Congratulations to Jenny LM who won Susanne Dietze's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho Prize pack!

Monday, August 21, 2017

My New Obsession: Kombucha

Susanne Dietze

Have you tried it?

I've only recently tasted Kombucha. A year ago I didn't know what it was, except that it's a trendy health-food/beverage. I heard a lot of this:

It gives you energy.

It's great for the digestive system.

It stimulates the immune system.

It's refreshing and tasty!

Online, buzz includes taglines like "immortal health elixir." Two of my friends even make their own! But what is it?

If you look it up on Google, it'll say: a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. Wikipedia says Kombucha: is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a "symbiotic 'colony' of bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY). Click here.
Mgarten at the English language Wikipedia. Kombucha brewing with SCOBY. No changes made.'s a fermented tea rich in antioxidants, active live cultures, enzymes, and...stuff. Organic stuff. Including a little alcohol: because of the fermentation, Kombucha contains a small amount. The drink must contain less 0.5 percent alcohol, which is the amount the FDA has allotted as the line between beverages sold as alcoholic opposed to non-alcoholic. (Side note: some Kombucha contains more and should be marketed as such. However, another healthy drink, Kefir, is said to contain 1% alcohol, which is over the legal limit.)

Needless to say, if someone abstains from all alcohol, is expecting or nursing, etc, Kombucha is probably not for you.

But I thought I'd try it. As someone who always craves more energy, better digestive health, a stronger immune system, and yummy drinks, I thought, why not? I deal with GERD and am always interested in ways to help my digestive system find balance, so it was worth a shot for that alone.

It wasn't hard to find Kombucha at Target in the refrigerated "healthy drinks" section, and the brand Kevita Master Brew was on sale! I bought two flavors: Pineapple Peach and Raspberry Lemonade.

I started with the gentlest-sounding of the two: Raspberry Lemonade. I took a sip and immediately got on Facebook.

Kombucha friends! Is it supposed to fizz? Is it supposed to taste like vinegar?

Yes and yes. So I drank down half and shared the other half with my husband. He made a face, too. We drank them down, noted how few calories are in the bottle, hoped for good things, and went on with our days. (Back to the alcohol for a second: I had no clue at this point there could be a little alcohol here. I didn't feel a thing.)

The next day, my husband and I split the bottle of Pineapple Peach. Then something weird happened.

We started to like Kombucha.

We crave the vinegary tang of them. The light fizz. The taste. We both found them to be quite refreshing after a work out.

KeVita's Master Brew Kombucha contains 2 strains of probiotics, 4 billion CFUs, natural energizing caffeine, and 6x the organic acids as other Kombuchas.
From Kevita site
Since then, we've tried several flavors and brands: GT's were all good (Trilogy, Gingerade, and Multi-Green. I'm still looking for Lavender Love to try.)  Brew Doctor's were good, too, and they had the added benefit of being sold in a 6-pack at Costco at a cheaper cost (I liked the SuperBerry and Clear Mind, which has a rosemary taste. Because of my GERD, I give the Lemon Ginger Cayenne bottles to my husband. He digs them.) Other Kevita Master Brew flavors we've tried are Tart Cherry and Ginger.

The Pineapple Peach remains our favorite. But is it worth it?

Does Kombucha give us more energy? Maybe. It's been a busy season in my house, and while we are wrung out. we've kept our heads above water. As part of a healthy diet, exercise, and trying to get enough sleep, they might be helping...or might not.

Has it helped my digestive system? Well, I've felt more balanced and haven't had a GERD episode since I started.

Is my immune system boosted? Perhaps! I can't quite judge that yet.

It's expensive as a daily habit (bottles can run between $2-$4), which is why some people make their own. I'm interested in learning, and one peek at Pinterest can overwhelm you because so many hipsters offer cute memes with recipes for flavors and directions for other uses (Kombucha soap, anyone?). 
DIY Kombucha allows use of this image!
In the meantime, I will definitely indulge from time to time. Kombucha may not be "the immortal elixir," but it is a good source of live cultures and enzymes which are helpful to digestion. I like it, too, and it can be one more tool in my attempt to be all-around healthier.

How about you? Have you tried Kombucha?


