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The Oak Leaves

The Oak Leaves

4.4 88
by Maureen Lang

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Two time periods—Regency England and contemporary Chicago—are woven together when Talie Ingram finds an old journal belonging to her great-great-great grandmother, Cosima Escott. Through Cosima's entries, Talie learns that her family was once considered cursed with feebleminded offspring, the result of a genetic disorder (Fragile-X) that may have been


Two time periods—Regency England and contemporary Chicago—are woven together when Talie Ingram finds an old journal belonging to her great-great-great grandmother, Cosima Escott. Through Cosima's entries, Talie learns that her family was once considered cursed with feebleminded offspring, the result of a genetic disorder (Fragile-X) that may have been passed down to Talie and her sister. Unwilling to face the implications their discovery might have on her own life, Talie tucks the journal back into secrecy, until she begins to see signs of developmental delay in her son.

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Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.10(d)

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the Oak Leaves

By Maureen Lang


Copyright © 2007 Maureen Lang
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-1345-0

Chapter One

The dull hum of the garage door sounded. Luke was home. Talie looked up from the books and papers spread across her kitchen table. She might have been tempted to stay up all night reading, but not now. Welcoming her husband home was the only thing she liked about his occasional business trips.

As the door from the garage opened, Talie stood to greet her husband. "Welcome home!"

He moved to put his briefcase in its usual spot, but finding the table covered with the memorabilia Talie had been studying, he settled it on a nearby chair.

"Hey," he said, taking her into his arms and kissing her.

Amazing how even after four years of marriage her heart still twirled at such a thing, especially when he gazed at her afterward. She read nothing but pure love in his lively blue eyes.

"Good to be home." He scanned the adjacent family room.

Talie guessed he was looking for the baby. "I tried to keep Ben awake, but he crashed about twenty minutes ago." She grinned. "You can probably get reacquainted around two in the morning, though."

"Has he been up a lot while I was gone?"

She nodded.

Luke shrugged broad shoulders out of his suit coat. "I'll look in on him when we go up."

"How did everything go on your trip?"

"Better than I expected. They offered me the job."

"They did!" Talie hugged him, then pulled away. "Why didn't you tell me when you called earlier?"

"I wanted to see your face." He kissed her, studying her again afterward. "And it was worth the wait."

Pride for him mushroomed from deep inside, spreading up and out through her smile. Once, before she'd met Luke, before other dreams had taken its place, she'd had a career vision of her own. Going up through the ranks of the education trail, from teacher to department head to curriculum director, from assistant principal to principal and on to superintendent. Now, seeing Luke's dreams going forward, she tasted vicarious living but, amazingly enough, didn't miss those old aspirations for herself. She was living a new kind of dream, one she wouldn't trade for anything.

"Congratulations, Mr. Architectural Engineering Director. When do you start?"

"Right away. I move into my new office tomorrow. They want me to restructure the department, so I'll probably have to hire a couple of new people."

"We'll have to celebrate. Get a babysitter, out to dinner-the works."

Luke loosened his tie and went to the refrigerator. As incredible as he looked in a suit, she knew he far preferred jeans and a T-shirt. He grabbed a Coke. "What went on around here while I was gone?"

"Jennifer down the street is starting a playgroup for the kids in the neighborhood. I'm taking Ben tomorrow."

"Sounds good. How many kids?"

"Five-all of them born last year like Ben."

He took a gulp of soda. "Did you have a good time at your mom's? Get a lot done?"

Talie turned back to the table. "The garbageman is going to hate her on Tuesday, but the house looks great. I think she'll be ready to list it any day now. Look here...." She held up the family Bible she'd been looking at before he arrived. "This is the treasure we found among all the trash."

"What is it?"

"A Bible that belonged to my dad's grandmother. I have a whole box of things that must have been hers. The letters are wonderful. Letter writing is a lost art now that everyone has e-mail. And look at this. I think it's a journal."

