Go Away Home” by Carol Bodensteiner is a beautiful book about a family in Iowa in 1913. Despite drama and tragedy they remain strong and supportive of each other. Young Liddie, the main character wants to move to the nearby town to train as a seamstress. Her character is like one of Jane Austin’s best (Liddie in one scene of the book actually does read Austin): naïve, innocent but also ambitious and good hearted. Her sister Amelia falls pregnant out of wedlock and her father gets seriously injured in an accident and suffers from concussion, leaving the family with a few problems to resolve.
Her brother Vern initially has issues with Joe, a German boy the family take in but the rivalry settles. The members of the family then seem to be going their own ways, particularly Liddie who starts to train as seamstress and starts to make a name for herself in town.
Bodensteiner has created excellent characters, likeable, detailed and full of life. They serve well to illustrate the spirit of the times, whether that be the morals of unwanted pregnancies, ideas about the vote for women or courting manners.
The descriptive details and historical accuracy of the writing is impeccable, in particularly the portrayal of farm life and of the boarding house that Liddie
stays in is very impressive and with a talent like this Bodensteiner makes it easy for her readers to feel as if they are in the place themselves.
There is a very authentic feel of the writing, it reminded me of the world of possibilities that America was in those days, not just for immigrants. Some characters move around the castness of the country to seek new opportunities. Liddie is young and she too has to make some decisions about her life and take chances.
The book is full of interesting side characters, be that an excitable friend at the boarding house or Liddie’s employer.
War threatens to bring the world upside down, the German sensitivities, the draft and evens ome opportunities force more decisions on the cast.
And then there is the matter of Liddie’s love life, her opportunities, her choices and her coming of age.
This is a wonderful family saga that with its love and attention to historical detail is nothing short of a magical step back in time. It shows us the happy and the sad aspects of life, many themes of the times and it does so with hope and a strong and positive message of optimism. A real feel good book.
The book has been shortlisted as a 2014 finalist at the readers favorites https://readersfavorite.com/2014-finalists.htm
Hi Carol, please tell us a little about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?
Toward the end of my thirty-year business career, I was “called” to write about my family. Actually my mother had been “calling” me for years. “You’re a writer,” she said. “You can write about our family.” Though she made no distinction between business writing and creative writing, I’m grateful that I finally acted on her persistence. The stories I wrote at first were journalistic in nature, but they were the basis for what became my memoir Growing Up Country, stories of life on a family farm in the middle of the United States in the middle of the 20th century.
Mom was constantly feeding me little bits of family history. Various facts and one-sentence stories stuck, and those became the starting place for my novel Go Away Home published this month.
Tell us about this book? How did you decide on the characters, plot and title?
Go Away Home is the story of a young woman’s quest for independence and the right to decide her own future set against an early 20th Century backdrop when options for women were limited yet social change was occurring and the Great War was on the horizon.
I started with a few basic facts from family history and wrote my way into the story. Liddie Treadway is the main character, a farm girl who wants to get the city, get a job, explore the world – but NOT get married. This is not the path either her family or society consider respectable for a young woman. The novel explores the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices as clear-cut, as we often hope they are, and that when confronted with the conflict between dreams and reality we sometimes learn that getting what you want can be a two-edged sword.
The title Go Away Home sets up one of the key themes of the novel – the pull between choices. Liddie has to ultimately decide what kind of life she wants and what she’s willing to give up to get it.
What made you decide to write about that particular period and the places?
The seed for Go Away Home was planted when I learned that my grandfather died of the Spanish flu in 1918. My connection to that major world event has always been in my mind. When I finished writing my memoir, I opened my mind to the next project. NANOWRIMO encouraged me to give fiction a try. In one month, I put down 55,000 words in a manuscript that was the genesis for Go Away Home. Since I never asked my grandmother a single question about my grandfather and their lives together, the story is entirely fiction
I have more of a connection to the era since writing the novel than I had before. Initially, the place was my greatest connection since I’ve set the action for the novel in the eastern Iowa county where I grew up. Having a clear image in my mind of the places where action took place – both on the farms and in town – helped me in the writing. The more research I did, the more I became a fan of the era.
How did you research?
My research was extensive and what I found informed my writing. When I could, I went on-site to fix places in my mind. A farm kitchen at the Living History Farm, a high-society Victorian-era house in the county seat. The Internet yielded info I couldn’t get elsewhere – old issues of Kodak magazines for professional photographers and YouTube videos of Model T cars, for example. A friend who works in the county historical museum and another whose family owns a rural telephone company were incredibly helpful. I’m fortunate to have an uncle who grew up on a farm pre-electricity. I couldn’t have dreamed up things half as interesting as the reality I found through my research.
What fascinates you most about it?
The early 20th century had so much going on. Kodak put photography in the hands of the masses with their Brownie cameras. The suffragettes were active in seeking the vote for women. Automobiles were becoming more common even if the mud roads in Iowa did not make motor transportation easy. Europeans were immigrating to the United States in large numbers, a movement that made the country ripe for other problems, including the issue of “excess children” in the large east coast cities. So many events taken together create a fascinating time.
Would you write about the same era again or move on to a different one for your next book?
That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer yet. I’m waiting for the creative muse to point me in the direction of my next writing project. What I am fairly certain is that like my memoir and my novel, my next project will be rooted in the heartland of United States.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about my new novel, Christoph. If your readers would like to check it out, they can read an excerpt on my website. Here’s the link: www.carolbodensteiner.com/books/
Read the first chapters now:
Carol Bodensteiner – Bio
Carol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published her memoir GROWING UP COUNTRY in 2008. GO AWAY HOME is her debut novel.
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl is available in paperback and ebook formats from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Up-Country-Memories-Iowa/dp/0979799708/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Go Away Home is available in paperback and ebook formats from Amazon.
Read the first chapter now. www.carolbodensteiner/books/