Susanne Dietze is the author of a dozen new and upcoming inspirational romances, like The Reluctant Guardian (LIH) and My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight (Barbour). Lately, she's typed some of them while sipping Kombucha.

Visit her on her website,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who's Watching Whom

A few days ago, I walked into my office and was halfway to my desk when I spotted a Great Horned Owl looking in my window. I deked to the right to hide behind the drapes. A few seconds later, I leaned to the left and peered out to see if it was still was leaning to the right peering back at me.

I snapped back from view and reached for my camera...but I'd left it in the living room!

Since I didn't want to yell, I whipped out my phone and texted Nelson who was also in the house…

Moments later I heard him padding down the hall. I motioned him to stop before he reached the door and jabbed my finger in the owl's direction. Nelson peered around the corner and his eyes widened. I stepped into view, took the camera, and clicked away at the owl. Behind me, I heard Nelson retreat, and then he returned and I heard him taking pics, too. 

Great Horned Owl, Front View. Source: Nelson Draper

Great Horned Owl, Looking to side. Source: Anita Mae Draper

Great Horned Owl, Looking Back. Source: Nelson Draper

The owl checked out the place for a minute or so, and then turned and hopped away to another branch. This last photo of the owl looking back at us reminds me of a 1950's chenille bedspread due to the unique feather placement. However, when I look at its extended back and down to its feathered legs and sharp talons, I'm reminded more of a wary cat than a comfy bed. As usual, I'm amazed at God's creativity when I see something as special as a Great Horned Owl. By the way, the use of the word, horned, refers to its ear tufts.

Here's a short clip of the owl before and after it had hopped to another branch. If the video doesn't work, you can find it at: 


Of course, this owl encounter has given me ideas about including the scene in a story, similar to how I included the cranes in my novella, Sweet Love Grows. I enjoy adding wildlife to my stories and hope the readers can see that.

Do you have a favorite owl, whether real, virtual, or fiction? Have you had an encounter with one? Care to share? 


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fear Is the Problem

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear. ~ Ghandi

The last few days have been yet another painful reminder that our nation is in crisis. As I watch news stories where armies of young Americans march in the streets with torches, spewing hateful rhetoric that’s as wicked and evil as anything coming out of North Korea, I wonder how we got here again.

Is it because we’ve ignored the ugly lessons of history? Is it because we’ve allowed ourselves for several generations the luxury of blaming others—in and out of our country—for our problems? Is it because our politics and our preachers have promoted this “you deserve better” attitude that has created an atmosphere of churning discontent any time things don’t go our way? Is it because the corporate oligarchy that controls everything from what we watch to what we read to what we eat has figured out that if the masses are enmeshed in constant struggles with each other they won’t notice that the oligarchy grows fatter and fatter by the day? Is it because over the course of the last generation we’ve allowed “freedom of speech” to become the freedom to abuse, attack, accuse and basically say any crazy thing we want no matter the consequences?

It could be any or all these things, and a thousand more possibilities, but when it comes down to it, I think the underlying problem is fear. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of the future. It doesn’t matter what kind of fear it is, fear feeds hatred.

It’s tempting to jump on the nearest bandwagon and give in to the fear… but that’s not an answer.
It’s going to take a concerted effort on the part of every sane person to neutralize the fear that has gripped our nation. How do you neutralize fear? The Bible says “perfect love casts out fear.” We need to speak the truth in love. We need to demonstrate love to one another. And we need to set examples of love—the unconditional kind—for our children and our children’s children.  

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Niki Turner is an author, newspaper publisher and editor. You can find her at or visit her Facebook page at All her books are available on Amazon at

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Best Book on Writing?

Okay, we all know it. There are a LOT of great books on how to write, how to be inspired, how to be organized, how to promote your book, how to research it, how to get an agent or publisher to notice it, and on and on and on.

But what if you want to have just one book? One that you can sink your teeth into and use over and over again with every book you write? I’m sure different people have different books they would deem essential, but for me there is only one: James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle.

Here’s what the description says:

A powerful secret, and a fresh approach to writing bestselling fiction!

What's the best way to write a "next level" novel? Some writers start at the beginning and let the story unfold without a plan. They are called "pantsers," because they write by the "seat of the pants."

