I want to share a few thoughts about Rich Ritter's book HEART OF ABIGAIL. What fun! It is somewhere between the Perils of Pearl Pureheart v. Oil Can Harry and The Annotated History of Juneau, Alaska. It has a poetic prose quality, and indeed, starts each chapter with a clever preamble for the chapter in free-flowing poetry. Story is the most important element in a book, in my opinion, and Rich is spot on. I got caught up in the antiquarian language and found myself in the old mining town as the opposing sides decided the Fates. The research is such that I was able to be there in Old Juneau and to separate it from the modern Juneau of my acquaintance. Rich is a clever writer, and this book is about as clever and consistent with its approach as ever there was. This is a must read, kindly believe me and have fun.
Heart of Abigail, by Rich Ritter, is an immensely enjoyable read, weaving a fine tale of hardship and romance amid the turmoil of Southeast Alaska’s historic gold rush era. The fictional heroine, Abigail Sinclair, is a skillfully written character, pulling the reader into her emotional journey of innocence, vulnerability, lost love and salvation. I’m not one to normally read romance stories, but this book’s many authentic photographs induced my interest until I almost felt as if I was there myself, smelling the salty air and feeling the cool wind of coastal Alaska where I grew up. Whether you are fond of history, Alaska, adventure, or just well-written fiction, Heart of Abigail will not disappoint.
When I was a young adult, my mother struck a gold mine at Costco; they were selling these three-packs of very well written historical fiction novels, and she bought every one in the series. I was at the age that I still enjoyed reading much more than watching "Home Improvement" reruns, so I got hooked on them. I'd bet that they're still stacked on a shelf somewhere in my parents' house, waiting for someone to revisit them.
I enjoyed the historical fiction genre because I could get my drama and education intake simultaneously, really seeing an event through the eyes of "someone who was there." After reading them, I felt like I'd been along for the ride on the Oregon Trail or on the fateful voyage of the Titanic.
So I was thoroughly pleased when Mr. Ritter came along with his new book, "Heart of Abigail, A Lyric Novella of Juneau, Douglas and Treadwell." A historical fiction novel including bouts of heroic verse, "Heart of Abigail" tells a story set in Juneau during the time of the Treadwell mines. (Apparently, it was his wife's idea.)
The book begins with a page of poetry, as does every subsequent chapter. The poetry, I feel, nicely enhances the prose. The author also inserts little first-person tidbits here and there, as if he is speaking face-to-face with his reader.
The plot is a combination of historical description and dramatic narrative, a story of love and hate, evil and good. But it's no soap opera. It's educational too.
I'm an ex-guide who used to lead tours through the Treadwell ruins. I'm pretty familiar with the history of the mine, which made the story quite exciting to me. However, the author has included an assortment of endnotes for those less familiar with the area's bygone days. The reader may choose to employ the endnotes during the reading of the book or once they are through with it. Historical photos are also included to provide a bit of visual context as to the places that are being described in the story.
The thing I enjoy most about Ritter's writing is the way he includes familiar elements to bring his readers close to the events of the story. These elements are things that Juneauites still experience on a daily basis: hearing the song of a varied thrush, the view of the Gastineau Channel from an office window, or listening to the rain. Ritter's descriptions brought me back in time, as if I was sitting amidst the bustling traffic of Treadwell during its prime.
After all, if you live in downtown Douglas, you could read "Heart of Abigail" while sitting in the very spot that its fictional events would have occurred. You can't get much closer to the action than that.
The original review can be found here.
Heart of Abigail is a historical fiction Lyric Novella. It is based on the gold miners and history of the communities in Juneau Alaska. The research and the characters make this successful. Using the characters, the author creates, along with the facts of the time, the book early on becomes a wonderful page turning book that left me wanting to know what was going to happen next.
The research by the Author is extremely accurate with pictures and great description. The Characters created by the author are certain and each one has an entirely different creative persona. The character of Abigail is created as the center of the book, but she will not fill up every scene and page. As the book shows, she is a moveable character and it makes for a true page turning effect that will keep the reader involved.
For readers who like Historical fiction you will love this, for those who like fiction with some history in it you will also love it. It is a book that is written for several types of readers and I myself thoroughly enjoyed this well written Novella.
I score from one to 5 stars. I give this a 4.5.
Thank you to the Author
No money was given and no grade asked for.
Coming-of-age experiences contrast with the Korean War in Ritter’s debut novel.
A single mother gives up her son, Timothy, for adoption, and the novel follows his life from childhood to adolescence and, finally, as a soldier in the Korean War. Throughout his life, Timothy struggles. Adoptive parents John and Martha do their best to raise him, but he falls in with two ne’er do wells, Wes and Raymond, who encourage bad behavior, theft and general nastiness. At various junctures in his youth, Timothy takes wrong turns, such as not visiting a potential girlfriend, instead choosing to get drunk. For some reason, as a teen, he is encouraged to babysit 6-year-old Cindy. Undaunted by his surly manner, she is kind to him and teaches him to waltz to Tchaikovsky. The music has a powerful effect, helping Timothy break out of his usual hostility and appreciate beauty. This scene is mirrored later when he helps a lost young Korean girl during the war; the music replays inside his head as he dances with her amid the rubble. Another parallel occurs when he encounters Jake, who helped his birth mother when she was desperate and alone, also aids Timothy in a similar fashion. While the narrative is strong in description, such as Timothy’s vision of a “shimmering paladin,” and in its dreamlike qualities, Timothy is a frustrating protagonist due to the poor choices he makes. When Humphrey is introduced as Timothy’s fellow Marine, the reader breathes a sigh of relief; he is the voice of sanity, reads Ecclesiastes (from which the book’s title is drawn) and actually listens to Timothy. Gunny Talbot, who leads the soldiers’ regiment, also is a mentor and offers guidance. The author has adopted children and his father fought in Korea, lending experience and believability to the subject, which is also enhanced by the author’s cited resources used in researching the war.
Ritter artfully and realistically depicts a rough road to adulthood with a wartime motif.
Original review is available here