Eden by Jamie Lisa Forbes
Publisher: Pronghorn Press, (May 25, 2020)
Category: Literary Fiction, Southern Fiction, Family Fiction
Tour dates: May & June, 2020 | ISBN: 978-1-941052-32-2
Available in Print and ebook, 285 pages
Rowen Hart has been raised as the pampered son and only child of a prominent family in the small community of White Rock, North Carolina. It’s the 1950s and he’s drifting through the days, following the life path his parents have planned for him and preparing to go away to college. When his father’s suicide turns his world upside down, he finds himself responsible for his mother in their suddenly reduced circumstances that leave them dependent on his uncle, his father’s business partner.
Ill prepared to take over as head of the family, Rowen doesn’t know which way to turn. Then a neighbor’s ten year old daughter comes to live with them, baffling him with her wild behavior and never ending attempts to win his approval and making his new responsibilities even more overwhelming.
As Rowen tries to find his way, he begins to question everything about his upbringing, his current circumstances and his plans for the future as they turn to dust in his hands.
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REVIEW by LAWonder10:
Eden is a very interesting tale about challenges, tragedies and hardship a few people in a small community experience.
This is a story set in a time where prejudice still exists, the naivety of youth, corruptness of wealth and power, and injustice.
The coming of age story of a young man, two very young girls and of individuals variations of facing life and loss.
I felt so bad for Eden - a young girl who was so full of life, tried to be honest, straight forward and helpful, yet life was so hard and unfair to her.
The story was captivating except at times it skipped too long of a time period without a summary or lead into the next time frame. The ending was rather weak.
The characters were described well and felt real. The scenes were quite well portrayed. The plot was a very good story idea.
I offer a Three and a Half Stars rating.
I was gifted this book with no pressure for a positive review. This is my honest review.
“Throughout this beautifully written story (Unbroken), I pictured the scenes, the characters, and visualized it all as if I walked among them. Five stars.”-Laurel Rain-Snow, Rainy Days and Mondays
“Unbroken is a powerful, absorbing book from the first page to the last. Forbes’ Wyoming ranch background adds rich flavors to the story. The author draws realistic, complex characters. Unbroken is an unvarnished testimonial to a way of life that few of us know.”– Mary E. Trimble, author of ‘ TUBOB: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps’
“The Widow Smalls, is a collection of wonderful stories that will elicit a range of emotions, following a number of different themes, like loss, jealousy, regret and acceptance. Each of the stories was as well written as the last, and I enjoyed each one immensely. Wonderful diverse plots, linked with the similar thread of ranch life, and defined characters, made for a truly great read. Author Jamie Forbes, has really created something special here, a must read for all short story lovers.”- Michelle Geist, Verified Amazon Review
Q.: Where do you get the ideas for creating personalities for your characters? How to make your characters believable?
A.: For most of the major characters in my fiction, I have had a person in mind to base the character on. But I don’t think I am going to be saying new when I say that the key to characterization of a major character is voice. I can’t go anywhere with a character if I don’t have a strong bold voice for that character. That voice becomes the driver of the fiction and I am in the passenger seat with my glasses and a map. A real map with all those annoying folds.
I know I have created a good voice and a strong character if I find myself wrestling with the character about the turns we will make. Although I start writing with a broad outline in my head about the story, as my heroes and heroines become more and more real to me, they act on their own. To take an example from Eden, I had always planned that Rowen’s marriage would be fraught. He had married too young, he was immature, he had no concept of love. The same things could be said for Jewell, his wife, plus her rigidity was an added trigger for trouble. What I had not anticipated in this hot mess of a marriage was that Rowen really would grow to love and appreciate Jewell. He didn’t sour on the marriage as I had first imagined. I had intended an unbreakable bond between Rowen and Eden, but as Rowen traveled over the pages, I saw that he viewed his first major choice in his life, his marriage, to have been a good choice. Until the end of the novel when guilt forces Rowen to break with his community, his inclination is always to seek refuge in the expected and with that outlook, Jewell herself became a comfortable and welcome refuge for Rowen. Rowen’s love for Jewell was congruent with his internalization of the structure of his community: marriage, family, work, church.
Once I recognized that development in Rowen, Jewell herself became much more sympathetic than I originally had intended. I know I did not anticipate their final reconciliation when I began writing years ago.
Details are the tools I use to enhance characterization. Daily lived experience, for me, is a rich pantry and when I am building a scene and the characters’ interactions within that scene, I will rummage in that pantry for the right details that will sharpen the characters’ responses. For me, details build credibility. An example in Eden would be Rowen’s admission to his employer early in the novel that he had skipped a morning’s work in the tobacco fields to watch the murder trial. The employer chastises him. Just then, the mule, Hester Prynne, starts peeing. With my background, any kind of animal peeing is nothing remarkable, but for Rowen who feels such shame at his family’s demise, the mule peeing becomes another voice of damning judgment.
Minor characters are the most challenging to write. They are role-players. They influence the plot, but the trick is to develop them so they have plausibility and are not stereotypical. Depending on where and how they appear in the story, that might demand succinct writing as well. In this novel, one such character was Coman Whitney, Eden’s mother. Coman Whitney is a villain from the first, but she still needed to be plausible so that Rowen’s refusal to stand up for Eden would appear all the more damning. After several attempts at Coman, I decided to play on her motives to build her character, specifically her bitterness at having spent her married life in poverty and her growing resentment for her husband. There too, I relied on the details of daily living to showcase her feelings, namely her comment to Rowen that, whatever his misery, he had running water where, every day, she had to haul water from a well, leaving her baby to scream alone in the house.
About Jamie Lisa ForbesAward winning author, Jamie Lisa Forbes was raised on a ranch along the Little Laramie River near Laramie, Wyoming. She attended the University of Colorado where she obtained degrees in English and philosophy. After fourteen months living in Israel, she returned to her family’s ranch where she lived for another fifteen years.
In 1994, she moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2001, she graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law and began her North Carolina law practice.
Her first novel, Unbroken, won the WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction in 2011. Her collection of short stories, The Widow Smalls and Other Stories, won the High Plains Book Awards for a short story collection in 2015. Her law practice gave her the opportunity to travel many of the back roads of North Carolina and meet the unique and diverse individuals who inspired Eden.
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