Other writers plan and outline and know the ending before they start. These are the "plotters."

The two sides never seem to agree with each other on the best approach.

But what if it's not the beginning or the end that is the key to a successful book? What if, amazing as it may seem, the place to begin writing your novel is in the very middle of the story?

According to #1 bestselling writing teacher James Scott Bell, that's exactly where you'll find your story's heart and heat. Bell's "Mirror Moment" is the secret, and its power is available to any writer, at any stage of the writing process.

Bringing together years of craft study and personal discovery, Bell presents a truly unique approach to writing a novel, one that will stand the test of time and serve you all your writing life.

Now Mr. Bell has written many books on the craft of writing, and I have yet to find one that wasn’t excellent, but this one is my favorite. Here’s why:

1. It’s short. It doesn’t mess about with lots of filler. It gets right down to the how-to in easy-to-understand-and-implement instructions.

2. It works for any kind of writer, pantser, plotter or (like me) the hiker who knows where he’s going to start and where he’s going to end up and maybe three must-see sights along the way.

3. It assures me that my books will have good structure each and every time.

It took me eleven-and-a-half years (that’s years) to write my first book. Now I have commitments to write six books by March of 2019. I obviously have to have a plan and stick to it if I’m going to get everything done on time. My plan is to use Bell’s fourteen-point list from Write Your Novel from the Middle in order to plot my books quickly and efficiently. I have a blank template with each of the fourteen points on it. When I’m ready to start work on a plot, I start filling in that template and soon I have a story. Yes, there is still a lot of work to do and the story changes as I start uncovering more and more about it, but again, I end up with a supportable structure and don’t waste my time staring at my computer screen, wondering what to write.
    I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’ve used it to plot my last five or six stories, and they have been faster and far less painful to write than the ten that preceded them.

Give it a try!

How about you? Do you have a favorite book or method for getting a story put together?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Meet Book Blogger Jenny Blake of "Come Meet AusJenny" Blogspot!

Debra here... and today I have one of those reviewers who has been 'around' the book blogger world from 'the beginning'. At least it feels that way, because AusJenny has been blogging...well, I should let her tell you:

AusJenny: I started reviewing in 2007 and started my blog December 2007 after Camy Tang had a meme which I answered. I wanted to review books and then joined a couple of blog alliances. I also started "getting to know you Thursday’s" with authors. The past couple of years I haven’t been as active due to health issues. I choose my name because most people have come to me as Ausjenny and added Come Meet AusJenny. Blue is my favourite colour which is why it’s the background colour. In the past few years I have added health updates.  The address is

Deb: I also got to know so many authors and reviewers back at that time, when I was checking the Seekerville blog every morning! That's where I first saw your name! What’s the best part of being a reviewer?
Jenny: The best part is being able to create a short summary of what I like about a book along with different aspects that appealed to me. I also want to let others know how a book made me feel and I also enjoy being able to support authors.

D: In my opinion, that one sentence is exactly the way to go with a review! The blurb tells us what we need to know so I read a review to find out what the reviewer liked (and hope it resonates with me.) 
What’s the most difficult part of the ‘the job’?

J: Not offending authors. I sometimes feel the pressure by some authors to always give 5 stars. This is unrealistic as if every book I read is 5 stars I feel it devalues some books.  5 stars should be reserved for the top reads in a year rather than every book read.
The other issue is when I review a book based on what I thought the book was due to labeling for instance reading a book thinking it is inspirational romance, making a comment in the review that I was disappointed in the lack of romance only to have the author publicly tell me I had it wrong and it was women’s fiction so I shouldn’t be expecting a romance. The author contacting me privately would have been so much better thank in a public forum.  

D: Absolutely! This is why I'm thrilled with fives but love fours and hey, I'll take a three (okay reviewers, not a lot of threes, please.)  For me a five is a book that has me telling everyone I know about it. I know reviewers who rarely hand out fives, while others use them all the time. Not even the same as a 'great book' which could be a four.  I'm also not comfortable seeing authors review each others' books, so I hesitate to do it.

