Guest Review: “Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring” by Heather Brothers

Dear Readers: Today I welcome Margaret Harrington, one of our JASNA-Vermont members, with her review of Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring, a children’s mystery novel by Heather Brothers, also one of our JASNA-Vermont members. Heather had published a delightful Regency era novel in 2013 titled The Introduction of a Gentleman (you can read my interview with Heather here.)

Margaret posted this review of her latest book (published in June 2017) on Goodreads – but thought we should give Heather some press here as well. So thank you Margaret for sharing this review and to Heather, we wish you great success with this latest book! Heather will have copies for sale at our Jane Austen Birthday Tea on December 2, 2018.

As Margaret mentions, we hope that Madison McTavish will be returning for another adventure!

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Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring

by

Heather Brothers

Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring by Heather Brothers is an engaging novel about a ten year old girl named Madison who lives in rural Vermont. Not only do readers get to see things through Madison’s eyes but we also get involved with her multi-generational extended family’s entanglements.

The relationship between Madison and her solid grandmother is central to the story and author Heather Brothers draws them with realistic description and believable dialogue. Readers are relieved of cliché in this finely crafted book and can be surprised just like in life when you do not know what is going to happen next but you look forward to whatever it may be.

Besides family relationships there are neighbors, friends and even suitors to Madison’s preferred aunt who populate and drive the story. The setting in rural Vermont is exquisitely visual and pungent with smells of baking, maple syrup, cow dung and roasted pumpkin seeds which bring you right into the rustic atmosphere. Most of all there is the convincing dialogue with people of all ages talking with each other.

There is a mystery to be solved and several sub-plots to the story that are written about with an incisive gentleness. This is a story well told.

I hope that Heather Brothers will continue to write about Madison McTavish because her debut story is refreshing and enjoyable to read.

Review by Margaret Harrington – Goodreads

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Synopsis: Madison McTavish has never really stolen anything. She’s never searched an old barn, investigated a mysterious Frenchman or had to be a real detective. Madison’s life has revolved around her grandparent’s farmhouse, baseball with her best friend, Santiago, and spending time with her quirky aunts, uncles and neighbor. She’s a regular, 10-year old Vermonter.

But all this is about to change when Madison’s grandma starts wearing an old ring; a ring Madison ends up stealing and losing. This begins Madison’s search to not only find a thief, help a neighbor and uncover family secrets, but to get herself out of trouble…if she can. [from back cover]

 

About the author: Heather Brothers lives with her husband and two young daughters in Vermont. She works in the student loan industry. She enjoys playing the piano, writing and imaginative play with her daughters. She also is on the Board of JASNA-Vermont and assists with Hospitality and the Austen Boutique. (And her daughter Claire is our official Janeite mascot!)

 

The book is available on Amazon here.

c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post: “Praying with Jane,” by Rachel Dodge ~ And Book Giveaway!

UPDATE: the winner of the book giveaway is “artsresearchnyc” – please email me with your contact info and I will send the book to you right away. Congratulations! Thank you all for participating!

Good Morning all! – I am re-blogging this post by Rachel Dodge today as part of the Blog Tour for her book Praying with Jane – and now to include a book giveaway (there is also a book giveaway from Jane Austen’s World – Vic is hosting the blog tour – but I am also offering a giveaway, courtesy of the publisher Bethany House). Please comment or ask Rachel a question by next Monday, November 12 and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy (domestic mailing only, sorry to say…) – I will announce the winner on November 14th. It’s a beautiful book and one that should certainly be added to your Jane Austen collection. You can follow along with the blog tour by clicking on the links at the end of this post.

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Gentle Readers: I welcome today Rachel Dodge, who has just published (October 2nd!) her book Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, 2018). I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel at the JASNA AGM last week in Kansas City, MO, where we connected at her Emporium table, and where I purchased her book. In it, Dodge takes us through the three prayers that Jane Austen wrote, offers ten devotions per prayer, and weaves into each chapter pieces from Austen’s life and works. It is lovely and inspirational and edifying all at once, taking us into a very private Jane Austen.

