Thursday, July 6, 2023

Today's read... Chasing Eleanor by Kerry Chaput

Although I do have a soft spot for historical fiction, I don't seem to pick it up as often as I would like. Today's read heads into the past and sets itself during the Great Depression. Based on a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, the tale is said to be heart-wrenching, gritty, and inspiring. Let's find out if it holds all of that and more.

by Kerry Chaput
Black Rose Writing
YA Historical
325 pages

Newly orphaned Magnolia Parker must protect her sick little brothers, but when the authorities send the boys to an unknown orphan asylum, Magnolia calls on her unwavering grit to bring them home. She's lost everything but still has a secret weapon—a promise from Eleanor Roosevelt, the most famous woman in America. Setting out on a cross country quest, she befriends two unlikely travelers: Hop, a migrant worker with a big heart, and Red, a young girl traumatized into silence. Hunger and dust storms aren't the only dangers this found family faces on the rails. After an assault, they're forced to outrun the police, all while trying to track down the First Lady. But time is running out and Magnolia's chance to reunite her siblings depends on one thing—finding Eleanor.

Award-winning historical author Kerry Chaput is back with a touching story of loss and survival set in America's Great Depression. With vivid details and unforgettable characters, Chasing Eleanor takes readers on an adventure of the heart, where a young woman finds hope in the most unlikely places. A touching tribute to the great Eleanor Roosevelt, this adventure- filled story will entertain and inspire all ages.

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These pages rake through hopeless situations and seemingly endless stumbling blocks in a fight of determination and a sibling love, which inspires.

Magnolia does the best she can to keep her two brothers, dying mother, and herself fed. While they have a type of roof of their heads, she knows they're hanging on by a last, frayed thread. With the mother's death comes, at least, the chance for Magnolia to land a job. Not that it really pays the bills, but work of any kind is a blessing and rarity. A miraculous twist of fate brings her face to face with her idol, Eleanor Roosevelt, who promises to help her if ever the need. But the moment Mrs. Roosevelt travels to the next town, disaster strikes in all the worst ways. Magnolia finds herself with nothing. Even her two brothers have been taken away, but she's not about to give up and sets out on a journey to get her brothers back...if there's even the slim chance she can.

This tale is set during the Great Depression and begins in a small town, where poverty is ruining many lives. There is nothing happy about the beginning situation as Magnolia struggles to keep everyone alive. This hits with grit as she faces a verbally abusive, dying mother while trying to help two younger brothers, who aren't in a great place themselves. Plus, it sets the tone for the rest of the read, one which holds raw moments and tough paths. The reader can't help by root for Magnolia as she fights at every turn, and her mistrust toward others is more than understandable. This isn't a sunshine read, but rather drags through the dark corners of poverty and greed. Still, there are moments of light, and that's what helps Magnolia (as well as the reader) pull through.

While the plot has Magnolia in more than a few rough places, there's a constant message of inspiration and encouragement. Especially Eleanor Roosevelt's quotes push Magnolia forward and help her grasp the inspiration to continue through even the most desperate moments. The same ideals Eleanor Roosevelt publicly supported carry through the adventure and show how far women in society have come and what battles. It also promotes support for children and those less fortunate. It's a message, which urges people to continue forward and find the strength to carry on. And of course, it addresses more than a few problems, details, and personalities of that time frame, making it a rich historical journey as well.