Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review: Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester (BOOK TOUR)

The book follows the story of three generation of women from 1900 through 1970, seven decades of wars and hardship. At the turn of the century, an era of strict moral codes, Angela falls in love with a priest who abandons her and her unborn child. She overcomes rejection and misfortunes, including losing her right hand, and brings up her daughter, exuberant, stubborn Ilonka. In spite of the stigma of her illegitimate birth, the girl finds happiness in love and marriage, raising five children, among them Sarika, independent and high-spirited, much like herself.  With the outbreak of WWII, however, their lives change drastically, followed by equally hard times as the country falls under Soviet-style dictatorship. When an attempt to free the country in 1956 fails and people start to flee retributions, Sarika and her brothers join the exodus to the West.  With her family torn apart Ilonka never recovers her strength.

Years of fear and political pressures hasten her descend into depression, and when she loses her husband too, she finally gives up. Alone and completely on her own, Sarika finds her way to America, and begins a new life full of opportunities and most importantly, free of fear.

Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Mill City Press
Paperback; 574p

"Only in Sopron, a small gem of a midsize town on the border where Austria and Hungary mingled together did the sun decide it was not a day for it to shine."

And so begins the story of Angela, in the year 1901.   Spanning approx. 70 years this book begins with 18 year old Angela, thrust into the job of caregiver to her 9 younger siblings after the passing of her mother.  Its a heavy responsibility with her ambitions and dreams of the future put on hold.  Without giving away too many details the story continues with her daughter (Ilonka) and then granddaughter (Sari).  There is a lot of history in this book, not just World War I, but also the collapse of the Austria-Hungary Empire, economic depression, World War II and then the political situation when Hungary converted to Communist rule and then the mass exodus out of the country.

This isn't a small book, coming in at 574 pages (over sized softcover, small print) to me it felt like a cross between fiction and non fiction.  The author really knows her history, though how could she not, she lived it. There were times I felt it dragged a little and also confusing with so many names and dates thrown at me.  This I felt mostly during the last part of the book while reading about the Communist rule before the mass exodus. However I do understand that a lot was happening at the time and to omit something would have been difficult.  Her descriptions of the changes in Hungary were vivid and I couldn't help feeling compassion for the people.  This is also a part of history that I know very little about, so reading this book was a real eye-opener for me.

The author has an easy going writing style and I really enjoyed following the lives of the whole family, not just the 3 girls. This book emphasized the importance of family and good friends, of staying true to oneself through the many turmoils endured.  I was sad to see it end, was looking forward to seeing Sari's future play out.

This book will appeal to those that like historical fiction, family saga as well as non fiction.

A great debut.

About the Author

As a young woman, author Shari Vester fled her native Hungary in 1956 after the defeat of a patriotic uprising against the country's Soviet-dictated regime. She was granted asylum in the United States to begin a new life.  After a year living in New York she moved to Los Angeles, married, and worked as an insurance account manager. Recently retired, she and her husband relocated in the Palm Spring area, where she finally found time to write. Her debut novel, Degrees of Courage, is a historical fiction drawn on her family history. It paints a sharp contrast between life as we know it in America, versus a time and place where today's "Let it be" mentality was simply impossible. 

For more information please visit Shari's website.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, January 13
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, January 14
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, January 15
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Thursday, January 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Friday, January 17
Review at Closed the Cover
Monday, January 20
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Tuesday, January 21
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, January 22
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Thursday, January 23
Review at From L.A. to LA
Friday, January 24
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at Books in the Burbs

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