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||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
||Nov 13, 2012
Price: $4.99 (eBook)
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A saga of the assimilation of an immigrant rural community into the American mainstream in the decades lesding up tp the Civil War.
"Jacob's Cellar" traces four generations of assimilation of a German-speaking immigrant family into American life. The tale begins with a retelling of a family story of the long-forgotten "War of the Regulation," a rural North Carolina precurser to the Revolutionary War culminating in 1771, in which farmers took up arms against corrupt colonial officials and were put down decisively in the so-called Battle of Alamance.The family leaves North Carolina as refugees from that conflict, moving west to lawless Tennessee and eventually further west to Missouri. There, their descendants are caught up in the Mexican War (1846-48) for which Missourians provided many of the American troops. A decade later those troops would be the core of the ill-fated Missouri State Guard that would be converted to the Missouri component of the Confederate Army and be decimated in the Civil War. The novel concerns the experience of ordinary rural Americans caught on the wrong side of history in most respects, participants in a journey leading to the disintegration of old cultural identities and assimilation into the larger society. Their individual triumphs and tragedies are tales of survival through these overwhelming events.
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Book Festival, 2014 (General Fiction)
“History belongs to the one who tells the better story,” old Grandpa Fentress, patriarch of the Ebhart clan, tells his family of hardy Missouri pioneers, as they huddle in the cellar seeking shelter from a storm. That doesn’t mean, he adds coyly, that you can’t “brighten it up with a little invention. Damn it all, if people didn’t make things up, we’d have no history at all.”
That two-part theory of what makes up history is at the core of Richard Sharp’s Jacob’s Cellar. It is the story of an immigrant family, as told by the storytellers within the group—chief among them the blind grandfather. There is a great deal of drama and action in the book, most of which takes place in the basement shelter of the novel’s title and is delivered second- or thirdhand during family gatherings.
The grandfather and others pass on family lore, much of it admittedly embellished or tweaked (often with bits of Edgar Allan Poe or Shakespeare, as the storytellers sometimes admit in more private conversations) to make it more interesting, exciting, or palatable depending on the age and gender of the audience. Some stories date from the time of the American Revolution, others from the great trek westward across the Alleghenies or from the Mexican-American War, but all are told during the years just prior to and during the Civil War.
Sharp’s characters speak that imperfect, regional American English of the place and period. Some characters, notably the grandfather, who was a school teacher, are quite erudite while others seem barely literate. The dialogue feels right, however, no matter who is speaking, and the relationships among the members of this often contentious, multigenerational, and, in parts, inbred brood run the gamut from funny to poignant.
That so much of the action, however, even the battles and challenges which family members go through during the Civil War, is related only through stories and letters does get a bit wearing. The novel intentionally violates the “show me, don’t tell me” rule of literature, and, as such, is in stark contrast to the Micheneresque sagas with which readers of this genre are likely more familiar. As almost everything that happens is told rather than shown or acted out, the book takes on the flavor of either a play or a series of family gatherings. Many readers may be enthralled by this, but others may tire of it, wishing instead to be thrust into the action rather than have it told to them after the fact.
Sharp has done his research on the rugged and dangerous life of these hardy pioneers and the northwest corner of Missouri in which they settled. Those sections concerning family experiences in the numerous wars are particularly well done, especially in the way they relate the daily hardships and tragedies—and not just the glories—of military service. There is also romance, adventure, humor, and sadness in the book, as there is in any family’s story.
Despite the grandfather’s caution about the need to “brighten it up with a little invention,” this is history that is well told, believable, and accurate—with a few things made up just to enliven the telling.
Stuffed Shelves Review
This is the second book I have read by Mr. Sharp, so I was excited to start Jacob's Cellar because I enjoyed The Duke Don't Dance so much
This is a book written in a multi-narrative point of view during the Civil War. Each character is an immigrant who is seeking shelter the basement. The leader of the group has been appointed to the blind grandfather who spends his time telling stories of family lore. He spices up many of his stories incorporating the popular stories originally told by Edgar Allan Poe, and Shakespeare. How much he incorporates and what he adds to his own stories, is determined by which family member he is telling the story to. There is a wide variety of ages incorporating three generations of family member which means lots of attention is on grandpa to entertain the with stories told from the American Revolution to the Civil War.
I wish some of the stories would have been written in a flashback point of view. I believe it would have gripped the reader in a much stronger way, but I am absolutely not disappointed how Mr. Sharp developed this book. I was engrossed with action and drama which goes to prove you don't have to incorporate different settings to keep the reader's attention. This is my only complaint about the book and Richard Sharps writing style.
Each character comprised in this book all had such strong and different personalities. Everyone had their strong and weak attributes, all bringing different qualities to the table in order to work efficiently as a family.
My favorite part of Jacob's Cellar was the great amount of different narration. It was so fun and interesting to read about every character and the stories that built up their personalities. You can put a large timeline of stories from multiple generations just by reading of a family who shared everything with one another.
Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
Jacob's father Sebastian and his uncle came to America years earlier as Dutch immigrants and settled in the western part of North Carolina. The family moved on to Tennessee after fighting against local militia. In 1836 they migrated to Missouri where Jacob Ebhart obtained land. Under their house he built a cellar that would serve for storage and protection from the weather. However, during the Civil War the cellar served another purpose. In 1859 war loomed on the horizon and Jacob's cellar could be entered from the back porch of the weathered house. Jacob's son Jake went off to fight in the 1846 battle against Native Americans and Mexicans and later for the Confederacy when the Civil War began.
"Jacob's Cellar" by Richard Sharp is the well-written and totally absorbing story of a family with Dutch roots that came to this country before the Revolutionary War and stayed on, moving as fate necessitated, through the difficult decades of the 1800's. The characters, both leading and secondary, are well-created and totally believable. I felt as if I knew them personally. Sharp's characters show tenacity. "The illusion that they could survive as a little Dutch village in a sea of illiterate English and Scot frontiersmen was pretty much gone." The plot-line tells the history of those times in vivid detail. The conclusion is not to be missed. Wow!
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