Advanced Reviews for Julia’s Gifts

Special thanks to the following authors for offering advanced endorsements of my new book, Julia’s Gifts.

Can beauty and life survive destruction and death? Vivid writing transports readers to the past, where young love is forged and tested amidst the devastation of war-torn France. Graced with soulful sonnets and life-and-death situations, this is no simple romance. It’s a strong and tender Catholic historical novel about growing in maturity and fortitude while discovering the power of hope, self-sacrifice, and prayer. I read Julia’s Gifts within two days, but this touching story of faith and devotion is sure to leave a lasting impression!” Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author of Frozen Footprints and After the Thaw

“Award-winning author Ellen Gable has created a stunning love story set amidst the backdrop of World War I. Filled with adventure, romance, and intrigue, this gripping tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.  There is so much to treasure in this beautifully-written book: miracles of faith, the power of prayer, the strength of true love, and the grace in using one’s God-given gifts to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles make this an outstanding and unforgettable book.” Jean M. Heimann, author of Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World

“A sweet romance set amidst the carnage of World War I France, Julia’s Gifts is filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles – great and small – happen all around us.”   Carolyn Astfalk, author, Stay With Me, Ornamental Graces & Rightfully Ours

“Julia’s Gifts is a sweet and touching love story laced with beautiful messages. Well-researched, the dialog and details make the story feel genuine, taking readers back to the WWI era where people shop at Lit Brothers department store, ride on trolley cars, and frequent the Horn and Hardart’s Automat. Following Julia as she works overseas as a volunteer medical aid opened my eyes to the hardships of war and especially the great trials and sacrifices of the nurses and volunteers. This story touched my heart in many ways, but the poems written by the character Major Peter Winslow are simply amazing.”    Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction

“In the new Great War Great Love series by Ellen Gable, Julia’s Gifts took me on a poignant journey into the midst of terrible suffering and enduring hope. A young woman volunteers to serve in a war-time hospital in France and encounters, up close and personal, the horrors of war. The descriptions of war-torn France felt very authentic and really helped me to envision actual environment. Julia’s dreams for her future husband face unexpected and ingenious twists and turns. Julia’s Gifts is a romantic drama that unfolds far from home—but takes us to the heart of home along the way.”  A.K. Frailey, author

Julia’s Gifts will be available on November 1, 2017!

Virtual Book Tour for Julia’s Gifts will take place November 1-22, 2017. Links coming soon!

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – 2017

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 18-30). I also think about the seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 22 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

 

Powerful Intercession of the #HolyRosary

Rosary“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Sister Lucia of Fatima

October is the month of the Holy Rosary and I’d like to share a few personal stories about the power of the Rosary:

I share this particular one to show the speed in which Mary sometimes answers our prayers.

Years ago, a friend of ours visited us with a desperate plea for help. His girlfriend had been enticed into a cult and within days, all communication had been cut off. He couldn’t talk to her or contact her in any way. He said that he loved her and knew that he wanted to marry her, but felt helpless and didn’t know what to do.

With tear-filled eyes, he finally asked, “Would you pray that she is released?”

Our response was, “Of course.”

When he left, James and I immediately got out our rosaries, knelt down and began reciting a fervent, heartfelt rosary for Our Lady’s intercession, that the cult would allow this girl to leave.

At the time, we recited the rosary, oftentimes, more out of habit than a desperate plea for anything. This time, however, it was exactly that, a desperate plea on behalf of our friend to somehow get the cult to allow his girlfriend to leave.

The next day, he called us to let us know that the cult had decided to let her leave. The couple eventually married and they continue to be happily married to this day.

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

A Bittersweet Reunion and Excerpt from Emily’s Hope

1994 (the year after my near death experience)

I recently attended a neighboring church for Mass and was approached by a woman who said that I probably wouldn’t remember her, but that she had been a nurse at the hospital when I came in many years ago and nearly died.

“You were whiter than a ghost,” she said.  “And we didn’t think you were going to make it.”

“Neither did I,” I responded.

