Intriguing views through Ellie’s Window by Sandy Snavely

Sandy Snavely’s Ellie’s Window is an engaging book with a creative smörgåsbord of characters, themes, and perspectives.

It may be difficult to tell you why I say that without spoiling some of Snavely’s delicious surprises, but I’ll try. Ellie’s Window introduces us to Ellie Mae and her daughter Charlie. Charlie discovers Ellie Mae has Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and their worlds are turned upside down—well, their visible worlds, the ones they consider reality. But they’re also living in several different, heavily veiled worlds. Snavely cleverly weaves links between these worlds.

A story about someone suffering the inexorable creeping loss of Alzheimer’s could be a very dark read. But Snavely’s skill as a writer keeps that from being so. She crafts scenes with humor, warmth, and joy amid the stress. She uses delightful turns of phrase that shine a lance of light or beauty into the dark places.

Some favorite examples:  

Early in the book a woman about to give birth to her first child is rambling about things she wants to do before going to the hospital. The rattled husband tries to be supportive while getting her quickly to the hospital in the dead of night. As they drive, she prattles on and suggests they go home until she feels more prepared. He thinks “Labor and logic will not be shaking hands any time soon.” When they arrive, he see the row trees lining the hospital driveway as having “their branches outstretched to protect the weak and weary and those whose nerves have gone bump in the night.” What great ways to convey his state of mind.

A description of a man: “His face was gently weathered, like a tree …” A great visual, a simile that gives us a good image. Some would stop there, but Snavely adds that extra lance of light: “His face was gently weathered, like a tree that had learned to bend with the wind.” Now that gives us so much more information about the man. And the woman describing him, yes?

And another: One friend chides another for not taking care of herself while busy care-taking others. “You … sit yourself down … you look like you haven’t eaten since Moses crossed the Red Sea.” That women must look emaciated!

At times kaleidoscopic, the scenes written through the eyes of an Alzheimer’s patient are appropriately fluid, slippery, and erratic. Masterfully crafted .

Much about Alzheimer’s remains a mystery. But the devastation it can wreak in a family is no mystery.

In that environment, Snavely offers a new perspective based on the truth that God’s ways are beyond our ways. God is not bound by space and time as we are, and just because it appears that an Alzheimer’s patient is vegetating doesn’t mean that is actually what is happening.

Snavely’s writing is full of touches that give the reader an extra dose of humanity as they meander through the fog that is Alzheimer’s. The one “read-bump” I encountered was her occasional use of multiple point-of-view characters in a scene. This might be done in some genres, but it was an unfamiliar technique to me. Early on I found it confusing. I became more used to it, but when I encountered it, it did momentarily pull me out of the story world. For other readers it may not be an issue.

Ellie’s Window is a creative story that expands the realm of possibilities for our consideration. A gift on every level. As the flags on special pages indicate my impression. :-) 

In cyber-chatting with Sandy, I asked her to expand on her comment (end note) about how she came up with Ellie’s Window and prepared to write it.

SS: “It was like God opened a book and the story just fell into my heart…. I did quite a bit of research on Alzheimer’s just so that I could write about it without stammering. But I didn’t want the story’s primary message to be about Alzheimer’s but about hope.”

I asked what was her inspiration for some of the unusual perspectives she included.

It’s “one of those things that happens while writing. I closed my eyes and tried to see what Audrey was seeing. … and [it] just seemed to be there waiting for me.”

And the heaven scenes?

I read several books about heaven … Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven,… was the first book that helped me to connect the lines between heaven and earth.”

Thanks, Sandy for a peek behind the scenes.

Adventure Calls – Love’s Fortune by Laura Frantz

So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. [Mark Twain as quoted in Love’s Fortune]

Ah, an adventure awaits.

For the rest of his life James Sackett would remember this moment.”

What about this moment is special?

Who could resist turning the page after reading such a line?  

Papa had forsaken his black mourning band.”

Oh my, what does that portend for young Wren?

Laura Frantz opens the door—just a sliver—into a world unfamiliar to us and then quickly plunges us into the culture shock Wren faces in tumultuous mid-nineteenth century America.

There Frantz’s cast of varied and strongly-motivated characters face dilemmas aplenty as they navigate through treacherous steamboat travel, slavery debates, and debut seasons. They are so richly presented, I can almost see with Wren the river made golden at sunset, inhale the mingled fragrance of cut wood and varnish, ache with James at the tough choices, feel the chilly condescension when Andra or Elspeth enter a room.

Frantz’s deft hand and thorough research bring alive the steamboat travel along the Ohio River, the cramped streets and luxurious upper crust homes of Pittsburgh. Did you know that before a wedding, Pittsburgh society brides had to be wrapped in a sheet to keep their gowns from getting sooty? Or that tobacco and molasses were shipped in a hogshead? (Not as gross as it sounds, a hogshead is a size of barrel.) Or that each steamboat had a distinctive whistle allowing folks on shore to know which boat was arriving? (Clever and extremely helpful in those days before cell phones.)

