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The Meaning of Names Kindle Edition
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Stuart, Nebraska is a long way from the battlefields of Western Europe, but it is not immune to the horrors of the first Great War for Peace. Like all communities, it has lost sons and daughters to the fighting, with many more giving themselves over to the hatred only war can engender.
Set in 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, The Meaning of Names is the story of an ordinary woman trying to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.
“Suddenly, ‘liberty cabbage’ replaces ‘sauerkraut’ on food menus, job advertisements warn ‘no krauts need apply,’ and neighbors demand the nearby university stop teaching courses in ‘that vile language’. . . . Shoemaker crafts eminently realistic characters; her descriptions of unreasonable fear and hatred are particularly effective.” —Publishers Weekly
Suddenly, ‘liberty cabbage’ replaces ‘sauerkraut’ on food menus, job advertisements warn ‘no krauts need apply,’ and neighbors demand the nearby university stop teaching courses in ‘that vile language....’ Shoemaker crafts eminently realistic characters; her descriptions of unreasonable fear and hatred are particularly effective.
“Reading this novel puts the reader on the edge of her seat; it is intensely moving, and Shoemaker teaches lessons about social tolerance and how dangerous small-mindedness can be, an important lesson for all ages, but especially today.”
—Biljana D. Obradović, World Literature Today
The Meaning of Names… explores exactly that – what message does a simple name convey? How is that meaning twisted during times of trial? Shoemaker presents readers with a simple, realistic cast of characters, a heart-rending story of endurance, and reminds us that both prejudice and forgiveness take many forms.
—Historical Novel Society
"Shoemaker writes with even, rhythmic, beautifully colored prose… a book of big themes, true history and serious art."
—Lincoln Journal Star
Omaha Reads Author Karen Gettert Shoemaker on Nebraska, Writing and Libraries
Complicated American history mixes with the promise of life and the fear of human coping in Karen Gettert Shoemaker’s delightfully rich novel…. Both a historical fiction of the plains and a tapestry of human emotion, The Meaning of Names comes forth with purpose, showing promise to readers native to Nebraska and, plainly, to anyone interested in a good read.
The New York Times Op-Ed: "We're Doing What We Can to Keep Truckers on the Road"during a pandemic--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Karen Gettert Shoemaker is the author of Night Sounds and Other Stories (Dufour, 2002) and a novel, The Meaning of Names (Red Hen Press, 2014). Awards for her writing include a Nebraska Press Association Award for Feature Writing, two Independent Artist Fellowship Awards from the Nebraska Arts Council, and a Nebraska Book Award for Short Fiction. Her work has been published in a variety of newspapers and journals, including The London Independent, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, and The South Dakota Review, and anthologized in A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers, Times of Sorrow/Times of Grace, An Untidy Season, and Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry. She is a faculty mentor with the University of Nebraska’s MFA in Writing Program. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she and her husband own and operate Shoemaker’s Truck Stop and Travel Center.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B00IYEUYZ0
- Publisher : Red Hen Press; First edition (March 1 2014)
- Language : English
- File size : 1415 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 297 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #805,576 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #5,099 in Cultural Heritage Historical Fiction
- #9,084 in Small Town & Rural Fiction
- #20,736 in Historical Fiction (Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top review from Canada
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Shoemaker does an excellent job in establishing time and place and characters. Her book has very little actual plot; the story is really just a telling of how the war and America's participation in it affected a small part of the homeland. Were German-Americans, who had worked the land and found prosperity here in the United States, any less "loyal" to their land than those who were born here? This is a question that was asked again twenty years later in WW2 of both German-Americans and Japanese-Americans.
Gerda Vogel is both the wife and daughter of German immigrants. In her life on the Nebraska plains, she has seen a beloved older sister die in childbirth and she has given birth to four children.However, she is estranged from her parents and siblings because they disapproved of her marriage. She lives a busy life as a farmer's wife and mother and is devoted to her husband, Fritz Vogel. But as the United States' entrance into WW1, some town's people begin to question her family's place in the community. As the sons of townspeople are killed in battle, the antagonism turns intense. On the Vogel's side is the local doctor, Ed Gannoway, who is protective of the family.
And along with the war came the influenza epidemic, which swept across our country in 1918. The young and strong were killed first, often in a matter of hours. The most harrowing scenes in the book deal with how and who this epidemic "took". Karen Shoemaker has written a very good novel about a time that is little written about. My only question is why she did not write a non-fictional account of her family and the times. I always like looking at real people, but maybe writing a fictionalised account is easier.
Top reviews from other countries
Many settlers in this part of the state are German born or of German descent. German is spoken by many, the Catholic Church is prominent in Stuart. However, many people hate Germans, blame them for the troubles. Try to be careful not to speak German, to try to hide who you are. The story tells of those who are living in that time and place. Many Germans are farmers, moving here to get a piece of land, trying to forget the troubles in Europe, to leave the old world behind. The story tells of Gerda and Fritz Vogel, their four children and Dr. Ed Gannoway, a dedicated physician.
Gerda and Fritz love their farm, both are hard working and teach their children, at a very early age, to work hard. There are many beautiful descriptions of the countryside. The writing is beautiful and brings this reader into the story. I took my time reading to be able to enjoy this author's way of telling a story.
Life is hard at this time and place. But it always is at any time and place. People die young, too young. The first chapter tells of Gerda's beloved older sister dying in childbirth. Gerda is five years old. When Gerda marries her father disowns her for marrying Fritz who Papa dislikes. He'll never amount to a hill of beans. Papa wanted Gerda to become a nun. But the two love each other and move from eastern Nebraska to the Sand Hill area. And are happy never stop loving each other even when life is hard. They enjoy life, love their kids. Gerda is never sorry for the choice she made.
Coming into the country, amid the hatred of Germans is the influenza, a different kind of flu, unknown, which kills so many, whips through the world and can't be contained. The town of Stuart is closed down, school and church are closed, characters are upset. Stay away from church when we need God so much right now. The kids running the street. The Vogel family stay at their farm away from town and others as much as they can. Try to be safe, not foolish.
A beautifully written book telling of what life was like in this time and place and how people lived through these hard times. It is hard to be able to write about this wonderful book. Beautiful book, beautiful writing, sad, but happy.
The story is set in 1917-1918 in rural Nebraska. It combines the Influenza outbreak with the conflict of WWI and its impact on small town life. Neighbors turn against neighbors. They fear the influenza. They wrestle with what it means to be a patriotic American. The main characters also have their own very personal issues to deal with: loss of loved ones, religious and spiritual issues, maintaining credibility in a rapidly changing world, their place in the community.
It is not a difficult or long read. It is a satisfying and thought-provoking one.
Set in 1918-1919 in rural Nebraska, we follow Gerda, who farms outside of Stuart, Nebraska with her husband and children. Gerda becomes a fully-rendered character, a timeless woman, as she reconciles the choices she’s made: between her husband and her family of origin, between love and financial status, between religious dictates and her heart. At the same time, she wrestles with conditions outside of her control. The war overseas visits German immigrants in unexpected and hurtful ways at the same time virulent influenza sweeps the nation. Both things leave their marks on Gerda’s family, and all families during that place and time. We see how these forces impact other characters as well – my favorites were a small town doctor and a new priest.
Like all good novels, the tension builds and we become more deeply invested in the characters over time. The writing is gorgeous, and the weather serves as almost another character. The ending is wonderful; a true study of fear, foreboding and faith. Well-researched facts are seamlessly woven into the story. It left me thinking a lot about my own ancestors who were in the same places, at the same times, and who must have shared these experiences, although their stories are now lost. But with this book, Karen has restored something of them.