Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: The Year the Stars Fell

For almost as long as I can remember, I have been a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her book series Little House on the Prairie.  I first became acquainted with Laura (yes, we are on a first-name basis) when the TV show aired in the 70s.  Somehow I didn’t know that there were books about my favorite TV show until I attended my school’s book fair with my second grade class.  As soon as I saw the yellow paperback book showing the back of a covered wagon with two little girls peering out the back, the decision on which book to buy was over.  The book about the black and white dog went back on the shelf and was never missed! I devoured the book, followed by Farmer Boy which my mom bought me while on a trip to town for school clothes a few months later, and followed yet again with the rest of the series that I received for Christmas.  So for the last 40+ years, I have loved historical fiction, particularly those set in the 1800s.  I love the courage and fortitude of the pioneers who faced danger on a daily basis.  I admire their hard work ethic and ingenuity in making do with what they have.

I chose to request a copy of The Year the Stars Fell and was given a copy to read.  All opinions are my own.

I originally thought I would review maybe a book a month or so for Celebrate Lit, but was quickly introduced to many intriguing books that sounded too good to pass up.  I love the title The Years the Stars Fell.  It made me want to read the book to find out where that fit into the story. Finding out the book is a historical novel set in the 1800s in Michigan Territory sealed the deal.

The Year the Stars Fell is a very good story, but not a great one (because, let’s face it, not everyone can be Laura Ingalls Wilder).  I love that it is based on real people, the first settlers of now-extinct North Newburg, MI.  It is evident that the author did extensive research to include bits and pieces of true history mixed in with engaging details from her imagination.  I love that she included the fact that the three younger sisters loved to sing all the time.  Given the time period, it makes sense that they would have sung the old hymns, many of which I am familiar with because we sing them regularly in my church.  I do wish that the words had been set apart in verse form rather than within the narrative.  Another neat surprise was the inclusion of an illustrated map at the front of the book.  After finishing the book and looking back at the map, I wish the map had included pointing out where Betsey and Aaron’s property was located.  Still, it was a welcome, nice touch.  Also true to the time period, I liked how the Bible verses were from the King James Bible (which is what I use exclusively).  {Note to the author:  the credits in the front mention both the NIV and the KJV in the same credit.  I don’t know if that’s a mistake or not.}  The Baker family is noted to have had a young child named Alexander Stevens, though no one knows the how and why he came to live with the family.  I do like how the author included him in the story. 

There were a few things that I would’ve liked to have seen improved upon.  There are some details that are repetitious.  Betsey is kind of a whiner and a worrier, and I wish that could have been shown in a different way rather than reading through a ton of her thoughts.  She was very well portrayed as a good, dutiful wife and daughter, a hard worker who sought to honor both her husband and her parents.  I saw quite a few grammatical errors which I hope will be corrected for future editions, but it didn’t take away from the story as a whole.  (I’m a teacher, so I notice these things.)  We were told the age of the eldest of the three younger sisters, but I didn’t know the ages of the two youngest.  I like to know details like that.  I also would have liked to have known what happened to Ma’s missing barrel.  Maybe it’ll show up in the next book?  I’ll look forward to finding out! 

About the Book

Book:  The Year the Stars Fell
Author: Elizabeth Wehman
Genre:  Christian Historical Fiction
Release Date: April 14, 2020

In the spring of 1833, newlywed Betsey Baker-Swain’s simple life changes when she and her husband, Aaron, make a hasty decision to join Betsey’s family on a move from Pennsylvania to Michigan Territory.

Along the way, rainstorms, freezing temperatures, seasickness, and lack of privacy pale in comparison to what the family will encounter once arriving at their destination. Soon, daily trials will include ear-piercing howls of wild wolves, bad weather, clouds of mosquitoes, and disturbing situations with the natives. Even then, Betsey wonders if this trip will finally quench her father’s adventurous spirit.

Over the next year, the Baker family will gain incredible strength, divine trust, and unexplainable courage, but will it be enough to keep them at the tiny cabin by the twisting Shiawassee River? Will uncertainty overtake their determination or will God’s intervention sustain them enough to become a part of the history of a new land?

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Elizabeth Wehman’s writing career spans over thirty years and encompasses curriculum, periodical, journalism, and novel writing.
Her dream has always been to write novels and Elizabeth launched her first contemporary fiction, Under the Windowsill, in 2014. Since then, she’s added four titles to her shelf. They include: Promise at Daybreak, Just a Train Ride, Mere Reflection, and her latest complete historical work, The Year the Stars Fell.
She found the historical genre to be filled with rabbit trail research as well as walks through bygone cemeteries. The pioneers, of the early nineteenth century, reflected an amazing stamina and a determined courage to venture into the unknown. The Year the Stars Fell is based on a forgotten village established in the Territory of Michigan in 1833. She fell in love with the Baker family and the information she discovered about them gave way to folklore and tales of the early homesteaders. Two future novels are planned that will include the continuation of the nineteenth century farming community. The series will be called, ‘The Newburg Chronicles’.
In her spare time, Elizabeth loves to read and enjoys being out in nature. Her favorite places are digging in her flower garden, listening to the birds as they herald a new day, or taking a walk on the country roads surrounding her home in Michigan.
Elizabeth has been a trucker’s wife for over thirty years which helps supply the needed solitude to produce extraordinary stories. She has three grown children, four grandpuppies, and two sons-in-law.

More from Elizabeth

My “Stars” book began to emerge after doing research about the county where I live, here in Michigan. On an information discovery about another book, I came across the story of the Baker family. They were highlighted as the one of the first farming families to enter Michigan Territory in 1833. Hosea Baker brought his entire family from Pennsylvania to settle on 600 acres in an area beside the Shiawassee River.

Joining him there were his wife, Sally, his grown son Ambrose, his daughter and her husband, Betsey and Aaron Swain, and some younger daughters. While there, they hooked up with a boy named Alexander Stevens. Their first year included: building a home and barn, clearing and planting the first crops in the county, setting up a household, and Betsey giving birth to the first recorded child in the county. Betsey and Aaron named their new baby, Julia.

So much intrigued me about their story. I was excited to flesh it out with the help of short excerpts written in a Shiawassee County history book from 1888. From these short tidbits about the family, I soon embellished a story which is a mere glimpse into what their story could have included during their first year as settlers in a vast wilderness.

Much of the story is from my own imagination, but many of the highlights include the excerpts written about the family in 1888. After writing their story, I now feel a specific kinship to them.  This is my first complete historical fiction work. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

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To celebrate her tour, Elizabeth is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of The Year the Stars Fell and a $25 gift card to Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, which can be used online!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

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