“We’ve never seen anyone as critically ill as you and survive.”

“But I did!  Not only that, I went on to have two more children.

“I know!  I’ve been following you through friends. I just wanted to tell you how happy I am that you survived.”

“Thank you.”  You and me both.

A special shout-out to all the nurses and doctors on duty that night. And another special shout-out to Our Lady, who was also instrumental in helping me to survive.

I included this experience in an article I wrote in 1995 and below is an excerpt from my first novel, Emily’s Hope, and is based on the true story of my near-death experience, written in the third person.  This illustrates the powerful intercession of Our Lady, especially when death is whispering in one’s ear:

The pain in her abdomen became more excruciating with every passing moment. She sat on the sofa and dialed the number of the high school. It seemed like an eternity for the line to connect. One, two rings. Please, someone pick up, she silently begged. Hearing the secretary’s voice, Emily could barely speak, but she uttered enough to make it clear that she needed her husband. She dropped the phone to take a deep breath. Feeling an overwhelming need to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom just in time to spill the contents of her stomach. She gripped the cold, hard toilet, as if in some way, it would make her pain bearable. Disoriented, she thought of her baby and quickly glanced at his smiling, inquisitive face, oblivious to his mother’s pain.

I’ve got to stay conscious for my baby, she repeated over and over in her mind. She moved back to the floor next to the sofa, trying to sit upright with her young child next to her, while drifting in and out of consciousness. Keeping a death grip on him, she woke up as the paramedics were prying her hands off her son and placing her on a stretcher. It all seemed like a dream. She overheard the paramedics talking about what a “little thing” she was.

Too weak to make a sound, she wondered where her young son was. She caught a glimpse of her husband holding him at the back doors of the ambulance.

His right arm cradled their son’s little body, while his left hand clasped his small head to his chest as if to shield and protect him from the turmoil that surrounded them both. But her husband’s face. . .his face was so broken and distraught that Emily felt the anguish of a wife and mother abandoning her family. Tears welled up in her eyes and for a moment, Emily forgot her pain.

Then his eyes caught hers and he realized that she was watching him. Everything changed. His chin lifted as if for courage and penetrated her being with a look of tenderness, of confidence and reassurance. Whatever happens, I will be strong for you and for the sons we both love and for God, who has asked so much of you. He seemed to say all of this with his eyes, all of this and more. As his love reached out to her through the shouts of the paramedics and their frantic procedures, the beeping of machines and the overwhelming wail of the siren, its light already flashing, her terror began to fade and her heart surged within her. Now reassured, she allowed herself to fall back to sleep.

Emily’s eyes opened again this time as the paramedics were inserting an intravenous needle in her arm. Although it felt like they were stabbing her with an ice pick, all she could manage was a wince and a quiet moan. It seemed as if every ounce of energy had been sucked from her being. This is what it feels like to die.

Then she imagined her little boys’ faces, and suddenly the possibility of dying weighed heavy on her heart. Please, God, I can’t die, she silently prayed. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mother. All at once, a feeling of warmth surrounded her, then she felt at peace. There was no bitterness, only acceptance, a calm that was huge enough to quiet an ocean. She silently recited a Hail Mary. . . .now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Those last words took on powerful meaning with the possibility that this could be her hour. She knew that whatever happened would be God’s will, and she would submit to that, whatever it was.

Drifting into unconsciousness, the last thing she heard was “We’re losing her….”

October 22, 2016   Our five sons left to right in order from youngest to older: Paul, Adam, Tim, Ben and Josh

 

The Death of Me; The Life of Us #catholicfiction

copyright Ellen Hrkach

I wrote “The Death of Me; The Life of Us,” short fiction, for Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body, available on Amazon.  Special thanks to Erin McCole Cupp and Dena Hunt for editing assistance.  Below is an excerpt:

“Sarah, you’re too young to read the death notices,” my mother always said.  But here I sat at the college library, eyes focused on the obituary section of the newspaper — yes, I still preferred to read an actual newspaper rather than digital.

