Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman A Book Review

“On the last day of June, in the year when the rest of the world was reeling from the sinking of the Titantic, nineteen-year old Emma Malloy was given two choices: get on the next train to Coal River, Pennsylvania, or be sent to a Brooklyn poorhouse.”

First of all–great first sentence. Need to keep this one for future study.

Second–though I won this book in a goodreads giveaway (which means I had to enter to win it)–upon receiving it, I confess I was not overjoyed at the prospect of reading something which looked to be rather grim reading. I don’t know much about working in a coal mine, but I know enough to know it was (and is) a far from pleasant life–especially in 1912. So, I reluctantly began my reading, but was soon drawn into the story of Emma and her rather tragic life.

Wiseman tells a difficult story well and manages to make it entertaining. Emma is forced to live with her aunt and uncle when her parents die in a fire. Her relatives see her as a burden, (though her free labor is a bonus), but that is not the worst part of Emma’s life. Seeing how the miners and their families are forced to live and how poorly they are treated by the owner of the mine as well as those under him (such as Emma’s uncle) tears at her heart and makes her determined to try to find a way to help them.

Doing what she can for the miners and their families, Emma puts herself in very dangerous situations as she not only tries to help them, but also to let the world know how the miners, especially the children, are being treated. In spite of laws having been passed to protect children and other workers, these laws are being ignored by the owner of the mine.

As ever when I read a book of historical fiction, I am interested in why the writer chose their subject and how much of it is based on fact and true events. Wiseman says she has long been “fascinated” by coal mining, but learning of the breaker boys made it “a story that needed to be told.” I agree and can highly recommend this book.

Wiseman has written three other books of historical fiction, and I look forward to checking them out. How about you? Have you read any of Wiseman’s books?

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“My Name is Absalom” Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

This is part three of “My Name is Absalom”. If you haven’t read parts one and two, please go back and read my last two blogs:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/07/28/my-name-is-absalom-part-1/

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/04/my-name-is-absalom-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

I arrived at the palace and headed straight for the dining hall. I didn’t see either of my parents–only a few of my younger siblings as well as a couple of my father’s other wives quietly lingering. No one seemed to be eating; a few looked up at me as I entered, but just as quickly looked back down again. It seemed they had heard something of what happened to Tamar. I walked over to Chileab’s mother, Abigail, the most level-headed of my father’s wives.

“Where is my mother?”

“She has retired for the evening. As has your father.” At first, she wouldn’t look at me, but I stood there until she did. Her eyes shone with tears of pity. “How is Tamar?” she asked quietly.

“How do you think?” I answered harshly. I had no grievance with Abigail, but I was in no mood for commiseration or possible platitudes. Abigail was as bad as her son in that she too often tried to see the good where none could possibly exist. I turned and left, not willing to answer questions or see sympathy from anyone else.

Pushing past servants, I made my way to my mother’s room. I knocked on the door, and her maid servant opened the door slightly to see who was there. When she recognized me, she turned and said, “It’s your son, Absalom, my lady.”

Without waiting for my mother’s response, I shoved the servant aside and went in. The room was dark with only one small oil lamp lit in one corner. My mother was reclining on her couch, and even in the darkness, I could see her eyes were puffy and red.

“My darling boy,” she said, reaching out her arms towards me.

I leaned down, kissed her, then found a stool to sit on. “What did you hear?” My mother was prone to histrionics, and I did not want to give her a chance to make this situation about her. I was undoubtedly too late for that.

She regarded me, her eyes glittering and calculating. “That your sister made a spectacle of herself in the streets of Jerusalem. That she went to Amnon’s house, threw herself at him, and is now refusing to marry him.”

I stared at her. “Are you mad? Tamar went to Amnon’s house at our father’s insistence where she was attacked. And you now think she should marry him?”

She sniffed. “Tamar has always been a little dramatic, don’t you think? Oh, yes, I’m sure I’ve spoiled her, but she is old enough to take responsibility for her own actions. And what would be so bad about being married to your brother? Better that than some foreign prince or an Israelite merchant. There have been several of those sniffing around her already, but now with her making her shame so public, it’s unlikely anyone else will have her.”

My stomach churned, and I had to swallow the bile threatening to choke me. “You would put the blame on Tamar? Your own daughter?” A suspicion grew in my mind. “Did you know Father told Tamar to wait on Amnon?”

My mother gave a small shrug, then yawned. “I was there when your Father spoke to Tamar, yes. She didn’t really want to go, but Amnon had asked for her, and your Father wanted to please him. Do you think I should have stopped her? Really, Absalom, Tamar cannot be babied forever. Now, I am tired and ready to retire. If you are so determined to put blame on someone, speak with your father. Though you should probably wait until the morning. Your father was quite distressed when he heard about Tamar’s street exhibition and asked not be disturbed. He will not appreciate being bothered at this hour, especially as you didn’t even show up for a dinner at which you were expected.”

Not for the first time, my mother rendered me speechless. Should I have been surprised at her attitude? No, in all honesty–yet I was. I did not want to go home and tell Tamar what our mother had said, but I feared she would not be a bit surprised. Disappointed, yes, and hurt as well, but not surprised. She believed our mother to be jealous of her beauty, but I always scoffed at such a notion. Now, I was not so sure.

Frustrated, I got up and left my mother’s room and almost ran out of the palace. I was tempted to go and see my father in spite of my mother’s warning, but I knew if he refused to see me, I would not be able to control my temper any longer.

So, I fled down the dark streets of Jerusalem, running with no real purpose. I thought of going to Amnon’s house, but assumed he would be well guarded. I could try and find Jonadab, but doubted he would see me either. Somehow, though, I knew I would not let Amnon get away with hurting my sister. I consoled myself with the well-said proverb: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Kings Mountain National Military Park S.C.

I haven’t been blogging lately, but I have been writing. Still editing (trying to get that word count down that I worked so hard to build) and also working on a couple of short stories. Took a day to enjoy the spring sunshine during my son’s spring break and went to Kings Mountain. Besides being a nice place to take a not-too-strenuous hike (except for that little part when you’re going straight up the mountain but still piece of cake compared to its neighbor, Crowders Mountain), an important piece of American history took place there in 1780.

To sum: the Brits stirred up a hornets nest by threatening the Scots-Irish mountain men. The Patriots had lost several major battles, and Major Patrick Ferguson was sent to raise men for the loyalist cause in the Carolinas.  Sending a message to the leader of the “backwater men”, Ferguson riled the mountain men with his words that “he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country to waste with fire and sword,” if they did not desist from their opposition to British arms. With 900 of their best riflemen, the Patriots met Ferguson and his men on this mountain, and using their superior guerrilla tactics, defeated Ferguson and his men in little over an hour on October 7, 1780. This battle turned the tide of war in the Patriots’ favor which would eventually lead to their overall victory.

Memorial to the three African Americans who fought with the Patriots.

 

83 feet high, this monument was dedicated in 1909 with a list of those died in the battle.

The centennial monument dedicated on October 7, 1880.

In spite of his loss and death in this battle, Ferguson was honored for his service and is also known as the sharp-shooter who had an opportunity to shoot General George Washington, but out of a sense of honor did not.

A tree that seems to be flaunting its individuality. (I enjoy finding unusual trees).