She picked up the smooth, leather-bound book. It was tied closed with a ribbon. "I'm almost afraid to touch it-the binding is cracked. It's all so incredible." Talie sighed, looking at all of the things strewn on the table. "This is like a call back, Luke."

He looked from the journal to her. "Call back?"

She nodded, her heart twisting from missing her dad. "When I was a kid our family would take driving vacations. On that first day we'd get up at three in the morning to miss rush hour traffic around Chicago land. We'd all fall back asleep, but that's what Dad liked-to drive in the quiet. Sometimes, though, I'd sit up front with him. He used to say I was helping by keeping him company. I knew he didn't really need help. He just wanted me to feel useful."

Unexpected tears welled in her eyes. "He liked it when he could see taillights ahead. Not too close, just up the road." Instead of the kitchen table in disarray she saw a pair of round, red lights gleaming from an invisible dark road ahead. "He used to tell me that was his call back. The car ahead called back that the road was still there, free and clear for him to follow."

She blinked, seeing again the items in front of her. "These are like a call back. Seeing what's gone before can help us know what to expect from life. It's especially meaningful when it's your own family history."

Talie returned her attention to the Bible, opening it to the names and dates that went back to the eighteenth century.

"Is your name written in that Bible?" Luke asked.

She scanned the list toward the more recent additions at the end but then shook her head. "No, but my mom's is next to my dad's, with their anniversary date. So many names! For our next baby we can pick a name from the family. Like ... Josephine or Sarah or Emily. Or here's one I really like: Cosima. We could call her Sima."

"What, no men in your dad's history? Aren't there any boys' names?"

"We already have a boy, silly. We need to hope for a girl next time."

"Fifty-fifty chance of it going either way, honey. Let me see." He took the Bible from her. "Matthew would be good. Or ... wait. Branduff? Seamus? Sounds like a bunch of Irishmen. I thought your family was German and English."

"The German is from my mother's side. I guess I'll find out more about my dad's family from these names. But something awful must have happened in 1848. Five deaths are listed on the same day."

"Hmm ... 1848. Ireland had a potato famine around that time, I think."

"That's probably it," Talie said with a nod. "Isn't it amazing that they couldn't feed themselves yet they kept birth records all the way back to the century before?"

Luke smiled. "I'm sure you have quite some family history there."

"And look at this. Dad really did have an Aunt Ellen. Ellen Dana Grayson, his mother's sister. But I'd rather not show this to Dana."

"Why not?"

"Because she's named for the mysterious Aunt Ellen. Her full name is Ellen Dana, only my mom liked Dana better so we always called her that."

"So why is this aunt mysterious, and what difference does it make if Dana knows about her?"

"Look here." Talie pointed to an entry. "Ellen Dana Grayson, born 1910, died 1941. She never married, and she died in a place called Engleside. Sounds like a rest home, but she would've been too young for that. She must have been sick. I don't want Dana knowing she was named for some sick, lonely relative who never got married. You know how Dana is. She already thinks she's an old maid and she's not even thirty yet. She'll think history is bound to repeat itself just because of a name."

Luke shook his head. Talie had seen that look on his face before, the one that said she was being overprotective again. She was willing to concede she wanted the best for her younger sister, but that's how big sisters were supposed to be. She wasn't about to shirk her duty, even on a small point like this.

Luke was still studying the names listed in the back of the Bible.

"If I draw a rough draft and put all the names and birth dates in order, could you make a family tree?" she asked. "We could hang it in the study."

"Sure. Just birth dates, though? You're going to avoid anything morbid like when they died, even though that's the most interesting part?"

Talie hesitated.

"It's that date, isn't it?" He was watching her closely. "May 16, 1848."

"I know it's probably nothing more dramatic than the potato famine, but I guess I'd like to find out what happened before we advertise on our walls that five members of my family died on the same day."

"Don't get me wrong, Talie. I love a good mystery. But I don't think something that happened more than a hundred and fifty years ago can make much of a difference in our lives. Now let's go upstairs and peek in on that baby up there. And then-" he set aside the Bible and pulled her into his arms again, nuzzling her neck-"you can welcome me home as if I've been gone a lot longer than a few days."

