OUR OTHER CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOK IS “TALES FROM A MAD MAN’S WIFE,” BY MARILYN MILLER SKYLAR. YOU CAN FIND IT BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.
THE BOOK: “Looking for Lydia; Looking for God: From 2014 to the Civil War, the Journey of Thirteen Women.”
THE AUTHOR: Dean robertson-http://pdrobertson.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dean-Robertson/353793754819660, https://www.linkedin.com/pub/patricia-dean-robertson/88/55b/204, https://twitter.com/pdroberts123, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25873777-looking-for-lydia-looking-for-god, https://plus.google.com/+DeanRobertson1946/posts
THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books, a small publisher in Virginia that is definitely on the move. They combine the professionalism of the large firms with a small press’s personal attention to their authors.
THE EDITOR: Joe Coccaro, Executive Editor, Koehler Books
Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is also a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended. It is a sometimes unconventional interpretation of some very familiar Bible stories.
It is, throughout, the story of the transformation of a group of women in their eighties and nineties who have come to live in an assisted living facility. They have not come there for a new lease on life, but that is exactly what they get.
As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves. This is their story.
They show up one winter morning for a new “devotion” at their assisted living facility, and there I am, depressed, angry, bruised from a severe fall, hanging on by a thread, proposing to talk about women in the Old Testament, assuring them that Eve was a hero and Adam was a fool. This is my story.
In Chapter Two, I confess:
“I don’t think I could have told you the name of one member of that pioneer crew; now I see their faces when I close my eyes. I came to the Lydia Roper Home sick and I left well. I arrived with no hope; I left with a sense that I still had ‘promises to keep.’ The ladies with whom I spend my Wednesdays have pushed open their minds and hearts to an old text, to each other, and to new ideas; they don’t stop asking questions. We look
for answers together. The mystery of how all that happened is really what I’m after here.”
THE BACK STORY: At the end of 2013 I had a terrible fall. I spent eight very long months in an assisted living facility in Norfolk, Virginia. The name of that facility is The Lydia Roper Home. It is housed in a 1921 building that was commissioned by Union Army Captain John L. Roper. He named the building after his wife, Lydia.
I arrived at the Roper Home in bad shape. In addition to undiagnosed neurological problems, I was in the grip of a paralyzing depression, and I was definitely not cheered up by offers of bingo or arts and crafts. I don’t “do” activities. In an effort to preserve my last shreds of sanity, I asked permission to lead my own activity, a Bible Study. I had taught the Hebrew Bible as Literature for nearly thirty years so I knew I could do it.
Sometime in March of 2013 we started with Genesis. There were five of us, and those four women were my pioneers. Today, in February of 2015, one of our original number has died, another has moved to a nursing home. Two of those pioneers are still there.
I left the Lydia Roper Home on the last day of October 2013 and moved into a wonderful co-op, in a building erected in 1928, in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. The ladies at the Roper Home asked me if I would come back to teach the New Testament. I said that of course I would.
At some moment early in 2014, as I worked on the New Testament and rode to the Lydia Roper Home every Wednesday morning to talk about it, Looking for Lydia; Looking for God simply began to happen to me. I woke up one morning and started writing. I am not a writer; I’m a teacher. I never aspired to be a writer; my passion has always been in the classroom. If I’ve ever been in what young people call “the zone,” it has happened among a roomful of students. During the writing of the first four chapters of the book, I was on another planet.
Doors opened; writer’s blocks cleared up in fewer than twenty-four hours; people appeared out of nowhere; my energy was unlimited. I wrote all day; I woke up at night and wrote. Friends worried. Family members called more often than usual. Nothing existed outside the book. I didn’t want to talk to anyone who didn’t want to talk about the book.
WHY THIS TITLE?: “When I first started writing, the Baptist preacher suggested that I call this story about a group of women studying the Bible, ‘Looking for Lydia.’ I thought he was joking. Now that seems the only possible title (159)”
“The preacher told me that, ‘Looking for Lydia is like looking for God, and you’re doing both. We are all looking for Lydia. We are all looking for that something we may or may not find, but the search for which defines our lives. In the course of that search we find frustration, disappointment, loss, and grief, but we also find much that we didn’t expect—work and love and relationships and joy’ (164).”
