his new friends, he is given a job as a rookie on the Detroit Police Force. Here he rises very rapidly, becoming a Police Captain within a very few years. Regrettably, he acquires tuberculosis and must resign to move to a sanatorium in Albuquerque. The entire sequence of episodes covers a 9 year period during which he encounters many devastatingly crushing personal blows. Many of which, as with his mother’s death, he blames himself and continues a struggle with attempting to accept the fact pounded into him as a child, that God was in control. All of this mental stress is exacerbated by the constant presence in his bedroom of his mother’s bible that his father insisted he take with him and read the numerous notes he and his mother had entered on various pages. His continuation to do so adds immensely to his tension. Specific details and their chronological order really need to be read to understand the deep feelings and emotional turmoil dealt with in this tale.
Discussion: The author, a well-recognized figure in other endeavors, has presented here a debut novel depicting a period in the early life of her father. An Endorsement recounted before beginning the story points out quite accurately, that this “powerful story of resilience and recovery is a quest filled with brutal tragedies that explores the depths one endures and the path that ultimately leads to redemption”. This reviewer heartily concurs with the summation quoted by the endorser. But most regrettably, as a novel, several features require a greater degree of attention. The protagonist has a self-accusatory problem initiated by his mother’s death, but employed to strengthen his desire to leave the life of a farmer. Subsequent catastrophic occurrences strengthen the belief as his life continues. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the importance of the good matters that so easily come his way – his easy arrival at a pleasant boarding house resulting from his enquiry at the wrong address; similarly his hiring as a rookie police officer; his rapid advancement; and more all are serendipitous. Seemingly he makes a number of wrong decisions, especially with respect to his love life. But then again, his character is so sketchily developed as are those of his loves that it is impossible to even conjecture adequately. Therefore, and most regrettably, from this reader’s perspective the author has set forth a story with all of the elements of a fine fictional biography providing a powerful message, but it does require considerable character enrichment to reach the powerful story latently existent.
3* 5* powerful tale of a tormented trail attempting to reach redemption.