A NOVEL OF THE REFORMATION – THE BROTHERS PATH – MARTHA KENNEDY

The Brothers Path, by Martha Kennedy


Publisher: Free Magic Show Productions (July 4, 2016)
Category: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-1535101295
ASIN: B01HSDYD04
Available in: Print & Ebook; 276 Pages, The Brothers Path

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By award-winning author, Martha Kennedy.

The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.


I love history, yet somehow in my reading, I missed this critical period in European history.

Of course I knew about the Reformation, but I never imagined it as a particularly bloody period. I knew there had considerable strife and struggles between the Roman Catholic church which had ruled the Christian world since the end of the Roman Empire, and the nascent protestant faiths. Yet I had never given much thought to the impact these world-altering events had on the lives of people living through them.

72-martha-pikes-peakMartha Kennedy’s beautifully written book brought me a close and personal understanding of how the disintegration of the Roman religious hierarchy was the central event of its time. It affected everyone living, from the most humble to the most high. It was not merely the change in what people believed, but what they were required to believe — or at least act as if they believed. Life could not go on as it had.

Dissenters from the new order are hunted and killed, yet the old order is not without resources or power. And so there is war. A personal, ugly, close-fought war that tears families apart.

The Schneebeli family is one of many families that has descended from nobility to would ultimately be considered “middle” class. Landowners still, they must work hard to survive. They have mills. Horses. A crumbling tower to remind them of former glory, for whatever it is worth and it is not worth much. They retain considerable standing in their village in Switzerland as well as a strong sense of obligation and duty towards their neighbors.

As issues of faith and religion dominate their world, the family needs considerable agility to dodge and weave through an increasingly dangerous world. Peter, the warrior brother, is seeking a path that will not bring him into direct (and probably lethal) conflict with his family and friends. Hans, the monk, wants to continue to serve his people … and have a family, too. The Reformation offers him a path to be both — what he has been and what he wants to be.

For each brother, there is a road to walk … and whichever path they choose, it is fraught with danger.

To whatever degree religion in today’s world is a hot button issue, it cannot compare with the intensity or emotion stirred up as the indestructible Church, the linchpin of European Christianity for a millennium, ruptures.

This is a book about history and religion. War that is personal, close, intimate, and unavoidable. Love that finds a way despite the tumult of the times. Families that stick together. Lives saved, lives ruined. It paints a clear picture of why religion and government should always remain separate. When churches rule, people die. When personal belief is a legal mandate and defying it is worth your life, society cannot thrive.

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At the bottom of it all, aside from the battles and painful changes to life, the book is about people going about their business, living, loving, and surviving. The characters are resilient. They take their losses and they move on — because that’s what real people do. Through it all, they find a reasonable amount of happiness.

If this sounds like it might be depressing, it isn’t. The world may be a mess, but Martha Kennedy’s characters are sensible, educated, grounded people who make intelligent decisions. The winds of change and war buffet them, but they never lose their commonsense or belief in themselves. I found it refreshing to meet a group of characters who behaved like smart, civilized people, even in the midst of violent change and occasionally, near chaos.

This isn’t a lightweight romp, but it is not a grim slog from misery to misery, either. There are losses. There are victories. Good times and bad, sorrow and joy. Real people living in a challenging and complicated period of history … and making the best of what life offers. It’s a highly readable book that keeps you interested from start to finish.

It’s well worth reading. I only wish it had been longer.

FROM SLAVERY TO SPINNING: INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION IN THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY

AMERICA: BORN BANKRUPT


America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We had raw material, but it was Great Britain who turned those materials into goods for world markets.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.

The result was war, a staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies — and birth of the United States of America.

Winning the war was just short of a miracle. The colonies had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President. And no wonder eight years of that terrible responsibility was more than enough for him.

French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

WHAT DID WE HAVE?


Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industry were slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real. From north to south, slavery made people rich. Not the slaves, of course, but white people. Landowners. Farmers.

