Author: Shari Vester
Publisher: Mill City Press
ISBN: 978-1-938223-23-5

In 1906, before marrying his fiancee who is expecting their child, a young man mysteriously disappears.  That young man was the author’s biological grandfather.

Intrigued by this occurrence in her family history, author Shari Vester began to imagine possibilities of what might have happened in the heart, soul and mind of the man whose disappearance resulted in the abandonment of her biological grandmother and his unborn child ... her mother. 

This semi-autobiographical novel set in twentieth century Hungary, dramatically weaves the lives of three generations through a tapestry of two world wars, a Communist takeover of Hungary, and political revolt.

Reminiscent of author James Michener in both writing style and length, Degrees of Courage is an epic work addressing the courage, tenacity and spirit of three women in different generations, each facing adversity in her own way.

The lengthy saga begins in 1901 in Sopron, Hungary with eighteen year old Angela.  The eldest of nine children, Angela is forced to set aside her life to raise her eight siblings when their 39 year old mother dies. Offering his condolences at the unexpected demise of Angela’s mother, the local priest comes to visit.  Attraction leads to an affair and Angela naively arranges trips to the city so they can meet more frequently.  Marriage is discussed,  but ecclesiastical reality complicates the situation.  The priest disappears from Angela’s life, leaving her pregnant to deal with societal shame, her father’s blame and rejection, and the reality of being a single mother.

Angela struggles to give her daughter Lensie a better life than she had, but as little Lensie grows up, she finds herself living through the realities and consequences of war, depression and political take-over which devastate her.  

The story of the third generation of this family begins with Lensie’s daughter, Sari, whose mother has very different ideas about how her young daughter ought to live her life.  Conflict arises.  Crises ensue.  Tragedy follows. 

While this reviewer found the story to be well written with excellent plots/sub-plots, character development, setting and writing style, it lacked the professional expertise of both proof reader and copy editor. For example … some comical errors: page 140 - “horse d’oevres” rather than “hors d’oevres” and page 224 - “a priest’s vice” rather than “a priest’s voice”. 

As well, throughout the book, numerous words have been manually whited-out calling attention to original errors.  All of these, plus the length of the book (over 560 pages), and confusion because the author used both Lensie and Ilonka for the middle generation woman’s name, and that “Ilonka” looks like “Honka” when reading the book, result in this reviewer rating the book a score of seven.  

If it had been well edited, shortened and proof-read, it would be a ten because the author can write - and write well.

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