Reviewer: Sharon Brunner
Hilton Everett Moore explored life during the early to mid-1900s in Nelson, a fictional small community located near Baraga and Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In North of Nelson, the trials and tribulations of some of the main characters as they face their challenges served as heartwarming reminders in the six short stories that make up volume one. They survived the Depression, debilitating diseases, addiction, loss of family pets, unrequited love, and discrimination. The main themes involved regret, tolerance, grief, loss, and loneliness. Many people could relate to the stories and Moore made the characters likable and relatable.
A boy struggled with the devastating effects of polio. He had to wear leg braces and was unable to play the games he liked to play. He spent a lot of time alone when Ernie his friend was not at his home. Ernie had to escape the abuse at his home and became part of the narrator’s family. His father was a preacher and Ernie’s father was one of those tough men you would see at pool halls, shooting pool and drinking. Ernie lost his father while he served in the Korean War and the narrator’s father provided the memorial service.
My only quibble is that Moore could have explained some of the terms he used throughout the book such as the word pedagogue. For example, he might have laced the meanings of obscure words in the narrative. Otherwise, the narrative ran smoothly even when Moore explored the past of some of the characters and then returned to the time the story was taking place.
A chapter that really resonated with me was “The Silent Mistress.” Nimkii was raised at the orphanage in Baraga which was a real place and was also referred to as another boarding school for Native American children. I covered boarding schools for Native American children with my masters thesis. I heard about the Baraga orphanage but did not know a lot about it. Nimkii told of some of the nuns being extremely abusive and others were kind. She was called a squaw throughout her life and she struggled to hang onto her Native American heritage. Nimkii married a man named Charlie and their marriage went well until he lost his job due to the Depression. Things went downhill for the couple when Charlie turned his life over to “the silent mistress.”
Other chapters also related to situations anyone could relate to such as the narrative covered in the chapter “A Shotgun Wedding.” A woman felt forced to get married because of pregnancy and then found out she was not happy with the result. Many have struggled when it came to pets and they were presented problems that were not easily solved which was described in the chapter called “A Dog Named Bunny.” And the situation described in “The Irascible Pedagogue” many could relate. If only he would have asked her to dance with him instead of getting cold feet, things would have turned out so much differently. That story reminded me of the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts. Julia’s character did a whole host of things to win back her friend and take him from the person he was going to marry.
I recommend this book because of the stories filled with touching moments about real-life situations and how the characters struggled to overcome their life challenges. Sometimes a problem took on a whole new life of its own without any solution. Moore provided the reader with the ramifications of many of the hardships the characters in his stories faced. I wanted to find out what was going to happen to the well-developed characters, individuals who resembled people I have met throughout my life. Moore brought to life the pain Nimkii experienced as a Native American woman and the pain of loneliness for a boy while he dealt with polio. I highly recommend North of Nelson, Vol. 1 if you want to learn more about life during The Depression, about life at the Baraga orphanage and other experiences from the past concerning the characters from Moore’s book who lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Publisher : Silver Mountain Press (September 1, 2022)
Language : English
Paperback : 144 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-1736744901
Other editions: hardcover, eBook, and audiobook (Audible, iTunes) are available