I also attended funerals of people I barely knew. In the years following my sister’s death, I found strange comfort in learning how other people faced the death of a loved one.

What does death look like?  It’s a polished maple casket lowered into the ground, people in black clothes with somber faces, a granite headstone with a name etched on it.

What does death sound like? It’s a priest speaking in monotone. People sobbing. Moaning. Sometimes it sounds like the silence of this quiet library.

What is grief?  It’s a space in your heart reserved for those you love who have died and can no longer return that love.   It’s an emptiness, a hollow at the base of your throat that rises up and catches when you think of the person you love who is now gone.

What is guilt? It’s the realization that it is my fault that the person I love most is now dead. It’s the dark, rigid rock that holds a conscience captive and continues to torture my soul nine years later.

The blur of the van slamming into her unexpecting body is an image that is burned into my memory.  So is the screeching of the brakes and the thud of the van striking her. I was only nine years old that hot and muggy August day. But it was the end of my childhood.

***

“Let’s play tag,” I said to my six-year-old sister, Rosie.

“No!  Wanna go back inside. It’s too hot out.”  Her blond hair hung in wet strips, and her clothes were damp from running back and forth through the sprinkler.

“Come on.  We’ll play tag, then we can run through the sprinkler again.”  I touched her shoulder. “You’re it,” then I ran across our neighbor’s lawn.  I wasn’t paying attention. I just didn’t want her to catch me, so I ran as fast as I could and ran into the street. I had made it to the other side when I heard screeching. I turned just in time to see the van slam into her small body. The man behind the wheel, bigger than Dad, got out and stood over my sister’s body, his mouth open. Then he covered his face with his hands and began to weep.

I couldn’t move, nor could I take my eyes from her.  Rosie lay on the road, her white Danskin shirt now streaked in bright red-orange.  Blood covered her head like a cap, her body twisted like a rag doll. I stared, wide-eyed, unable to move as hope welled up within me when I saw her body twitch.  All of a sudden, she was still.

It was quiet, the humming of the neighborhood air conditioners and the man’s deep crying played like the background noise of a TV show. I heard a scream. I looked up to see my mother racing across the lawn and into the street.  Bellowed sobs consumed her as she scooped up Rosie’s little body.  Drops of liquid trickled from my sister’s bottom, creating a dotted trail on the black road as she carried my sister onto our lawn.

Mom collapsed, Rosie’s blood smearing her shirt, hands and face.  She screamed over and over again, “No!”

I’m not sure how much time passed, but I stayed in the same spot in the street.  I wasn’t able to move, so I stared at the wetness on the black street, one tiny sandal in the midst of it all.

Only moments before, Rosie was a happy girl who loved everything about life.  Now she was gone. And it was my fault.

The squeal of sirens echoed in the distance and became louder until I couldn’t hear anymore — it was too much for me to think, to hear.  My eyes continued to stare, but everything became a cloud of colors moving in front of me.  Flashing lights. Badged, uniformed shirts in shades of blue. A black and yellow stretcher. The shadows inside the back of an ambulance.

I felt someone’s arms around me and the mumble of words. I blinked and glanced upward. It was Mrs. Grayson, our next door neighbor.  “Sarah, did you see what happened?” My mouth was open, but nothing would come out.

Finally I was able to speak, but all that came out was: “It’s my fault.”

***

In the ensuing weeks and months after Rosie’s death, I couldn’t talk about her or her death.  I couldn’t even say the words “Rosie’s death.” At the viewing and funeral, I kept my head down as relatives and friends passed by. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything. I could hear mournful sounds coming from my parents’ bedroom every night for weeks.

School and life became a fog as one month blended into the next.  I stayed away from Mom as much as I could. She wouldn’t want the person responsible for Rosie’s death to talk to her.

Mom never once blamed me, not with words, anyway. She tried to get me to talk to a grief counselor, but I refused.  All I did was wake up, go through the motions of each day, and sleep. Every night I wished that I would have a dream about Rosie. The only dream I ever had was a nightmare replaying the moment the van hit her. She was on the road, her eyes open, her small voice saying, “I don’t want to play tag.”  I wished I could tell her one more time I loved her. I wished I could tell her that I was sorry.