So, what was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

J: It was a novella by Darlene Franklin called “The Mermaid’s Song”. It may have been only a novella but it packed a lot in. It also deals with a subject I have read a couple of books about but not many. A heroine from Arcadia who ends up shipwreck. We see a heroine who speaks French and the Hero speaks English but we see how love can concur. The book is packed with other issues as well. 

D: Darlene is a legend, so I'm not surprised! She just celebrated her 50th release. SIGHS DRAMATICALLY!  I know she'll be thrilled to hear this, Jenny!

What do you do when you aren’t doing all those great reviews?

J: I would love to read more but due to health issues which includes head pain 24/7 I have periods where reading is a real struggle. I love doing jigsaws. I also love watching cricket although the past few years it’s mainly on tv due to the health issues (noise). I like to do a little gardening also. I have some scrapbooks I am trying to get organized so I can continue with putting photos into them. I went to a class this month and want to do more.

D: That's plenty of things! From what I hear, you have to deal with two large gum trees in your yard, which is totally 'tropical' to me!
via Shents on Pixabay
But where is Matthew Crawley and Tom Branson?

D: I happen to know a bit about how much Australians love cricket, thanks to my pen pal Lynette! I love to see it in British costume dramas but that's about the extent of my knowledge. 

What would you like to share about yourself that few people know?

J: This is a tough one, for people who know me personally they know I am a very fussy eater and that I hate the colour pink. 
When I was in high school I won a champion junior cooking exhibit of the local show (fair) twice. It was for under 18’s. 
Here's  Jenny and Deb at our Cooking School Visit  to Paris.  (you believe this, right?)
 J: I have also won Champion adult exhibit for embroidery/needlework.

D: Ahh... lovely. The old arts that so few young women know anymore. Yes, I'm complaining! I learned all those things that we learn from our grandmothers. (like who darns socks anymore...) But it's a rare child who has the interest and patience to sit and do hand crafts. At least cooking will never go out of style!
What is your favorite fictional setting? Place and time?  Genre’?

J: This is a really hard question for me. I am not sure I have a favourite setting, place and time. I do like Civil War era, Revolutionary War and Oregon Trail Era, along with the post Civil war era. I like small town or country rather than bigger city as well. To be honest I like most of the eras besides Regency. I enjoy Historical but also contemporary, Mystery and light suspense and even Amish. I think you should have said what don’t I like which would be horror or heavy suspense, Regency and Women’s lit.

D: It was interesting to hear you mention only periods of American History. What are the similar periods in Australian history?

J: The gold rush period began around the 1850's. We call our ranches, sheep or cattle stations, these started around the 1780's they started around the time of the convicts. We still have huge stations which would be bigger than many American states but I wouldn't really call it a period. We were always part of the Commonwealth as we started with the first fleet which brought both settlers and convicts, and began as a penal colony when they could no longer transport prisoners to America due to the revolutionary war. 

D: I have to admit I'm rather influenced by The Thorn Birds and Australia (with my boyfriend Hugh Jackman, of course) and find the extreme size of Australia (with so much of it wild) is pretty interesting!
What’s your favorite movie to watch if you had a rainy afternoon alone?   
And when that afternoon became a quiet evening, what could the caterers bring for your dinner? Money is no object!

J: Ok now here is another tough question as I live alone! It depends on my mood. It may sound strange but I do like the movie Gettysburg, but also like the Janette Oke series When Call’s The Heart and enjoy watching the series which we have in movie form.  I think I would still go simple and have Spaghetti Bolognaise followed by some Black Forrest Cake.

(Deb says... I was in my fifties before I know that spaghetti the way my mom made it was... her version of Bolognaise)
(Okay, I'm ready for some cake. Thank you

D: I'm a big fan of Gettysburg (since I first fell for historical fiction via Gone with the Wind!) But I've stayed away from writing it. I was also a bit confused when I watched two different versions of When Calls the Heart, but I know it's a huge 'fandom'.  I don't have Hallmark Channel which leaves me out of the running for a lot of movies!

If you could wiggle your nose and be in a new career, what would it be?

J: Well if professional cricket follower where you get paid to follow the cricket and give a daily report I would do that otherwise working as a Virtual Assistant.

D: I can't help you with the paid Cricket Watcher, but this is a nice place to start advertising your Virtual Assistant position! There are definitely more and more of those these days! 