In the industrialized north and the agricultural south, fortunes were made selling human beings and profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution and transform a bunch of individual colonies into a single country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass a constitution, so slavery became law. The groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. This evil lives on and its legacy still remains — and probably always will.

HOW COME WE COULDN’T FIND A BETTER WAY?


Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was obvious from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was banned. From private writings by members of the continental congress, we know every delegate understood the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Decades before the revolution that began in 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies.

“The Great Compromise” was written into law. The Constitution was approved  — and a later generation fought the war. Which, apparently, isn’t yet ended. The right and moral thing went head to head with the bottom line and lost. Sound familiar?

Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything resembling justice, much less equality.

When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

ABOUT THOSE MILLS


Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.

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Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.

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In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how. The river had power … but the area is rough, dense with trees, rocky. And the river is full of twists and turn and drops. The river was full of potential, but it would require inventiveness and planning to harness it.

AMERICA’S INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION BEGAN ON THE BLACKSTONE


Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed people — especially those with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcome. This was a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

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By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

THE BLACKSTONE CANAL


On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently needed a more efficient way to move their goods. The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it worse than useless for shipping goods. Horse-drawn wagons were slow and expensive. The trip from Worcester to Providence took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads and in winter, was often impossible.

The Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge, Massachusetts

The Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge, Massachusetts

When the weather turned bad, the roads were impassable. Which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SLAVERY?


Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

It also eliminated and further need for slave labor in the north. Why use slaves when you can pay almost nothing to free men who will provide their own food, clothing, and housing? Sometimes the lines between free and not-free are not all that clear.

BUILDING THE CANAL


The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.

The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.

Little canal along the Mumford, a Blackstone River tributary. Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Little canal along the Mumford, a Blackstone River tributary. Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD


Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.

The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

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By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was horribly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast. One by one, the mills closed their New England facilities and moved south. By 1923, almost all U.S. cotton was grown, spun, and woven down south — in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, Alabama. Without the mills and factories, the population in the Blackstone Valley’s towns began shrinking.

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The hulking empty factory buildings were left as reminders of the glory days of the American mill industry. Also left behind was massive pollution of the soil and the water.

POLLUTION


In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess. There are also many areas where the soil is toxic, so full of hazardous waste it may never be usable for any purpose.

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We’re still cleaning up. Although not as bad as it was, the watershed has a way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the main parts of the Blackstone. Against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from at least one sewage treatment plant in Millbury and there are quite a few nuclear generating plants in the area who dump water into the river, too (but the government doesn’t readily admit to it — now there’s a shocker, right?). It’s hard to fathom what reasoning those who favor pouring sewage and wastewater into our river have. Save a few pennies, destroy our drinking water?

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The battle to save our world from greed never ends.

Good news? The birds and fish are back. American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it. This is a battle we need to win.

THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – NOVEMBER 18, 1978

Another anniversary. And a timely reminder where crazy leaders can take us. Do NOT drink the Kool-Aid. Really. Just say no. It’s now 38 years … and we seem to be heading back down the lonesome road.

SERENDIPITY

Another year, another anniversary. It seems, given recent events, especially timely to remember where hatred leads.

Terror, born in hatred and nurtured by evil, doesn’t always come from somewhere else. We grow our own bad guys, too. It’s why I cringe at the over-simplified “meme psychology” that currently dominates media. Education doesn’t cure evil. Nor does sending in the Marines. Evil will always be us. We need to recognize it for what it is. Even when it smiles and makes pretty promises.


It happened — or perhaps culminated — on November 18, 1978. Which makes today the 37th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, one of the most bizarre, horrible events of the 20th century

If you were old enough to read or understand television news in 1978, you remember the Jonestown Massacre. With religious fanaticism and radical fundamentalism enjoying a groundswell of popularity — even among people who ought to know better — it’s a good time to remember where…

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PARTYING WITH THE INNER DEMONS … WHAT A HANGOVER!

My inner demons had a blowout party last night. I wasn’t invited, but I was allowed to have the hangover. It was one hell of a party because I wound up with a helluva hangover.