If I hadn’t asked her to play tag, if we hadn’t been outside, if I hadn’t run across the street…if, if, if.  I should have protected her.  I shouldn’t have led her into the street. It should’ve been me who was struck by that van.

I didn’t — wouldn’t — cry, either.  Every time a sob crept up the back of my throat, I shoved it back down again.  I had no right to cry.  I had no right to talk.  I had no right to live.  It was my fault.

We weren’t much of a praying family, but I did believe in God. I tried to pray many times.  How could God let her die?  Why didn’t He save her?  Why didn’t He stop me from playing tag with her?  Why didn’t He stop me from running across the street? I was angry at the birds for continuing to sing, and mad at the whole world that moved along as if Rosie had never been a part of it.  Eventually, I saw that life was continuing for my parents and brothers. How could the world just continue when my world had ended?

 ***

“Is anybody sitting here?”

I didn’t even look up at the guy asking.

I was having lunch at the library. My preference would’ve been for him to leave me alone, but I shrugged. I soon would learn that Jack was persistent to the point of being annoying.

“I’m Jack.” He held out his hand to me.

“Sarah,” I whispered. “Be quiet. We’re in a library.”  I shook his hand and he sat down beside me. That’s when I finally looked at him.  He was a pleasant enough looking boy: blond, wavy California hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders.

“Whatcha reading?” he asked, keeping his voice soft.

I answered but kept reading. “The Funeral Practices of the Ancient Egyptians.”

I looked up just in time to see his eyebrows lift.

Every Wednesday after that, he was there at that same table at the college library. Sometimes he would offer to share a muffin or other snack. Most of the time I sat there, quiet, reading. He kept the topic of conversation superficial: the weather, current events, sports.

“Our baseball team is going to the semi-finals.”

“Oh?”

He nodded.  “I play second base.”

“That’s nice.”

“There’s a game at the college baseball field next Wednesday, so I won’t be able to meet you here.”

“Okay.”

His eyes widened. “Hey, why don’t you come and watch?”

I was never a big fan of sports, but the way he looked at me, so expectant, I surprised even myself, saying, “Sure, okay.”

I went to the semi-finals and watched the game. Jack actually hit a home run, and I found myself cheering with the rest of the spectators. But his team lost.  I waited for him after the game.

“A home run.  Wow.”

“Well, we lost, but we did our best.”  He hesitated.  “Want to go grab a bite to eat?”

I scowled.  “I thought we were just friends.”

“Can’t two friends grab a pizza?”

“I suppose.”

There was still a part of me that wanted him to leave me alone; I hadn’t really had any friends since Rosie died.  The way I saw it, I didn’t deserve friends.

Jack and I continued seeing each other on Wednesdays. He always did most of the talking, though. I learned that he had three older sisters and that he was attending college (majoring in microbiology) on a baseball scholarship. He liked pizza and hiking. He was an amateur photographer.   We eventually began texting.

My mother pestered me about my “new friend, Jack.”

“He’s just a friend, Mom.”

“Oh,” she responded, her eyes lowering in disappointment.

To read the rest of the story, click here to purchase Image and Likeness on Amazon.

An Open Book – September 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

God or Nothing: Robert Cardinal Sarah

Synopsis: In this fascinating autobiographical interview, one of the most prominent and outspoken Catholic Cardinals gives witness to his Christian faith and comments on many current controversial issues. The mission of the Church, the joy of the gospel, the heresy of activism , and the definition of marriage are among the topics he discusses with wisdom and eloquence.

Robert Cardinal Sarah grew up in Guinea, West Africa. Inspired by the missionary priests who made great sacrifices to bring the Faith to their remote village, his parents became Catholics. Robert discerned a call to the priesthood and entered the seminary at a young age, but due to the oppression of the Church by the government of Guinea, he continued his education outside of his homeland. He studied in France and nearby Senegal. Later he obtained a licentiate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, followed by a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem.