What piece of advice would you offer authors who are just starting out?

J: Write, make sure your work is ready to be published, don’t just publish cos family and friends tell you it’s good, get professional advice. Join groups that will offer support and advice. Also most importantly when looking to publish beware of vanity publishers. The other piece of advice making sure you have your book in the right genre with the right sort of cover. Many reviewers will mark a book down if the genre is wrong. (I am not one unless its say women’s fiction, when I thought it was inspirational romance).

D: Yes. Family and Friends. God Bless 'em.  The encouragement is good but they may be the only ones to buy the book if it's not really ready!

D: What advice would you like to give readers who’d like to write reviews?

J: Don’t be afraid to write a review even if it’s only a few sentences. Only review on the first three chapters of the book so you do not give away too much of the story. One other thing would be if the author has hidden gems in the story that are unexpected do not mention them in a review. They are there for the reader and it’s nice to have surprises. If you put in spoilers mention there are spoilers in the review.

D: Part of the reason I started this feature was to help encourage readers to become reviewers. Not everyone wants to blog, but with the huge number of authors 'going hybrid', there is such a need for reviewers. I'm afraid all you lovely reviewers will be so overwhelmed that you'll have to stop or cut back. It's such an important part of the fiction industry, and I'm thankful that you've been leading the way for all of these years. 

Thanks Jenny!

check out her blog -  Come Meet AusJenny

I also have a feature on my website and Pinterest board where I 'collect' all the wisdom from my book blogger guests.  One or two new reviewers will visit the Inkwell each month, so stay tuned!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Release Party for "Inaugural" New Series from JOURNEY FICTION

Journey Fiction is launching their first series!
(the bus will be by soon!)

Inspired by the Girl Detective, the members of the Olentangy Heights Girls' Detective Society, affectionately known as the Nosy Parkers, spent their formative years studying criminology, codes, and capers. Unfortunately, opportunities to put their unique skills to work were thin on the ground in the post-war boom of their little corner of suburbia and they eventually grew up to pursue more sensible careers. Until...

The Counterfeit Clue by LISA KARON RICHARDSON:
Gemma Gaines gave up mystery solving years ago, but when friend is killed in a hit-and-run, all the instincts honed by years in the Olentangy Heights Girls’ Detective Society tell her this may not have been an accident. Then she finds that her friend slipped some cryptic notes into her handbag and she’s convinced murder has been done.

With the doggedness of the great Girl Detective herself, Gemma follows up on the clues. Real-life mystery solving isn’t as tidy as it is in novels though, and before she knows it, her roommate has been kidnapped and it’s all her fault. With the help of a handsome new neighbor – who may be more than he seems – she is soon on the trail of a counterfeiting ring that would like nothing more than to see her put out of circulation for good.

PRE-ORDER the Kindle Version
That's right folks! Fans in The Big Apple are going wild!

and...The Case of the Clobbered Cad by DEBRA E. MARVIN:
Heather Munro’s youthful devotion to The Girl Detective led to a passion for digging around in history. Now pursuing her Master's Degree in Celtic Studies, Heather must balance exploring Edinburgh with her determination to excel in her all–male classes at the University. Unfortunately on her first night working in the Archives room, she discovers the dead body of a visiting professor, the same would-be lothario she’d hoped never to see again. 

As clues come to light, it’s clear someone hopes to frame Heather for the murder. Besides her quirky landlady, whom can she trust? How can she clear her name? The police and the American Consul have plenty of suspects, but only two seem to have both motive and opportunity: Heather and the quiet Scottish historian she longs to trust.
See Debra's  Pinterest Board
Crowds are lining The Royal Mile for this one!

Do you want to know more about Journey Fiction? Visit their website at:

Authors may learn more about submissions:
or email them at:

With a 1950s setting, New York and Edinburgh, we'd like you to enjoy some food from our gracious President of Journey Fiction--
Author and Publisher, Jennifer Farey IS IN THE HOUSE!

Add Scottish Accent and....

(Claire and Ed Sutton, Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Lisa and Deb are excited and honored to be part of the first release series from Journey Fiction.  We'd love to answer questions about our books, and hear from readers. There will be more Girl Detectives coming. Those Nosy Parkers! And Journey has other releases in 2017. 

