Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Book Review: The Great Divorce, by Ilyon Woo

I could not put it down.

This book blew me away.

feminism noun

Click to hear the UK pronunciation of this wordClick to hear the US pronunciation of this word/ˈfem.ɪ.nɪ.zəm/ n [U]
the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.

I never understood feminism. It is odd, I know, for a woman of my age who was born in the 1960s, to say this. I was spoon-fed the doctrines of feminism. But I never understood it. Until I read Shirley, written by Charlotte Bronte, you could say I had missed the point of the feminist movement. (If you have not read that book, you well should, especially if you are a feminist.) And now, The Great Divorce, by Ilyon Woo, has been added to the list of must-reads for all young women.

Today women have equal footing under the law. It was not so in the 1800s. At that time, women and children were considered property (yes, property!) of the head of the household. When a woman married she was considered to be "civilly dead," or essentially, her rights as an individual ceased to exist under the law. This meant her earning potential was minimal, her credit and reputation was dependent upon her husband's support, and she could only regain her civil status in three ways. The first, and most usual, was through the death of her husband. The second, and likely the second most common way, was if her husband was jailed. And lastly, in a very rare occurrence, if the wife was granted a divorce. This was extremely rare, and in New York State, where our story unfolds, the only grounds was for adultery. There was a partial divorce (divorce of bed and board) which could be awarded in certain circumstances, but that was also rare, and did not restore a woman to her full status in the eyes of the law.

The Great Divorce tells the story of a woman, Eunice Chapman, who in the early 1800s took on New York State, her husband, and the Shaker Community to gain custody of her three children. It is a true story, and it was pieced together by Ilyon Woo through extensive research. Woo delved into newspaper articles, personal diaries, Shaker records, and some Legislative papers from NYS government, but most had been lost in a fire.

Eunice Chapman had married her husband, James, when both were older than average for the times. She was 26 and he was 41 years old. He was a widower with a child, she was a beautiful, petite woman on the verge of spinsterhood, and her family was in a financial crisis. It was not a marriage made in heaven. They had three children in five years, but James liked to drink. As their homelife deteriorated, James was more and more in the taverns, and eventually left Eunice outright. Because he abandoned her, she had no legal recourse (it was not grounds for divorce) and she ended up losing everything. The book describes how she survived a winter with barely enough food for her children and no fuel with which to keep them warm. She was an outcast in her church because abandoned women "must have done something to deserve it" and the book describes the circumstances Eunice and her children lived in after James left.

While he was gone, James found the Shakers. The Shaker Community was known for taking in anyone who needed shelter, and by anyone's standards, they offered a great arrangement. If you wanted to become a Believer, you would renounce your worldly possessions, make a confession to the elders, and commit to their lifestyle, then you could live among the Shakers as part of their community. They worked hard, held themselves to extremely high standards, were perfectionists of sorts, and they were celibate. If you could live with their rules and their schedules you were provided with very nice accommodations, an excellent and regular diet of high protein meals and delicious foods, and warm clothing. You did not earn an income in dollars and cents, but you would want for nothing at all. James wanted to join.

Because James was married, the Shakers required him to take care of his wife and children before he could join. The Shakers wanted James to bring his wife and children back, to become Believers. Short of that, he would have to provide for them. If he could not do this, they would not accept him. Well, that was in theory. In practicality, he was a strong man who could work hard, and he was needed. Therefore, when Eunice could not buy into the Shaker philosophy of religion, the community allowed her to take her children and go. But, without a divorce she was not free, and she kept going to see James, and ask him for financial support. Eventually, James and a Shaker Brother, kidnapped the three children and left Eunice to her own devices.

This book recounts the true story of a diminutive woman who took on the world to recover her children when she had no legal rights, and women who were in her situation were, more often than not, seen as crazed, wild women who deserved the circumstances they found themselves in. It is a page-turner that someone should make into a movie, it is so very shocking.