The hundreds of specific details Frantz includes make history come alive, and the setting so real you can feel the fresh air and freedom as Wren runs barefoot across the Kentucky hills. Along with Wren, I smile watching glamorous couples dance beneath the glittering lights of the ballroom and feel every pinch of high society’s conventions and corsets. I could easily slip into the music room and sway to the melody and eavesdrop in a hallway or on a garden stroll. The world Wren Ballantyne enters is so real, we step in right along with her—wishing at times she could hear our whisper,..

… “This way, Wren.” Or, “Don’t listen to the scoundrel’s slick words.” Or, “This is a person you can trust. That one? Most certainly is not.”

Frantz’s prose is rich and sings like the music Wren makes with her fiddle. She creates a world that throbs with life, filled with joy and sorrow, pride and shame, struggle and celebration, conflict and triumph. And story threads, like a spring, are wound tighter with each chapter. Speaking of chapters, Frantz goes to the extra trouble of selecting an epigraph to introduce each one~~small gems in themselves. A gift, indeed.

Do you remember those old-fashioned children’s pop-up books where, as you turn pages, a cardboard scene rises out of the book? Laura Frantz’s writing does that—it makes a 2-dimensional world 3-D.

So whatever makes a good novel for you~~high-stakes action, compelling characters, or a setting that takes you someplace new~~you will find it between the covers of Love’s Fortune. Frantz is skilled at the elements of writing good fiction—vivid characters, rich setting, taut plot lines. And also using the subtlety, red herrings, and misdirection of engrossing mysteries.  

But there is more, much more. Some authors have a way of weaving simple words, sentences, and paragraphs into a glittering jewel that is more than the sum of its parts. Laura Frantz is one of those, and we readers are the beneficiaries of her alchemy-like ability to transform these elements into a tale that Narnia-like captures and carries us into a satisfying journey. Love’s Fortune is a tale that unfurls at times with the grit and scrape of a coil of hemp rope, at others with the caress and shimmery mystery of a spool of moire ribbon. A tale that kept me reading until the dawn broke.  

Oops, need to give you a brief plot insight. Here’s the back cover copy:   Sheltered since birth at her Kentucky home, Rowena “Wren” Ballantyne has heard only whispered rumors of her grandfather Silas’s vast fortune and grand manor in Pennsylvania. When her father receives a rare letter summoning him to New Hope, Wren makes the journey with him and quickly finds herself in a whole new world–filled with family members she’s never met, dances she’s never learned, and a new side to the father she thought she knew. As she struggles to fit in during their extended stay, she finds a friend in James Sackett, the most valued steamship pilot of the Ballantynes’ shipping line. Even with his help, Wren feels she may never be comfortable in high society. Will she go her own way . . . to her peril?

With her signature attention to historical detail, Laura Frantz brings 1850s Pennsylvania alive with a tender story of loss, love, and loyalty.” 

You can learn about Laura’s other books and why she loves writing about Kentucky at her website: www.laurafrantz.net

Davis Bunn’s THE TURNING

In his new novel THE TURNING, Davis Bunn presents a story which is paradoxically as familiar as age-old fairy tales yet as astonishing as tomorrow’s news.

He brings together an unlikely group of five ordinary people. Ordinary, but dissimilar. Ordinary, except that they’ve each heard God. When they converge in New York City and encounter each other, they recognize that God has put them together. But they don’t know why? They only know they’ve been summoned.   Continue reading

A FALL OF MARIGOLDS

More than a few weeks have passed since I said “See y’all later.” We’ve accomplished a lot, though more still awaits! Life is full, and that’s all good, yes?  One pleasure has been some good books. (Are you surprised? grin) So I’ll tell you a bit about some of them. First, Susan Meissner’s latest–A FALL OF MARIGOLDS.

Some people WRITE IN BOOKS! Not only do I write in them, but good pages get flagged making favorite passages easier to return to. So A FALL OF MARIGOLDS in the photo below is a review on its own.

A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf Continue reading

Strait of Hormuz, A Review

 

At review’s end read a short interview to discover the astonishing connections this story has to Bunn’s life.

Then find details of a phenomenal give-away which includes 2 luxury watches and a $150 Amazon gift card.

Tested Loyalty. Tested Courage. Tested Faith.

“The danger is real … and inbound.” Marc Royce, Strait of Hormuz

With an economy of words and profusion of images, Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn is a story seemingly ripped from today’s news. 

American Marc Royce has been sent on a clandestine intelligence operation that takes him to Switzerland, then across Europe into the Middle East, without backup or even a gun. He must penetrate the veil of secrecy around art thieves, smugglers, and terrorists to determine who he can trust as he uncovers which threats to himself and peace in the Mid-East are real and how they can be thwarted. Continue reading