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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, August 8, 2014

Everything that Happened in Post Revolutionay, AnteBellum America in One Small Book!!

Reverberation The NovelReverberation The Novel by V.B. Holmes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This first reads giveaway was not an easy read. The story didn't flow and it had to be taken in small doses. Briefly, the plot is about greed. A man has died, his lawyer says he has a more current will than the one originally known by the heir and heiresses--a son and four daughters. The son is a friend of the lawyer and is bound by hook or crook to make sure his sisters get none of the estate. One sister and her husband and her brother-in-law after a bit of drink decide if the lawyer is killed before producing this new will then the estate will be evenly divided among the children. So the son-in-law and the daughter, unbeknownst to each other, take a pot shot at the lawyer and one of them hits and kills him.

So begins this tale which seems a good mystery. The time is August 1828, the scene is somewhere in the Eastern United States, certainly in a slave state. The author writes a preface about his home which dates back to the Revolution and the ghostly apparition that has appeared to him a few times. He becomes interested in the history of the house which leads him to the history of the times and all the various movements of Spiritualism, communal religious sects, etc. So he writes a story in which The American Colonization Society, prostitution, incest, greed, the treatment of mental illness in asylums, religious communities similar to Jonestown and Waco, suffrage, womens' rights, abortion, and, maybe most importantly, given the title, retribution. It is just too much to take in such everything but the kitchen sink description of life in antebellum , post Revolutionary America, all happening in one small area of the country. Perhaps, most disturbing is the quoting of Scripture by the incestuous Reverend of the commune, with complete attribution to chapter and verse.

And, the fact that every character in the book gets what is coming to him or her is just too unrealistic. All in all, it feels very heavy handed and dogmatic and, as stated in the opening paragraph, a tough read. For those who wish to further explore the themes and messages of the book there are 14 questions for discussion as well as a website for additional questions.

Had I not felt an obligation to review the book, I probably would not have finished it.

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  1. Hello Katherine,

    I’ll start by thanking you for taking the time to write a review for my book, Reverberation, The Novel. However, I must question whether you actually read the entire book. You end your review with the admission, “Had I not felt an obligation to review the book, I probably would not have finished it”.

    My concern is reinforced by your observation, “…the fact that every character in the book gets what is coming to him or her is just too unrealistic”. Actually, only Esther, Elias and Maris suffer from retribution, if you will, and they are secondary characters. The main characters, James Daunt and Sally Morley, mature throughout the book, and along with Conshy Joe and Lucy McDougal, move on to new challenges. Margaret looks forward to a life, perhaps not ideal, which is free from her exploitive sisters. The Reverend Goodenough, who had hidden his doubts and inadequacies behind quoted Biblical passages, finds renewed faith in himself and his God. (As an aside, Sally was a loose-moraled young woman, not a prostitute—there is a difference.)

    You lump Pleasant Valley with the cult communes, Branch Davidians and Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. Pleasant Valley was not conceived as a cult, and hopefully, was portrayed as a liberal, intellectual, utopian community patterned after 18th- and 19th- century experimental socialist cooperatives like the Oneida Community in upstate New York, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Brook Farm, in Massachusetts, and others that actually existed. This was the time of fiery itinerant preachers who roamed the Burned-over District of western New York speaking at revivals and camp grounds. Some of those evangelists, like Reverend Goodenough, settled down and started their own communes.

    Everyone comes to words, written or spoken, with his or her own frame of reference and I hope your aversion to “the quoting of Scripture …with complete attribution to chapter and verse” did not totally distract and color your reading of my story.

    In signing off, I have to note that your statement concerning the various issues which form part of the plot ends with “…and, maybe most importantly, given the title, retribution”. The title of the book is Reverberation, The Novel, not “retribution”.

    I realize my book is not for you and I respect your opinion. I also repeat my thanks to you for taking the time to write a review. Not exactly the one I would like, but I have gained insight from your comments.

    vb holmes

  2. I appreciate your comments on your work and am glad, for the sake of other readers that you have taken the time to make them. I did, indeed, read the whole book and did not merely scan it. Had I done so I would have made clear that I either did not finish it or read it selectively. I am quite aware of the Oneida community having grown up in NYS and with Hawthorne's Farm as well. In comparing Goodenough's commune to Jones and Branch Davidians my comparison was primarily made on the basis of all three men's sexual exploitation of their female followers--using whatever defense they chose but all as a result of a perverted interpretation of Scripture and presented as done in the service of God--either themselves or whatever God they purported to serve.
    I agree, that Sally was not a prostitute and that was a poorly chosen description on my part. Further, I should not have equated the echoing down through time the affects of the choices made by the characters, secondary or otherwise with the term retribution, or paying for those choices. These statements may perhaps alter somewhat my review but overall my review reflects my impression of the book.