Stuart, Nebraska is a long way from the battlefields of Western Europe, but it is not immune to the horrors of the first Great War for Peace. Like all communities, it has lost sons and daughters to the fighting, with many more giving themselves over to the hatred only war can engender.
Set in 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, The Meaning of Names is the story of an ordinary woman trying to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.
|Publisher:||Red Hen Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Karen Gettert Shoemaker is the author of Night Sounds and Other Stories. Awards for her writing include a Nebraska Press Association Award for Feature Writing, two Independent Artist Fellowship Awards from the Nebraska Arts Council, and a Nebraska Book Award for Short Fiction. Her work has been published in a variety of newspapers and journals, including The London Independent, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, and The South Dakota Review, and anthologized in A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers, Times of Sorrow/Times of Grace, An Untidy Season, and Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry. She is a faculty mentor with the University of Nebraska’s MFA in Writing Program. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she and her husband own and operate Shoemaker’s Truck Stop and Travel Center.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I got this from the library at the recommendation of someone on a FB list. I was interested because it is set in nearby Nebraska during the WWI era. I knew that it was about the hatred for German-Americans at that time, but I was not prepared for the whole of the story! Told from the pov of a German-American wife & mother, Gerda Vogel, we see life as it was at that time and see some of our current events repeating the same mistakes. Shoemaker keeps the tension strong by alternating chapters between Gerda and the town doctor, Dr. Gannoway. Gerda is a fearful young woman, partly because of Church teachings and partly because of her upbringing. That fear is exacerbated by a train trip in which she and another woman witness a German-American thrown violently off a train. War news seems far away until Fritz goes with neighbors to get his farmer's exemption from the draft. Throughout the story, people they have known for years are now cold--or worse. Then the deadly influenza epidemic hits, and the divided town becomes even more divided. Dr. Gannoway thinks of himself as a patriotic man of science and has many discussions with the new priest. Gannoway loves philosophy and other academic endeavors and enjoys letter-writing his thoughts to his brother, an army medic. We see these and the other main characters learn and grow as the story reaches its conclusion with an allusion to Mary Oliver's poem, The Summer Day.
A can't-put-down novel that only intensifies as it continues to its perfectly not-quite-perfect conclusion. Accessible (80-year-old parents loved it, as did thirty-something daughter)... yet written with beauty and intelligence. Shoemaker's characters are vivid, specific, and timeless. I want to keep them in my life!