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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Historical Christian Fiction Is Much More Than Its Genres

Title              "...Like Footprints in the Wind: A Generation Lost"
Author:          Pamela Atherstone
Author Link:   http://atherstonep.wix.com/jahnlechronicles
Genre:           Historical Fiction/ Christian
ISBN:             9781432797737
Purchase on Amazon

Reviewed by F.T. Donereau for Rebecca’s Reads (8/13)   http://rebeccasreads.com/atherstonelikefootprintsinthewind


Pamela Atherstone's "...Like Footprints in the Wind: A Generation Lost," is certainly a Historical novel in every sense of the word. I do believe though, that it brings much more to the table than is normally associated with that particular genre. You have a sweeping tale of family and tribulations and love and faith. You have a place and time that evokes distance from modern life. All of this is the normal thing for such a work but somehow the author brings it to us in a way that makes us able to feel the world inhabited by the Jahnle family and those around them, as if it were actually us, or loved ones of our own. The story comes alive fully and enables us to live it along with the characters. This is rare in Historical undertakings. And welcome.

As the book opens Johannes Jahnle is a farmer about to harvest his crops. The yield looks promising and he is a contented man. The Russian world he lives in is his as much as anyone’s. He loves his wife and children and they are happy in their lives. Simply because they are of German descent though, they are in trouble. I had never heard of the Purge of the Kulaks prior to the reading of this fine novel. Based on real stories, the tale that unfolds is an astonishing, gut wrenching one. The family is torn from their land and all they know by Russian soldiers. They are forced to endure a harrowing journey that leads them to the isolating deprivation that is the labor camps on the coast of the White Sea, in Siberia. Getting there is a fraught existence. The world they arrive into ends up being an ice brick scratched out of some devil's frozen hell. Miss Atherstone carves these things to life in such a way as to make them as compellingly real as any moment that might have been truly experienced by the reader, employing the kind of writing that makes great fiction, great story telling.

The author does not rely on flowery prose to evoke her worlds. Clean hard lines are used to draw the pictures between the covers of "…Like Footprints In The Wind." This is as it should be. The story, at times, is brutal. The family faces trials that seem and probably were designed to tear them down to nothing. Sorrows within are immense. There is great cruelty, deprivation, and even death. If the words used were not cut out of stone, a false prettiness might have covered things, which would have only taken away from what is being laid down here.

Johannes Jahnle is a good man. He is wise and blessed with an inner strength his family would have been hard pressed to survive without. There is that kind of strength in his wife, Katerina, as well. It was lifting to find a woman protagonist who did not crumble and fade under enormous pressures. I confess though that I think my favorite of the characters may be the Jahnle's daughter, Anya. She is a spirit of high order and love becomes her. The family is bolstered by their faith. It is the thing, I think, that really brings them through. It is tested and finally clung to. That, as well, is refreshing.

Really I find this book an important work; it brings forth an historical happening, a tragic piece of history the world ought to know better. Miss Atherstone is a master story teller. The goodness that flows through the horror wrought is a dynamic any age needs more of. The Jahnle's are a people I would love to know. Their faith is a special thing. It all might have been less in the hands of someone not as capable as Pamela Atherstone. She should find great success with this saga. Trust me when I say, you will gain knowledge and feel things deeply simply by opening the pages and falling into them.

Added note:  This book is the Winner of the 2013 Best Fiction Award for Rebecca's Reads.  Permission to reprint reviews was granted by Rebecca's Reads as part of the contest.  This book is also currently a finalist in two categories in the Reader's Favorite Book Reviews and Awards Contest.
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