* * *

Talie left their bed, knowing from past experience her movement wouldn't disturb Luke. His steady breathing said it was true again tonight.

She went downstairs to the kitchen table, where she'd left the dilapidated journal. It was old and stiff, the satin ribbon faded.

Touching one of the shamrocks engraved on the front, she untied the ribbon and opened the soft leather cover. The pages proved to be remarkably free of damage despite their apparent age. No water spots, no mold, just clear handwriting on thick paper that had barely yellowed through the years. Maybe it was a good thing her father had been so disinterested in the past; storing the items in the dry darkness of their attic hadn't done the collection any harm.

Talie instantly guessed it to be a personal diary. A stranger's, yes, but someone whose blood had flowed in her father and now flowed in her. She read the first page.

To my son Kipp and his wife, and to their children and children's children in America,

I can think of no better way for you to know me than to share with you my journal from the time in my life that revealed God's plans for me-plans far different from my own. This is my legacy to you.

I assure you each word is true. If you inherit anything from me, may it be the knowledge that love is stronger than fear, especially with faith in the One who is love: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." -Cosima Escott Hamilton, 1874

Talie pulled out the Bible and turned to the records pages. Cosima Escott, born in Ireland in the year of our Lord 1830, to Mary and Charles Escott. Married 1850 to Peter Hamilton.

Born in Ireland? Talie's father had told her their heritage was English, not Irish. And the names Escott and Hamilton certainly didn't sound Irish. Pressing her finger along the records page, Talie found the year of Cosima's death: 1901. Though she'd died more than a hundred years ago, she'd lived to a ripe old age. Good for her; her years had outnumbered Dad's by almost a half dozen. Not bad for those times.

Strange that Cosima had chosen to write "love is stronger than fear" as her legacy.

Talie slid her finger down the death column again. There it was: May 16, 1848....

Maybe Cosima's pages held the answer.


