In my last blog post, “A Quilt’s Journey Home” I wrote about a family quilt found in a thrift store in Arizona that made it’s way to a museum in Oregon and was written about in one of the leading newspapers in the state. That story and that quilt reconnected a lot of family members as they called each other to talk about the quilt’s story appearing in the paper. One of the unexpected gifts that came from that story was that I was connected on Facebook to a distant cousin whom I’d never met. That connection led to my learning about a book that she recently wrote about her family. It’s called, Veda: A Novel.
I purchased the book right away. I usually don’t have more than one book going at a time, but I didn’t want to wait to start reading this so I put the other book I was reading aside and began reading Veda. I couldn’t put it down.
So often genealogy is simply an exercise in learning names and vital statistics and you don’t often get to hear actual stories. And when you do…well, you just have to be prepared for the fact that not all the family members you “meet” on the way are going to be all that wonderful. This is the case with my grand uncle. He was Veda’s first husband. I never got to meet Veda. They divorced long before I was born. I did, however, meet my grand uncle, but I only saw him on a few occasions when I was quite young. Reading Veda made me want to shake some sense into this man….made me want to yell at him and tell him to step up and take care of his family….made me cringe that he’s one of the twigs in my family tree!
Veda is a story of resilience and impoverishment and religious fervor gone wrong. It’s a story of what happens when poverty and a lack of choices lead a person to make decisions out of necessity rather than desire. It’s a story of a mother who spends her life making sacrifices to provide for her children. Ultimately it’s a story of a mother’s love.
Ellen, the author, takes us on this journey using her mother’s voice — interspersed with entries from her father’s numerous diaries. You’ll find yourself feeling frustrated, angry, shocked, sympathetic, helpless, and sometimes overwhelmingly sad. But you also come away amazed at what the human spirit can endure without becoming bitter or giving up. Its beautifully written and though I finished it nearly two weeks ago I still hear Veda’s “voice” in my head….in many ways her story inspires me. I wish I could say the same about my uncle’s.