I'm a late starter in the world of Indie publishing. I published my first novel, Leap the Wild Water, in March of this year at the ripe age of fifty-five. I've been creatively writing for years but this was the first novel I'd written which I felt was worthy of publication. I live in the wilds of Wales, a landscape which is little changed from the 19th century era in which Leap the Wild Water is set. Fortunately, unlike the landscape, life is very different now from the way it was back then, especially for women. In the past, the majority of women suffered great hardship and inequality, and were subject to blatant sexual double standards. Women were rendered powerless by the religious doctrine and cultural beliefs of the time, much as they still are in many parts of the world. Women who dared to break the rules were often cruelly punished, not only by larger society but also by their own families. Maybe its because I came from a large family of ten children, but I've always been intrigued by the ways in which society impacts on individual lives. This interest is reflected in my writing. In the main, I blog about how life used to be for rural people; discoveries I made while researching my novel. I also blog reviews about books I've found outstanding.
Leap the Wild Water
It is so difficult, sometimes, to do a book justice with a review. Whatever words I find to express how much I loved this book, and why, I know my words will be left wanting. Beyond John Dann is a remarkable achievement by this talented new author, Thurman P. Banks Jr. I can’t think of any other novel I’ve read where the narrator’s voice is so convincing that I had to remind myself I was reading a fictional work. The author has imagined this story in such depth, knows his characters so well, I feel I have met John Dann and his family, personally, and walked John’s journey alongside him.
This coming-of-age novel begins with a heart-breaking childhood, and follows John Dann through the ups and downs and emotional turmoil of growing up and searching for love. John is the last child of a mother who is wholly lacking in maternal instinct, and a father who cannot control his rages. Though his father never lays a hand on him, John is witness to the regular beatings his mother and older sisters’ receive. It was incredibly moving to see the older two sisters bear the brunt, often putting themselves forward for punishment to protect the younger ones.
At the heart of this story is the lasting and intense loyalty, love, and solidarity between these siblings; their bonds are forged in the painful fires of childhood, and are unbreakable. As John stumbles into adulthood, struggling to cope with the pains of love and loss, those sisters have moved on to lives of their own and John has to learn to fend for himself. There are times he almost doesn’t make it, but those sisters are always there, somewhere, ready to pick him up and help him back on his feet. Though their childhood is so lacking in love and care, these siblings are able to provide that for each other.
Despite the cruelties and neglect of his childhood, John’s capacity for forgiveness and compassion is boundless. Few feel able to forgive so much, or feel compassion for those who so badly betray. Through the character of John Dann, the author shows us that it is possible. John learns to accept his parents’ failings and goes on loving them, despite it all.
This book brims over with beautiful lines. I found myself bookmarking pages because I wanted to read them again and again. There are wise and witty observations of life, and philosophical words of inspiration, all through the extraordinary voice of the self-effacing and loveable character that is John Dann. It is a novel that is breath-taking in all that it encompasses; love, loss, loyalty, solidarity, forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, hope, humanity and survival.
I highly recommend Beyond John Dann. Go read it, you will love it.
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