Woo does an excellent job at telling all sides of the story. She pieces together the story of James and what led him to the Shakers. She tells of the Shakers, their lifestyle, their thought processes, and how they waged their side of the battle. Woo goes into the heart of a mother, and describes the lengths that Eunice went to, and the suffering she endured in her fight to regain custody. I read the 416 pages, barely taking time to sleep, ignoring all responsibilities, to read Eunice's story. I could not put it down. All sides were clever in their actions, Eunice was cunning. We often wonder what we can endure, how we could overcome in the face of great adversity. Woo shows us what one woman can do. And, throughout the entire book, you just are not sure how it will all resolve. The story is told in a very readable style, logically laid out, background is filled in just where it needs to be, and the characters are fully developed. No small task when everyone died in the 1800s.

I am not a feminist, I do not believe in divorce, this book should have no interest for me. I read it on the recommendation of one of my library patrons. This book moved me, it is on my short list of favorite books. I will recommend this book to everyone. It is just that good. My question is what will Ilyon Woo follow this book up with? I cannot wait to see what is next!

This is a 416-page book, released in August 2010, by Atlantic Monthly Press. It is a non-fiction work.

This post will be linked to Book Blogger Hop and It is Monday, What Are You Reading.
Book Blogger Hop

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's here, it's here!

and I cannot wait to read it.  I've waited for months for this to come to the library. I hope it is as good as I expected!! 

The Great Divorce by Ilyon Woo.  Stay tuned for my review. 

Meanwhile, here is a link to her blog and a little teaser about the book.

Monday, January 24, 2011

News from the Vatican today.

It seems like there was quite a lot coming out of the Vatican today that interested me!

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Men and women have a natural right to marry, but that does not mean they have a right to a Catholic wedding, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Read more here.


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI invited Christians to join online social networks in order to spread the Gospel through digital media and discover "an entirely new world of potential friendships."

Read more here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fearless Friday: Friendship

Today, I would like to pray for friends. Friends and friendship make life sweeter.  I have a bunch of wonderful friends, internet friends, real-life friends, people who help brighten my days. I would like to remember all of my friends in prayer today whether sick or healthy, whether friend or acquaintance, whether real-life or internet, I will be praying for all of you today.

A Wish for a Friend

Wishing you a rainbow

For sunlight after showers—

Miles and miles of Irish smiles

For golden happy hours—

Shamrocks at your doorway

For luck and laughter too,

And a host of friends that never ends

Each day your whole life through!

An Irish Prayer

May God give you...

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile,

For every care, a promise,

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh, a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.

May God bless all of you, and in a special way I wish to recall Sweet Mary and Debbie to mind today.  They are both struggling with cancer, and need extra prayers of love, support and strength today and in the coming weeks.
This post is linked to Free Spirit Haven.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Story of A Cat

Note: Read through to the end for the link to a giveaway on another blog!!  Very pretty things!!

Please allow me to introduce Muffin, the cat I mentioned a few posts ago.  He is the boy who lived with The Oldest in her apartment when she left for college until recently when she moved to a new place where she could not have cats.  Since we still have his mother, a sister from his litter, and he was raised here, it only made sense to take him back.  Our girls are now fixed, but Muffin is not.  If you know anything about boy cats, you know, we must confine him to one room, and use due diligence in cleaning up after him, until he is fixed.  That is high on our priority list, but we need a little cashflow first!

Here is the Muffin-man, sleeping peacefully in my chair.  Why is he so peaceful?  Because he kept me up ALL night! 
During the day, I concocted an evil plan to exact revenge on Muffin, who was sleeping so peacefully while I was awake!!  I decided to put on his red harness and .....

...throw him in a snowbank!!  Instead he ran under the bush, and met with...THE DOG!!  Our dog, Sabrina, is very sweet, and very interested in the "new" cat!  Muff was not thrilled!
And, lastly, here is the Muffin Man, perfectly contrite, making nice with Mommy by sitting on my lap in my recliner, with my red blanket.  He seems to have learned his place.  Unless he is just trying to give me a false sense of security and he is only allowing me to think I am in charge for the time being.  To be continued...

This post is linked to Rednesday over at It's a Very Cherry World.

And check out this giveaway I found on Rednesday, very pretty things!

Baby it is cold outside (and inside too!)