At the age of thirty-four he became the youngest Bishop in the Catholic Church when John Paul II appointed him the Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, in 1979. His predecessor had been imprisoned by the Communist government for several years, and when Archbishop Sarah was targeted for assassination John Paul II called him to Rome to be Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI named him Cardinal and appointed him Prefect of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Pope Francis made him Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014.

“I have read God or Nothing with great spiritual profit, joy, and gratitude. . . .[Its] courageous answers to the problems of gender theory clear up in a nebulous world a fundamental anthropological question.”  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

My review: I’m enjoying this book tremendously.  Cardinal Sarah expresses the faith with a firm but gentle tone.  Fascinating life story, but also an ideal book that explains our faith.  Highly recommend (and thanks to Ann for the gift copy!!)

 

Accident Prone by Jude Greggs

Synopsis: (Fiction) David Baker’s life is plagued with headaches. Relationship troubles, an aging mother, and chronic migraines are turning his existence into a nightmare. His misery is further compounded by his antagonistic, four-year-old neighbor who constantly demands his attention. When David accidentally stumbles upon a secret operation that promises to rid him of all of his problems, he wonders if he may have found a means of escape, but will the mistakes of his past continue to haunt his future…with terrifying results? This slightly futuristic, dystopian novel uses the far-fetched, surreal possibilities of tomorrow, to expose the hidden horrors of modern-day reality.

My review: Forthcoming

Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory by Susan Tassone

 

Synopsis: The holy souls are eager for the prayers of the faithful, which can gain indulgences for them. Their intercession is powerful. Pray unceasingly. We must empty purgatory!” St. Pio of Pietrelcina    Tireless advocate for the holy souls in purgatory, Susan Tassone, invites you to join her in the call to action from St. Pio to empty purgatory. Become a prayer warrior on behalf of the suffering souls and bring comfort to them and to yourself along the way.

Tassone provides an unprecedented treasure trove of spiritual tools including devotions, meditations, and wisdom from the holy souls and patron saints of souls in purgatory that you can use to take an active role in this vital and rewarding vocation. Sharing her deep understanding and personal connection with the centuries-old tradition of praying with supernatural charity for the holy souls, Tassone will inspire you with her passion and educate you with her meticulous research. In addition, she provides an avenue for the attainment of spiritual gifts for acts done for the souls that cry out for relief.

My review: Forthcoming

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron

Synopsis: “What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture.  I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.” –Father Robert Barron
 
What is Catholicism? A 2,000-year-old living tradition? A worldview? A way of life? A relationship? A mystery? In Catholicism Father Robert Barron examines all these questions and more, seeking to capture the body, heart and mind of the Catholic faith.

Starting from the essential foundation of Jesus Christ’s incarnation, life, and teaching, Father Barron moves through the defining elements of Catholicism – from sacraments, worship, and prayer, to Mary, the Apostles, and Saints, to grace, salvation, heaven, and hell – using his distinct and dynamic grasp of art, literature, architecture, personal stories, Scripture, theology, philosophy, and history to present the Church to the world.

Paired with his documentary film series of the same title, Catholicism is an intimate journey, capturing “The Catholic Thing” in all its depth and beauty. Eclectic, unique, and inspiring, Father Barron brings the faith to life for a new generation, in a style that is both faithful to timeless truths, while simultaneously speaking in the language of contemporary life.

My review: I read this while down in New Jersey visiting my family.  I became sick halfway through the visit and couldn’t do much but read.  She had a copy of this on her side table and I became engrossed.  Excellent read and highly recommend!