Excerpted from the Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang Copyright © 2007 by Maureen Lang. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Oak Leaves 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With her book The Oak Leaves, Maureen writes a compelling tale that most women can relate to. We're nurturers. We want children. Healthy children who will one day give us healthy grandchildren. I know a family who had a daughter who was deaf. Everyone but the parents knew it for years before they had her tested and got her hearing aids. One of my son's didn't talk until he was three. He was my fourth child so I didn't think anything about it until his grandfather started worrying about it. So I understand when Maureen's character Talie denys that her precious son, Ben is anything but just a little slow. I understand how she wants to protect Ben, her husband and herself from reality as long as she can. And when she reads her ancestor's diary and learns about the Kennesy legacy, she can deny the truth no longer, I understand why she wants to protect her sister from the Kennesey 'curse.' The story leads us though the present day with Talie and takes us back to 1849 as she reads Cosima's journal, making this a parallel story. Cosima wisely writes '. . .love is stronger than fear.' This, I believe is the message Maureen would like us to take with us as we finish reading this inspiring book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cut it out with the warriors stuff please im looking for the Actual reviews not warriors. Question about the actaul nook not warriors: Is this book good?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spoke tome several times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had no idea what "Oak Leaves" was about when I began reading it. I haven't read such a moving book in such a long time. I look forward to when the Lord will put someone in my life going through a similar situation so I can share this book with them. After having read it, I believe I received a very special gift from the author's heart. Thank you, Maureen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have read by this author. Although it was a bit slow in the beginning, I soon became engrossed and involved with the characters. As someone interested in genealogy myself, I found it fascinating how Ms. Lang connected the past and the present through the parallel stories of a current day mother and her great-great grandmother. The reader empathizes with each of these women as they struggle with the effects that the Fragile X Syndrome has on their lives, but, at the same time, finishes with the message that through God and His love, all can be overcome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oak Leaves By: Maureen Lang This story is as beautiful as the rich gold of oak leaves on an autumn tree. This book is almost like two in one. Maureen mastered the art of telling family history within a modern story in such a way that made all characters, both present and past real. Talie Ingram found a family treasure, the journal of her great-great grandmother. She discovered within the pages a history of her family. As she began her journey into the past her heart thrilled at the chance to find out about her Irish heritage. But the joy was short-lived. Within the pages she discovered a sad family history which unraveled the very fabric of her life. She and Luke had the perfect marriage and a beautiful son and another baby on the way. But what she read within her ancestor Cosima Escott¿s journal threatened to destroy her world. Was it possible that she passed the frightening genetics to her children? Maureen Lang has written a story from her heart directly to yours. It is written to the place in every heart that looks to God with doubt and frustration when life does not go as planned or expected. And within this story that crosses generations and enters its precious message into the reader¿s heart that with God we can grow through all and whatever comes our way. Chandra Lynn Smith
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a clever flip-flop of storyline, Maureen Lang has effectively demonstrated the concerns and fears that face this generation are not new nor without a champion for our cause. The reader is shown Cosima¿s story through the eyes of Talie Ingram, whose idyllic life is shattered with the growing realization that her beautiful toddler son may have a developmental disability. And as the reader is drawn into Cosima¿s story, that of Talie¿s nineteenth century ancestor, the reader begins to identify with Talie¿s growing horror that her son is developmentally delayed. The author herself has a child with fragile X syndrome, a debilitating condition affecting the developing child and causing mental impairment resembling autism. And it is this personal experience that gives the book a feel of authenticity. The condition is passed on through the mother¿s gene. Each child conceived by the carrier has a fifty-fifty percent chance of having fragile X syndrome. The story educates the reader sans medical jargon and terminology, simply drawing the reader into the lives of these two women. Each must overcome the fear of conception and the risks to the unborn child. Each must learn to trust in God¿s purpose and design even in the face of such disappointment. This book gives the reader a double header both in contemporary and historical flavor. Maureen Lang has woven a powerful story and demonstrates her skill, not only as an expert storyteller, but as a student of the human condition. She is to be applauded for her willingness to draw from her own pain and suffering to provide the reader with such a warm portrait of this affliction. I highly recommend this read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Talie Ingram finds her great-great-grandmother¿s journal written in the 1800s. Initially fascinated by her find, she begins to read the entries until she comes across an item that frightens her. She realizes what her ancestor called 'feeble-minded' that ran in the family is actually a genetic disorder. --- Overwhelmed and frightened that she, her daughter and her sisters might have Fragile X Syndrome, she wants to throw away the ledger without finishing it. However, for the sake of her child and to inform her sister in an intelligent manner, she must find courage to learn more from the journal and other sources including God. --- This is a deep family drama that focuses on Fragile X Syndrome and its impact on people. This reviewer never heard of this particular genetic condition until Maureen Lang¿s powerful character study that grips the audience from the moment that Talie begins to understand her family Victorian Era history and its implications today. Empathy will go out to her as she struggles with accepting a terrifying prognosis that her son has this condition while wondering why God allows bad things to happen to good people. Extremely deep and haunting, Ms. Lang provides a tale from her soul to ours. --- Harriet Klausner
TLJo More than 1 year ago
A very moving, heart-warming story. I love how the author weaves the present day story with the past.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very impressed with this book. I enjoyed the suspense and the real story. Very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was surprisingly wonderful. Definitely an eye opener. Highly suggest :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. A family diary is found among family stuffed away. It reveals members and stuff they encounter. With this in mind, it helps a the family many years later to explain other issues and relize it's all in Gods hands. Life has its ups and downs, but no matter what.....u see Gods many blessings unfold. Sry don't want to give out too much info......lol. Enjoy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where is the part four
annonmousCT More than 1 year ago
I cannot finish this, this was veryyyy dragging for me
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found myself eager to get home from work to read more! A beautiful story of courage, faith, and love!
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
This was a very inspirational story that deals with special needs and genetics. It was very long but did cover some very interesting territory. There is love and acceptance as well as coming to grips with how to make the best of your life's challenges.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
****good book