Sad, but true.  Here I am at my computer, studying.  Do you like my ergonomic keyboard?  I LOVE IT!  And, that is my down lap blanket under the keyboard.  If you recall, I work on a laptop, but use my wonderful keyboard instead of the laptop keys.  Lately I have taken to working in the recliner, but the newest addition to my computer set up is the GLOVES.  Yes, that is right, I'm typing with gloves on because it is sooo cold in my house!  Cold and drafty!  I guess it is one of those things that makes living in a house built during George Washington's lifetime rather interesting. I never thougtht I could type with gloves on, but I have a pair of the kid's stretchy gloves on, and they fit, well they fit like a glove!  I definitely type faster, and with greater accuracy without the gloves, but this is fine for the moment!  Off to bed now, with hat, neckwarmer, and socks on.  I will be leaving the gloves next to the computer for the night.  Stay warm!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Teaser: Excitement at NFW

I'm still working pretty hard on my classes, after taking too long of a hiatus for the holidays.  So, now that I'm back to my classes, I will be working more on my blog too.  They seem to go hand in hand, when I need a break from studying I blog. It is all done at the computer.

I have some exciting things planned for the New Year at Never Fading Wood.  I added some advertising because I wanted to see how it all works.  We will see if I keep it or not.  I am not entirely sold on the idea, but thought I would give it a try.

I am working on some layout changes, I am planning some new features on my blog, and I have a surprise on the horizon as well.  But, no, if I told you now then I would have to change the title of my post from "A Teaser" to "The Reveal" and I'm not ready to do that yet! 

Check it out!

Look at the top of my blog!  I figured out (finally!) how to add pages!  If you are interested too, then visit my new tab Blogger Tips for the video that showed me how to do it.

Also, you will notice, there is a new tab for Project 2011: Cut the Crap!  If you would like to follow along, or join in, you will see that I have a tab for my list of things we are getting rid of.  I do hope you join me!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Project 2011

I do not generally make New Year's resolutions. But this year I've made a promise to myself. I am resolving to "cut the crap" out of my life, both literally and figuratively. The literal will be far easier. Therefore, on my blog this year you can expect to see posts called, "Project 2011" which will be updates on my progress.

When we moved into this house years ago, we were in the process of starting a used book business. We have well over 10,000 books crammed into our garage and our barn. We have about 2000 listed, though I think our data was lost in a computer crash. :/. I either need to get this family project back up and running, or get rid of the books and enjoy the spaces.

We also have been homeschooling for 14 years. One accumulates a lot of junk that way too. Books, papers, records, more books, more papers, curriculum catalogs, etc. Time to pare back and weed out my collection.

My personal book collection probably numbers close to 1000 volumes. Time to reduce that number as well.

Are you noticing a theme here? Books, books, books and more books.

But, aside from books I have the junk of six children, and a packrat husband. There is stuff everywhere in this house. My goal this year is to rid my life of all the excess stuff and clutter. It is time. My husband tells me he is on board with these efforts. We will see.

Meanwhile, yesterday I started tackling my bedroom. It is the catch-all for everything in the house that has no other home. My children will put the clothes they've outgrown in my room. My husband stashes every new book he buys in our room. Gifts are stored in my room. It is more of a processing center than a place to rest. I have a beautiful room (needs cosmetics like painting) but it is beautifully lit, a comfortable size, and a place I enjoy being in when it is neat. It just is not neat these days. I will post pictures when it is done, if I ever find the camera wire. My bedroom and the kitchen are the first two places on my hit list this year.

The kitchen really needs a total overhaul. The sink, the cabinets, the floor, they all need relacing and updating. The walls and ceiling need painting. The counter-tops need to be replaced after a small kitchen fire (oven mitt too close to the gas stove, doh!). I do not think I will have the money this year to take this on, but reorganizing and maybe a little paint can be accomplished this summer. We will see what the budget allows for.

Figuratively, there are things I just need to let go. Things that weigh down my heart and hold me back. It is time to move on. I think this resolution is too important to go by the wayside.

So, what books will I be reading to help me with this project?

How about starting here for ideas:

Anyone want to join me?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fearless Friday: Picture Perfect Edition

These are babies, children, and special folks who need prayers this week. I do not name names on my blog very often, so there are no names, God knows who we are praying for. The stories are listed below in no particular order.

The faceless pictures, swiped from facebook, represent all those who's pictures I did not have or could not get to upload, as well as you, and all of your prayer intentions. The front door of the house represents prayers for all of the occupants of this particular house pictured, as well as occupants of all of our homes. Pictured here are cancer patients, people suffering with difficult illnesses, preterm babies, children with illness, and one of these children is living in a family fighting to keep this child in their home. This child has been with them since birth, the family has already adopted all of this child's siblings. And now someone is trying to take the child before the adoption is finalized. It is ripping a child away from the only family, home, parents, etc that this child has ever known.

Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle.Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

So, despite not having names please pray for all of the intentions pictured here, as well as any in your heart. As always I am praying for you. God bless.

This post is linked to Angie over at Free Spirit Haven.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas Decorations Coming Down

Today we are taking down the Christmas decorations. Since we have lost our camera wire, I cannot upload any pictures, but I am very ready to be back to normal.

We had a lovely Advent and Christmas season with celebrations and family fun, but I suppose it is time to get back into the swing. We have had years where we have left the tree up until February 2nd, but most years I cannot last that long. We usually wait until after the Epiphany to take down the trimmings.

This year we had our first big Ephiphany celebration. We had The Oldest come, along with her Futbolista and we had a fish and seafood dinner Wednesday night. It was his birthday in December and we had not seen him for it yet, so we had a birthday party for him after dinner. Then Thursday we had Ephiphany gifts, 3 for everyone, except the Futbolista. He had a few extras because he wasn't here on Christmas morning.

We had a delicious brunch with baked eggs and French toast and then we settled into relaxing! For dinner we had some neighbors come over, and we had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, green beans, etc. Oh and coffee, lots and lots of coffee!

Heading backwards into the New Year we spent New Year's Eve with some neighbors. They spoiled us rotten with great food, friendship, and fabulous fun. We are blessed to have some really awesome people in our lives.

And, an update on our new cat. Muffin is settling in, the other cats are accepting him now. I almost think they are remembering each other. We often see them all snuggled up in a kitty-cat pile. It is not perfectly comfortable yet, we still have moments where they eye each other with suspicion, but they seem to be realizing they all have to live here together.

My baby nephew is home, and settling into his family now. His first night home was last night, so I am waiting to hear from my sister how they made out. Thank you for your prayers for my tiniest nephew. The pneumothorax had everyone a little stressed, but he is breathing and eating like a champ now. God is so good!

Hope and Change

This seemed a good follow-up to my previous post, and something I haven't done in a while. I would like to highlight a blog today, one I just found this morning.

What happened in AZ yesterday saddens me. We do not shoot people, we do not shoot our public servants because of differences in opinion, lifestyle, appearance, or religion. Sometimes the laws need to be tougher, punishments more severe for crimes committed, crimes like what we saw yesterday. This post summarizes perfectly how I feel.

This blog is called Hope and Change Cartoons, and I hope you will stop by and look at their cartoon today.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I have been an absentee blogger over the holidays, but now it is time to get back to routines and blogging and schoolwork.

We have a new addition to our family, Muffin. He is my daughter's cat. She moved over the holidays (The Oldest, who lives in NJ) from one apartment to another, and she cannot have her cat in the new place due to allergies. Therefore, her Muffin came home to live with us, and his Mommy cat and sister cat. It is not going terribly well, yet. It was not a spectacular family reunion, I guess cats are less sentimental than we humans are!

My sister gave birth to a baby boy between Christmas and New Year's Eve. He has been in NICU with a collapsed lung since he was a few hours old. Please pray for my new baby nephew.

We have had some lovely holiday celebrations since my last posting. We had a good friend in for Christmas dinner. Christmas brunch was with our family, and the grandparents stopped in to see the children. New Year's Eve had us with neighbors. My children all stayed overnight, and we had a great time with our dear friends.

Now I will be up cat-sitting a lonely little kitty who misses his mommy, my oldest daughter. I will be on the couch with the cat, so he does not have to be alone while he adjusts to our busy life. Going from living with the Oldest in her apartment, to living in a house with 7 people, 2 other cats and a dog is pretty traumatic. He is doing pretty well, but I do not want to leave him unattended for both his comfort and safety.

I have been reading some fabulous books, and am in the process of re-reading Austen (I love her!) so I hope to get back to the book blog posts soon.

Lastly, I just realized, as I sat to write this post, that I missed a deadline for CMO (Yikes!!) too much holiday time off, I suppose. So, as I toss and turn on the lumpy couch, I will be thinking of ideas to write and send off asap.