As Dodge herself suggests in her introduction, “take time to settle yourself into a quiet spot with a cup of tea or coffee and your journal. This is your invitation to know Jane better…and the God she loved…”

 

Exploring Jane Austen’s Prayers in Praying with Jane

When an author friend asked me a few years ago if I’d ever thought of writing a book about Jane Austen, it made me smile. After writing and speaking about Austen for almost two decades, the thought of writing a book intrigued me. My friend suggested I write something about Austen’s faith. As soon as she said the words, my heart started beating a little faster. I leaned forward and said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book about her prayers.”

That was the start of an incredible journey to the writing and publication of my upcoming book, Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, October 2018). As I studied Austen’s prayers, read and reread every article and biography I could find on her faith and prayers, studied the original manuscripts at Mills College, and traveled back to her homes and churches in Steventon and Chawton, a picture of a faith biography formed in my mind. I wanted to honor Austen’s prayers and highlight the spiritual side of her life in a unique way.

As I read Austen’s prayers again and again, turning them over in my mind, listening to the cadence of her words, and reflecting on the meaning behind each line, I realized that simply reading Austen’s prayers in one sitting isn’t enough. Like her novels, Austen’s prayers are full of deep insights; they require a close, thoughtful reading. I began to look at the prayers in smaller chunks, reading them line-by-line. With that format in mind, I divided them into a month’s worth of entries and began work on a 31-day devotional book.

As I examined Austen’s prayers, I looked carefully at the meaning in each line and what writing them might have meant to her. Passages from her novels, her letters, and the Austen family memoirs came alive, and I wove them into each daily entry as illustrations of what the prayers can teach us.

Finally, the last step was to make Austen’s prayers practical and personal. As readers, students, and worshippers, we can either be passive or active. For me, the book couldn’t just be about her writing skill, the form the prayers take, or her use of language. It couldn’t even just be about her faith. It needed to also be about what her prayers can teach us. Thus, toward the end of each day’s entry, I include an area for personal reflection, a key Scripture verse, and a sample prayer. Praying with Jane is written as an exploration of Austen’s prayers and an invitation to join her in praying our own prayers.

Jane Austen’s Prayers

Besides her novels, juvenilia, and minor works, Jane Austen wrote three prayers. Cassandra folded them together and inscribed the words “Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane” on the outside. They were passed down by her family and kept safe for future generations. The three prayers echo the cadence and language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England. Each prayer includes thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. In them, she uses the pronoun “we,” indicating that her prayers were most likely meant to be read aloud in a group setting. They are believed to have been written for evening devotions because they include reflections on the past day.

George Austen

Austen’s father, Reverend George Austen, was a devoted Anglican clergyman, husband, and father. He taught his children to take time for private prayer in the morning and evening, to read devotional literature, and to read (and even memorize) famous sermons. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Irene Collins writes that Jane Austen “cherished” William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar and “made constant use of the prayers and meditations included in it” (72). The Austen family’s religious life extended far beyond the morning and evening church services they attended on Sundays. They shared in corporate family prayers in the morning and evening, they said their own private prayers when they woke up and went to bed each day, and they prayed as a family before meals and gave thanks afterward.

In the evening, the Austen family enjoyed reading out loud from novels, poetry, sermons, and the Bible. On one Sunday evening when the family was unable to attend church, Jane wrote in a letter, “In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home” (Letters). It’s likely that Jane shared her prayers during her family’s evening devotions.

