Guardians and Other Angels: Linda Lee Greene
A young child is born into a family thinking that her parents would nurture her and take care of her at all costs. But, sometimes things happen that change a family’s dynamics as one member seems caught up in the deaths of two loved ones, cannot handle losing children and one young child is their replacement. Emotions run high, the child is sent to live with her grandmother part of the time and her parents the other part of the time as we hear her voice from the start and understand the unusual family dynamics that she endured. Told during the span of many decades Guardians and Other Angels is the inspirational story of two families that lived in Southern Ohio during both the Great Depression and the Second World War. Everyone comes here hoping to gain wealth, find their own form of the American Dream and even more know what the true meaning of Lady Liberty is as they come into our shores and see her holding up her bright light. As the author describes her home, a log cabin built by her family and her young father, Lee Greene. Imagine living in a log cabin built from stones, sticks and similar as she states to “the reverential structures of the early Hebrew worshipers.” The security within the walls that they built provided safety to him and enhanced their early lives. Living in many different places with his father and family, Lee Greene decided that he needed to set down some solid roots of his own and his father finally understood as they bought the Cedar Fork Property a prime piece of land. The author then relates some really interesting memories of her life there and how special the log cabin was for her and her family. But, things do not always remain as her parents separated when she was in her early teens. Next she describes the land, the trees and the scenery to help us picture more about her life and then imagine her father buying what would now be coveted Ford Model T.
Her father seems quite a character as he is a preacher, gets into a heated argument with a farmer and landowner, moves on and then we meet another family. Lena has a mind of her own and just wanted to be a carpenter and do more than just a female’s work. We learn more about her family, the children and then we come back to Linda’s family and we learn about the younger children, Roma and her amazing way of helping her mother, her father and Arthur who came out of nowhere and had been with them helping in the fields and cutting down the corn, plus the accident that costs one of the children the sight in her eye, the hardships they face and the fears are all brought to light. As we learn about how this family worked together when one member gets really sick and they use some old fashioned methods to cure a serious illness. As the family’s dynamics change and Arthur leaves to join a branch of the army and the author shares a very poignant first letter with readers as Bob leaves along with Arthur to join the military without telling his family. The letters are heartfelt, warm and express both a mother and father’s feelings towards their son. You can hear the pride in their voices as they share their thoughts in this letters with readers. We learn why Bobby went, why he did not tell his mother beforehand and we learn that Arthur is not with him in the same camp. Wanting to know more about where he is, what he is doing and of course as all mothers warning him to make the right friends, this book brings to light the struggles many families faced during the Great Depression and after the First World War. The author brings the plot into different time periods as she tells everyone more about Roosevelt, his Work Progress Administration and the death of Kennedy and Hurricane Katrina each devastating in its own way. At times by heart really goes out to Roma who seems to have been given too much responsibility to take care of her siblings and to poor Bussy who needs extra care.
The letters that the author shares allows the reader to get to know the characters in a more intimate way. You get to know the characters because what is conveyed really happened and the experiences are not made up and the history spans many generations.
The flood of 1937 was devastating and took its toll on the family and the Red Cross and the U.S. Army Corp engineers were involved in the rescue work as the family tried to stay afloat, the children returned to school and hopes to hear from Bobby were strong. Chapter ten shares some more letters that are really great revealing and you get to know more about Bobby his gun collection the war and their hopes for his return. Family news really makes a difference to those in the service and I can see where these letters from his sisters, brothers and parents will really bring his family closer. As we go back to get to know A.E. and his family better and Lee Greene. Getting to know Joshua the father of A.E. and the rest of the family we learn more about their background their link to the Civil War and her family’s visits to Kissimmee. The author includes stories about her grandparents, her uncles and Mommaw and Poppaw Greene or A.E. as she thought of him. She tells about a short trip to an empty house, which he hoped to purchase one day. Describing the trip can give you claustrophobia as they all packed into one car and it seemed they barely had enough room to move. Then we learn more about them in school and we hear each voice in Chapter 12 as more letters are shared but this time from Bobby.
The stories are strong and the times are difficult, reliving the war, their history and the hopes that their family would somehow survive.
With amazing and descriptive accounts of her real life history, her maternal and paternal families, where they began and where they wind up the time span covers many decades and the letters focus on the years of the Great Depression and the start of WWII. Born during the Second World War she experienced what many only read about in history books and related her experiences first hand. As the story flashes forward to when her parents and how they met. Chapter 14 the author shares more letters we learn about Bussy’s poor health, the letters to family and friends and the ones shared are to a friend, to his mother and from his father. The voices are so loud that you can almost see and hear them as they write the letters sitting at a table or desk and hear their every word as you read it and share their inner most thoughts. But, the truth about the war hits hard in Chapter 16 as Bob remains in active military service with letters coming from Africa where he was fighting against the German General Rommel and sharing his observations and the places he sees. Bob was handsome and looked like a Hollywood movie star and seemed to fit the image of a German soldier as he goes to war for America. In chapter 18 the author shares her story, her weaknesses and the way she was able to compensate. Loving to draw pictures she shares with the reader the many created, the photos she took and the many albums she created of her family history.
A mosaic picture of a two families and how their lives intertwined and they shared their personal letters or you might say diary with us in this outstanding novel that will keep you riveted to the printed page until you find out where they wind up and what might be next. At times you would think that there were special angels watching over each one of these special people in their own way and the way they cared for each other is more than just heartfelt you can feel it in every word as the author remembers her past and shares it with us in the present.
In the last few chapters we learn more about our author, her learning difficulties and successes and her excitement to be the one to announce breakfast when learning to speak in complete sentences. But, when she describes how she kept vigil in her dying aunt the account reminded me of doing the same last year for watching my sister leave this physical world and it really brought tears to my eyes. Many deaths, sadness and the loss of so many she cared for as the remainder of Chapter 20 shares more letters. The final chapter or what she shares you will have to read for yourself as she brings the story into 2007, the death of her mother and rest read Guardians and Other Angels and if you are like me you will read it in one day. I could not put it down. Thank you for sharing your past in the present.
Fran Lewis: reviewer