Vanished Halls and Cathedrals of France by George Warton Edwards (1917)

Synopsis: (From Amazon) Surviving the ancient wars and revolutions in this, “the Cockpit of Europe,” the great examples of architecture of the early days of France remained for our delight. The corroding fingers of time, it is true, were much more merciful to them, but certainly the destroyers of old never ventured to commit the crimes upon them now charged against the legions of the present invader. These fair towns of Picardy and Champagne are sacked, pillaged and burned even as were the beautiful Flemish towns of Ypres, Malines, Termonde, Dixmude, and Dinant on the Meuse….
Never again shall we enjoy them: the chalices are broken and the perfume forever vanished….The catastrophe is so unbelievable that one cannot realize it. The Seven Churches of Soissons, Senlis, Noyon, Laon, Meaux, Rheims, St. Remi; these such as man probably never again can match, are either razed to the foundations, or so shattered that it will be impossible to restore them.
It is said that the Imperial Government has promised to rebuild these Gothic masterpieces….One cannot trust one’s self to comment upon this announcement. Imagine these sacred ruins…. Rheims!… Rheims can never be restored to what it was before the bombardment. Let it rest thus…. A sacred ruin—the scarred, pierced heart of France! Likewise “these fair sweet towns” of the middle ages; these wonderful little streets and byways, filled with the gray old timbered houses, “old in Shakespeare’s day.” Up to the outbreak of the war there were many of these throughout France, in spite of the wave of modernity which resulted in so much so called town improvement.

My review: I downloaded this on Kindle for 1.59 Canadian and what a treasure.  I needed to research cathedrals of France for my series in progress (Great War Great Love).  Excellent information and photos.

 

Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1)

Coming soon!  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my upcoming novel, Julia’s Gifts. I’ve been spending the last two weeks implementing suggested edits from my developmental editor.  It’s now in the hands of the copy-editor and will be available as an ARC within a few weeks.

Synopsis:  As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.”

Soon after the United States enters the Great War in 1917, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Will the realities of war dishearten her from pursuing her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?”

From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

A Wonderful Find!

I recently connected with a second cousin on Ancestry and discovered that he had uploaded a photograph from Christmas of 1903 which included our great-grandmother, far left (Mary Regina Smith Hamilton 1866-1909) and our great-grandfather, far right (Thomas Scott Hamilton 1865-1945) and their children (one son is missing and one toddler daughter had passed away a few years earlier).  Both lived in Philadelphia their entire lives.

I have been researching my family tree for over 35 years and this was the first time I had ever seen a photo of either of my Hamilton great-grandparents. So I was so thrilled to find this!  And very happy to be able to put faces to names I had known almost my entire life.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  My great-grandmother looks less-than-excited (she was probably tired!) My great-grandfather looks a bit creepy and perhaps mad.  My grandmother told me about how strict he was, but I’ve also heard stories about what a kind and good man he was.  The house (if indeed it was theirs) looks more upper class than I had previously believed.  The toys were certainly those of at least an upper middle-class family.  My great-grandfather was a clothing cutter so I don’t imagine they were rich. Looking at the house and beautifully-decorated tree, it appears as though they were quite comfortable.

This is such a beautiful snapshot in time.  My great-grandparents would go on to have three more children (including one set of twins — my grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of those twins).  Just six years after this photo was taken, my great-grandmother dropped dead suddenly when her twins were only 18 months old, leaving her husband and oldest daughter (Kate, the smiling one on the right) to raise the children.

This photo illustrates such a different time in history than we are living, a simpler time.  Yes, mothers and fathers still die suddenly and widowers and widows are still left to raise children. But many Catholic families are limiting the number of children they have.  I can’t begin to judge any other couple, but I know in our own case, we remained open, despite the doctors’ orders that we stop having children.

We can learn so much from our ancestors. Back then, contraception wasn’t even a thought in most Catholic couples’ minds and really wasn’t readily available anyway.  Most welcomed children as they came.  I’m thankful to my Hamilton great-grandparents for welcoming children as they did, even when it was so obviously difficult and challenging.  My grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of twins in Mary Hamilton’s last pregnancy. If they had stopped having children, if they had discovered contraception, I wouldn’t be here today.

My grandmother (Margaret) went on to elope with my grandfather (Fritz) and eventually they had four children (my father was the second oldest).

This was indeed a wonderful find!

 

Hamilton Family 1903, with thanks to Rich Boyle