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?: After the encouraging responses from several readers, all of whom have told me some version of “I just couldn’t stop reading! I wanted to know what happened; I wanted to know more about those women and the Bible and whether you found Lydia,” I’d say the first reason someone would want to read it is that it’s a darned good read. Even my cousin who is completely uninterested in “God stuff,” was hooked by the elderly women, the story of Lydia, the cameo of a southern city in the years following the Civil War, and the founding of a lumber empire by a genuine “carpetbagger” from Philadelphia.
Anyone at any point in the “getting older” spectrum, who is either aging, afraid of aging, or with parents who are aging, and is facing the possibility of no longer living independently, would want to read this very unusual and hopeful glimpse of life in an assisted living facility.
Anyone who is interested in the Bible, in genealogy, or in women’s history would definitely want to read it.
I think everyone would want to read it just because they’ll like it a lot!!
“As a writer, an elder care giver, and a seeker of family stories, sharing this quest with Dean has been a glorious multi-faceted adventure. Readers will find that, whether they seek a lost relative or answers to Life’s biggest questions, Looking for Lydia may lead them to find that exploring the questions can be as satisfying as finding the answers.”
—Molly Roper Jenkins, Great-granddaughter of Lydia Bowen Roper
“Part biography, part biblical criticism, and part spiritual confession, Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is both an intensely personal narrative and an invitation to re-examine our collective soul. Humorous yet insightful, in this book, Robertson raises important questions of faith and meaning with her characteristic warmth and integrity. Perhaps, most importantly of all, it is a good read.”
—Aaron Brittain, Rector, Talbot Park Baptist Church,
“A group of old ladies living together on the poorer side of health and finances, a few of whom aren’t sure why it’s Wednesday; a Bible study that encourages all the questions you thought you weren’t allowed to ask, complete with compelling answers as dynamic as, well, Wednesday; and a grand old, southern house named for somebody called, of course, “Lydia.” Does this sound exciting, yet? Ah, but it is! Dean rubs these unlikely things together with heart and depth and art and brings us to glorious life.”
—The Rev. Gary Barker, Rector, Kingston Parish, Mathews, VA
AUTHOR PROFILE: Dean Robertson is retired from over thirty years as an English teacher in independent secondary schools and small colleges. She was born in Alabama, grew up on 200 acres of North Georgia woods, and has lived in California, Kentucky, and Michigan. In the woods, she dreamed of being Mowgli, watched foxes in their dens, and learned not to step on copperheads; in Kentucky, she kept bees; in Michigan, she shared her back yard with five llamas. At nearly 70, she is still the idealist she was in 1963 when she went away to college and waded into the Civil Rights Movement. At nearly 70, she is a first-time author and a first-time grandmother; her grandson was born on Shakespeare’s birthday 2015. From 1980-2014, her passion was in the classroom. One morning in March of 2014, she woke up and started keeping a journal. With a lot of support from her friends, that journal became Looking for Lydia; Looking for God. She is now “paying it forward” by editing manuscripts for two unpublished writers. She is blogging once a week on her website. She is looking for guest bloggers. And she is learning new skills every day in two areas that never interested her one bit: the computer and marketing. Finally, she would like to refer you to Betsy Ashton’s recently published novel, Mad Max: Uncharted Territory and, particularly, to Ms. Ashton’s Author Profile on her recent Snowflakes page. You will not need to guess whether or where Ms. Robertson has tattoos.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I had no plan for Looking for Lydia; Looking for God. A friend asked me recently when I got the idea to write a book; I said I didn’t. The book’s final chapter, “Thoughts After the Last Curtain,” tells a story-of course-and proposes a sequel to Lydia. I read once a line by the poet, Kenneth Patchen, that has stuck with me: “If you look at my hands, you will see that if I knew where to go, I could build a road that would take me there.” I am beginning to know where to go. I haven’t yet built the road or outlined the plan. But the next book is waiting to be written; I don’t expect it to wait for long. I know one thing today—I will always be writing.
WHERE TO BUY IT: http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Lydia-God-Journey-Thirteen/dp/1633931706/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1439486855&sr=1-1, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/looking-for-lydia-looking-for-god-dean-robertson/1122430698?ean=9781633931701
PRICE: amazon.com: hardback=$26.95; paperback=$14.95; ebook=$7.99
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to use this email address to contact me directly. It is the surest way to reach me and to get a response. And I will love hearing from you!