Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mystic Sweet Communion

"What is it about water that makes me dream of it so often? The lapping of the New River against pilings outside the camp, perhaps, sounds that now send me to sleep? Maybe it's the memory of 1896, sloshing through land still saturated by hurricanes, wet toes a constant even in the wagon that should have been dry but never seemed to be with six children scrubbed feet first by south Florida's steamy-water milieu."
Thus starts the prologue of Jane Kirkpatrick's novel, Mystic Sweet Communion. Jane is one of my favorite authors, writing wonderful fiction based on fact stories of historical women who are little known but who have made a great impact on our lives. Jane is a local Oregon author who I have had the pleasure of meeting and we share a close family friend, so reading her books is all the more special.

Mystic Sweet Communion is set in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the early 1900's before it was really even a town. Jane tells the story of Ivy Cromartie Stranahan who gave up her school teaching career to join her husband at his trading post in a little place called New River, (now Fort Lauderdale). Ivy was a very strong willed woman who chose, along with her husband, Frank, to have a celibate marriage in order to not have any children. This decision came about because of a tragedy Ivy experienced when she was very young and watching her mother have 12 pregnancy's and die at an early age from childbirth. Ivy loved children and also had a love of the Seminole people of south Florida, so became a major spokesperson for the Seminole people, teaching them forbidden English and Christianity, not to change them but to help them survive in an every changing hostile world.
This is a wonderful book that takes you right into the world of the 1900's, making you laugh and cry for the lives of these wonderful people. After reading this, I want to rush right down to Florida to visit the Stranahan homesite and museum.

A couple of my favorite passages are as follows:

Advice Ivy is getting from her teacher and mentor as she sets out to take the first school of her own. We could all use this advice in raising our own children:
"Set the rules clearly and sternly, the very first day," Ada had said. "You can always go easy later, but once discipline is gone, you'd more easily wrestle alligators than get it back."

This passage is from Ivy's journal after seeing the proud Seminole people gather at the trading post for the first time:
"It's said that the southern half of Florida is truly just a giant river that flows so slowly south it's inhabitants fail to notice as it shifts from freshwater to salt, from solid ground to marsh. We've come to call it the Everglades with it's two seasons of winter and summer, wet and dry. But it could describe our lives as well, the inexplicable, almost imperceptible, movement and change. The times of fullness and moisture when our thirsts are quenched, followed by dryness when our souls feel cracked open and empty. Each is needed in the cycle of life. Each promises the return of the other. Lessons and guidance come packaged within. Each is recognized as part of our lives, though not awaited with the same songs of expectance."

A truly fabulous book, as are all of Jane's work.


Blogger Booklogged said...

Paula, I hope you know what you've done - you've introduced me to a new author that you've made sound so wonderful. Normally that would be a good thing, but right now I'm swimming in books that I need and want to read. Where am I going to fit any more in? That's not to say I'm not adding her to my TBR list because I am.

Wonderful review.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

thanks for the book review I too love the writings of Jane Kirkpatrick
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving

4:17 PM  

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