Austen is thorough in her prayers, as in her life, and covers every part of the human plight with great care. I’ve included a few lines from each of her prayers to illustrate the range of topics she covers. (All of my quotes are from the original manuscripts that I carefully transcribed as faithfully as possible.) Her prayers show deep concern for her family and friends and for others who may need comfort or protection:

Be Gracious to our Necessities, and guard us, and all we love, from Evil this night. May the sick and afflicted, by now, & ever thy care; and heartily do we pray for the safety of all that travel by Land or by Sea, for the comfort & protection of the Orphan & Widow, & that thy pity may be shewn, upon all Captives & Prisoners. (Prayer One)

Her prayers also reveal a spirit of thankfulness. It appears that Austen understood the importance of practicing gratitude in even the minor details of life:

We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of Body & of Mind & for every other source of happiness which Thou hast bountifully bestowed on us & with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from Thy Fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them, than they have hitherto excited. (Prayer Two)

Furthermore, her prayers point to her desire for a humble spirit and a kind attitude toward others. As her letters and novels attest, she had a fine sense of humor and did not take herself too seriously. She was quick-witted and opinionated, yet she was also quick to admit her own faults:

Incline us Oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, & to judge of all they say & do with that Charity which we would desire from Men ourselves. (Prayer Three)

Austen’s prayers also reveal a tender reverence in regard to her faith and her family’s spiritual life. Writing Praying with Jane has been an immense privilege. Exploring Jane Austen’s prayer life has enhanced my own spiritual life and brought me great joy. I hope it will do the same for many others.

About Praying with Jane:

In Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, readers can explore Austen’s prayers in an intimate devotional format as they learn about her personal faith, her Anglican upbringing, and the spiritual truths found in her novels. Each daily entry includes examples from Austen’s own life and novels, as well as key Scripture verses, ideas for personal application, and a sample prayer.

To order your copy of Praying with Jane, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookseller. For a limited time, when you order a copy of Praying with Jane, you can visit RachelDodge.com to claim a free digital download of six printable Praying with Jane Prayer Cards. Each prayer card has a quote from Austen’s prayers and space to write your own prayers and praises.


About the author:

Rachel Dodge teaches college English and Jane Austen classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and Jane Austen groups, and is a regular contributor to Jane Austen’s World blog. A true “Janeite” at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns. She makes her home in Northern California with her husband and two children.

Works Cited

-Austen, Jane. Prayers. “Prayers Composed by my ever dear sister.” Manuscripts (two quarto sheets). The Elinor Raas Heller Rare Book Room, Mills College, Oakland, California.

-_____.  Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.

-Collins, Irene. Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.

You can visit Rachel:

at her website: https://www.racheldodge.com/
on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/racheldodgebooks/
on twitter: https://twitter.com/racheldodgebks

Stay tuned for an upcoming book giveaway!

Images courtesty of Rachel Dodge; image of the Rev. George Austen from Austenonly.
c2018 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour Dates:

October 31 – Praying with Jane, My changed Relationship with Jane, Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn

November 1 – Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge,  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton

November 2 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer (Review and Giveaway)Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold

November 3 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel Dodge, Burton Book Review, Marie Burton

November 4 – Blog Tour: Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel DodgeBLOGLOVIN‘, Sophia Rose

November 5 – Guest Post: Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge and Book Giveaway! Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum

November 6 – Calico Critic – Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge , Laura Hartness

November 7 – A Bookish Way of Life – Praying with Jane, Nadia Anguiano

November 8 – Diary of an Eccentric – Book Spotlight – Praying with JaneAnna Horner

November 9 – Review of Praying with Jane, Becoming, Nichole Parks, Nichole Parks

November 10 – Praying with Jane: A new devotional based on the prayers of Jane Austen, My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia

November 11 – Praying with Jane Blog Tour: Interview and Giveaways, My Love for Jane Austen, Sylvia Chan

November 12 – Laughing with Lizzie, Sophie Andrews

November 13 – Book Review – Praying with JaneBrenda Cox

Previous reviews:

Praying with Jane Blog Tour: https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/praying-with-jane-blog-tour/

Praying with Jane, Michelle Ule: https://www.michelleule.com/2018/09/28/jane-austen/

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