Here's  more photos from our Pinterest Boards!
Old Penn Station, NY

Fifties girls enjoying a photo booth 

Edinburgh being Edinburgh

So, let us know what you think and if you'd like to be part of the reviewer and influencer teams!
Contact  Lisa -  (message through Facebook)
Contact Debra   (message through Facebook)

And, because it's conference time again, here's a photo of Lisa, Jen and Susie.
It pays to keep working at your dreams!  Congratulations  to Journey Fiction!
#Giveaway? of course. One random visitor who comments with a question will be eligible for a digital copy! Giveaway will end Aug 10.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

by C.J. Chase

Several years ago, I wrote book review for Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which chronicles how our society is stratifying into an educated elite vs. everyone else. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by debut author J.D. Vance, is a good companion book to that one.

My interest was piqued when I read several reviews (including criticisms from both the left and the right) and then spoke to someone who’d read (and liked) it. I decided I needed to try it for myself.

Vance is a young man to be writing a memoir—only 31 at the time. He begins by outlining his grandparents’ story. Bonnie Blanton was 14 and pregnant when she eloped with 17-year-old Jim Vance. They decided to leave the family homestead in a Kentucky “holler” and head north to the industrial towns of Ohio. The young couple lost that baby, but they later had three more children, a boy and two girls. 

Ohio might be just across the river from Kentucky, but Appalachian honor culture was a world away from the orderly, and rather boring, suburbs of the 1950’s. Separated from all that was familiar, the family started to spiral down into alcohol abuse and marital infidelity. Vance’s mother never recovered from the increasing dysfunction, and her own adulthood became a revolving door of boyfriends and husbands.

The only truly consistent person in Vance’s life was with his grandmother, and by the time he was in high school, he lived with her. After high school, he joined the military and served in Iraq. The Marines were the making of Vance, teaching the discipline that had been lacking in his family life. After getting out, he went to Ohio State and then was one of the few graduates of a public university accepted into Yale Law School.

Some lessons from Vance’s life:

·      Poverty is as much a state of mind as a number. At one point in Vance’s youth, his mother and her husband/boyfriend/man-of-the-moment pulled down a six-figure household income. And yet, they had nothing to show for it because they spent the money frivolously rather than acquiring savings or assets.

·      If you are poor (or just have the mentality of the poor), it is very difficult to pull yourself out. The people around you tend to be people with the same mindset, and there is no one to show you a different way. Simple things, like college applications or college financial aid, are complicated to those who have no assistance or guidance.

·      As people become convinced the deck is stacked against them, they give up trying. Vance wrote about the difficulty companies have finding unskilled workers who will actually work. One example was a young man with a baby who landed a good paying job for one with his (lack of) skills. One would think he would be thrilled with the chance to earn a decent income, but not having learned discipline, he was so unreliable his employer eventually fired him.

Reading this book caused me to ponder my own family background. At one point, my ancestors suffered from the same destructive forces as Vance’s. My great-grandfather grew up in Appalachia, the illiterate son of an alcoholic, but he changed the trajectory of his life and his descendants’ lives. Unlike his father, he worked hard, married a fine woman, and made certain his children received educations. Even though my grandfather stayed in Reese Hollow to take over the family farm (his siblings left to become teachers and a minister), he too worked hard and married well.

My g-grandparents with their five (surviving) children. My grandfather is the little guy in front.

My mother grew up on that same farm, the seventh of my grandparent’s ten children. Like Vance’s grandparents, she left home at 18 for the big city (Chicago, in her case) during the great migration.  But she had a high school diploma, a strong faith, and a supportive family to sustain her.

My grandfather with the oldest 7 of his 10 children. My mom is the baby on his lap.

Hillbilly Elegy is a good first step toward bringing understanding to a part of the country that has been in decline. The problems of the Vance family are found across much of the now de-industrialized Rust Belt where hopelessness has set in. What is to be done? There are no easy answers. The problems are as much spiritual ones as financial or educational ones.

I think Hillbilly Elegy would make a very good book for church reading groups. Perhaps it will spur Christians to mission work right here on the home front.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.