Seeds of Sorrow Reviewed By Karen Dahood of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.View all articles by Karen Dahood
First Edition Design Publishing, Inc., 2014
ISBN: 978-1622-876-68-6 PRINT
ISBN: 978-1622-876-67-9 EBOOK
Following THE PORTER’S WIFE, the inspiring story of a young English widow who, in 1904, migrates to Canada with five young children, SEEDS OF SORROW re-introduces the three girls as adults facing their own challenges in Winnipeg and Vancouver in the 1920s. Like its predecessor, this novel requires that a reader settle in slowly and attentively to carefully planted detail, to not expect tricks of plot, but to trust and appreciate the viewpoints of characters based on Lisa Brown’s ancestors as they experienced the frontier. Bad weather, lack of infrastructure, and a fledgling business economy provide the grim backdrop for this absorbing family history drama.
Margaret, Agnes and Mary are the siblings who remain geographically and emotionally close when they marry and start families. Margaret and her husband John have a restaurant in Winnipeg where Sarah, their seamstress mother, and Sam, a grocer, have made secure lives. A downturn in the economy persuades the young couple to move to the boom town of Vancouver; Agnes and shell-shocked Art, and newlyweds Mary and Percy decide to go with them, leaving the parents and brothers behind. This decision is wrenching, but the excitement of new scenery and promise of a fresh start propel them across the continent to the rising port city on the Pacific coast.
While the dialogue is slow-paced at times, it places us accurately in a time when married couples dominated society, and when milestones were not moon landings seen on TV, but family births and deaths, and seeing mountains for the first time. Scenes that depict characters navigating infant cityscapes; sharing home-cooked meals, serving fashionable gin martinis; training parakeets, and gawking at natural wonders, would evoke nostalgia were it not for the undertow of sadness accompanying those hard times.
Had SEEDS OF SORROW been written a century ago as a contemporary novel, it might now be taught in college literature classes as an example of American Realism along with Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, Stephen Crane’s Maggie: a Girl of the Streets, Frank Norris’s The Octopus; A California Story, and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. A major difference between those social critics and Brown is that Brown has sufficient emotional intelligence and presumably the facts to make the reader embrace this family and not just tut-tut over the vagaries of Nature, banking, and stocks, of which little needs be said to get across the point. These 20th century pioneers demonstrate their love and keep faith in God’s plan even as their dreams fade.
The writer’s sensibilities come from a time of civility, optimism, and cooperation. Her effect is to persuade us to admire how this family sticks together to survive, bravely “sweeping feelings and emotions under the rug.” There is more to come, and we expect some triumphs over adversity. Indeed, the very first chapter in this book opens hopefully, if teasingly, with a third generation wedding day in 1944 -- before chapter two takes us back to the uncertainty of 1919.