Genealogies can sometimes seem boring, especially if you don’t know the families whose lineages are being charted. Sometimes even that of one’s own family can be tedious and interminable. Even the Bible refers to “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4).
But hidden among such genealogies, begging to be discovered, are fascinating and inspiring stories awaiting a storyteller to share them. That also is the case with the genealogies in the Bible. And, thanks to the Holy Spirit-inspired writers of that sacred text, we have the accounts of many of those “heroes of the faith” to profit from today.
Joy Neal Kidney is the self-styled keeper of her family’s stories. She has realized the value and importance of not only preserving but also sharing those stories so that even strangers to her family can enjoy them and get to know the subjects as though they were part of their own families. The result is three volumes, each going deeper into her family’s history.
The first book was Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II, which tells of five members of her family who served our country during World War II. Three of them never came home. Her story is of a family that made the ultimate sacrifice–times three.
Next came Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, which recounts the family’s perseverance through the trials of that difficult time. The family was again making sacrifices, economically that time. Making do. Doing without. Without complaint.
Now Joy has reached even deeper into the well of her family history and pulled up still more stories that define and describe the roots of the family’s character and resilience. These are the stories that explain why the family could survive–even thrive–through the deprivation of the Depression years and deal with the losses of war. Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots traces the family saga from 1892 to 1926. In this installment of the larger story, one finds the Wilson family, so prominently featured in the two previous books, merging with the Goffs.
The stories in this book have often been compared to those told in the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Indians. Pioneer settlers. Drought and dust storms. Disease. Murder. Death in so many ways.
But it also tells of happier and less trying times, such as circuses, school activities, sledding, state fairs, weddings, and the myriad joys of agrarian life.
The stories are short, quick reads presented by a master storyteller. More importantly, however, they are interesting. Although readers might not know the people about whom they are reading, they don’t have to. Besides, by the time they’ve finished reading this book, they’ll feel as though they know the entire family.
Perhaps the greatest endorsement this book could have received is that of Lee Habeeb, the founder and host of the Our American Stories radio program. Habeeb knows good stories when he sees them, and he thought that those told in Joy Neal Kidney’s books are so good that he awarded her the first Great American Storyteller Award–and then named the annual award in her honor. Kidney is a regular contributor to Habeeb’s program. Habeeb also wrote the foreword to Leora’s Early Years because he enjoyed Kidney’s stories so much.
I think you’ll enjoy them, too!
Dennis L. Peterson is a historian and the author of several books, including the delightful Look Unto the Hills: Stories of Growing Up in Rural East Tennessee. He is also a regular contributor to Our American Stories.
Website for Dennis Peterson. At the top of the home page are his delightful audio stories, ready to listen to.
Here’s his Amazon Author Page.