While some of the books I review on my site are furnished by the publishers, authors, or publicists for the purpose of review all of my reviews are truthful, honest, and my sincere opinion.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims' First Year in America by Glen Alan Cheney

I entered a giveaway for this one and unfortunatley I didn't win, but the author Glen Alan Cheney sent me a copy anyway! I also have to thank Glen for his guest blog post.

About the Book

Thanksgiving is not a book about a holiday. It’s about something that a few dozen survivors did after a year of suffering, death, struggle, and courage.

They bowed their heads to give thanks.

The Pilgrims’ journey began as a joint venture of business and religion, but soon it became a matter of survival.

With 102 men, women, and children packed into a dim, wet space below the main deck, the Mayflower set out on a terrifying 66-day crossing of the Atlantic. They dropped anchor well north of where they’d intended, and just as the New England winter was setting in.

With no choice but to spend the winter in the dank, frigid ship, they took ill. One by one, almost half of them died. The few individuals well enough to work rowed the dead into shore and buried them in graves left unmarked so the Indians wouldn’t know how weak they were.

Spring promised only a year of toil and difficulties as they attempted to settle new land in a place they called Plymouth.

But then a miracle walked out of the woods...an Indian who had already crossed the Atlantic four times. He spoke English very well. He showed them how to catch the local fish and grow the local crops. He introduced them to the local people, and in an experience unique in colonial history, Europeans and Indians became friends and allies.

And that autumn, the new and native Americans came together for a feast that lasted three days. Thanksgiving is a book of fact that all but breathes with the human drama of life, death, birth, hope, prayer, work, desperation, and thanks.

Though these few dozen people were hardly the first Europeans to settle in North America, their values and beliefs grew into the American culture. We are what they were.

Every American should read this book before bowing for grace on Thanksgiving Day.

My Review

This was a very unique book. I have never really read anything like it before. I thought it was going to be a history book, and it was, but after getting to know the author a little bit I realized it was going to be an entertaining history book at the least... And it was!

I've never really been into history. I had very boring history teachers in school (with one exception) so I didn't really pay much attention to what I was learning. But I've found as an adult that there are so many people that are enthusiastic about history that they have a way of explaining what happened in a way that I actually care to hear what they are saying. That's not to say that I don't know any history, just that when I start reading a historical book I'm learning something for the first time.

It's funny how things get "skewed" when we learn them (well when everyone else learned them and I was doodling in my notebooks). And not that things get skewed in a bad way, but with the passing of time so passes many of the details and particulars of the events that have transpired. I knew about the Mayflower, and I knew the story of the first Thanksgiving, but I was very enlightened by reading this book. We meet the Pilgrims before they set sail to America, we get to follow them on their miserable (I think that's putting it nicely) boat ride, and their first year in America. There are so many things that happened that I didn't know about, and so many things that I remember learning differently. You can tell that Cheney has done his research and written a book that is a true to what occurred aboard the Mayflower and what happened when the Pilgrims arrived in America.

I think my favorite part of this book was that it felt like I was reading fiction, to an extent. Sure there are some sections that do come across like a history book, but for the most part I felt like I was just reading a story. The ability to write history in a way that holds my interest is a true feat! Kudos to Glen Cheney!

I really liked just about everything about this book. The cover is so simple, which really fits the book. I happened to receive a hard cover copy, so there was also a ribbon bookmark (I didn't know they still made books with ribbon bookmarks in them) and I LOVED it! The book also felt like it was an "old" book. To me reading old books (like ones that haven't been opened in 50 years) is a great experience I feel as if the book has it's own story, in addition to the one written in its pages, which makes reading it that much more of an experience for me. That was the feeling I had reading this book. I think I've grew very fond of this book because of that "old" feeling it has. Kind of like a kid with an old soul, you just feel something different than you do from any other kid. I usually donate my books to the library, as I will promote literacy in any way possible, but given my connection with the "old soul" of this book I think I'm going to have to hang on to it!

To learn more about Thanksgiving please visit the New London Librarium

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