Backtracking slightly, I take a lot of medications. More than half of them are to control my blood pressure. I had a lot of heart surgery a couple of years ago. New mitral valve. Redesigned left ventricle and aortic valve. Bypass. Pacemaker implanted. The whole nine yards of heart surgery. My job is to keep active to the best of my ability … and not get myself so wound up that my drugs can’t keep up with my angst. To say this week has been hyper-over-the-top-angst-o-rama would be no exaggeration.

Photo: mightygodofthunder

Illustration: mightygodofthunder

Yesterday, I needed all the help I could get. Tranquility was hard to find. The political pundits — the same people whose predictions and polls were so horribly wrong — are now making new predictions. This time, about the dire consequences of the election they got wrong. I really favor the press. I believe a free press is the wall that stands between us and tyranny.

I also think they need to stop predicting the apocalypse. This is not helping. Guys? Gals? Take a breath and start over. Let’s work from what’s really happening this time rather than on what you fear, hope, or think will make a great headline, okay? Please? Let’s treat the news as fact-based, just for a while. Let’s not sling mud and spread rumors. It doesn’t make things better and raises everyone’s blood pressure.

Anyway, why should these people be more on target now than they were before the election? The answer is “no reason.” They know no more than you or me. Not yet. Nothing has happened. They are extrapolating and speculating to come up with what sounds like a reasonable scenario. Consider this before you leap from that tall building or when you’re getting ready to drink the Kool-Aid. Let’s not sing the death song quite yet. Are you with me? How about a couple of verses of “Kumbaya”? Or “We Shall Overcome”?

All this being said, by the time I hit the bed last night, I was worn to a frazzle. I have done my best to remain calm and stay in the car, as it were. To not leave my car bearing a paring knife to join the big gunfight.

Illustration: omegaman20

Illustration: omegaman20

As far a drugs go, I didn’t take any more than what is prescribed or anything I don’t usually take. Except when I lay me down to sleep, it all hit at the same time. The drugs, the day, the anxiety, the fear. Wham, bang. I was afraid to raise my head. I was sure I’d pass out.

Thus the party commenced. All my inner demons, physical and psychological, held a grand gala. They drank and danced. They laughed and spun as I lay wondering if I could get to the bathroom a dozen steps away to brush my teeth. Answer: no. I was in no fit shape to be upright. I gave in and went to sleep.

The demons had the party. I got the hangover.

I feel physically better this morning, so something got sorted out during those hours of darkness. If it seems like I’m working hard at staying centered and balanced, you’re correct. I cannot let those demons take over. The overnight shindig was enough. More than enough.

Meanwhile, back at the other laptop, Garry is suffering from Post-Election Trump-Induced Depression. Also known as PETID (PET-ID for the dog and cat enthusiasts). As opposed to the even worse buyer’s remorse that Trump’s voters are going to feel when they realize he isn’t going to do a damned thing to improve their lives.

That’s what you get when you follow a demagogue. That’s no garden path down which he is leading. There’s no better place at the other end of your journey. I guess a lot of people are about to learn this painful lesson. Too bad they didn’t learn it the easy way … from history books.

TRACING THE PAST

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: TRACES OF THE PAST


FROM PAULA: “Quite often when I travel I take an unconventional approach. It is not about learning about buildings and places that I visit, or knowing all the dates and names; it is about stepping into the past, and if I am lucky enough to have only the company of my choice with me, it is like a time travel in which I write my own script.” 

Well put. I feel that way not only when I travel, but it is the reason I collect antiquities. Each is a physical piece of the past. I hold it and imagine how many other hands have held this piece of pottery or sculpture. Who were they? What was the world like? How did it happen that this fragile thing could survive a thousand years when, at any time, a slip of the hand would have shattered it.

Yesterday, my son gave me an old, small (as these things go) Victorian secretary with a glass display top, replacing a piece that I’d bought from a carpenter friend that was charming, but not exactly a great piece of furniture. I have spend the last 24 hours cleaning small things, finding things I’d forgotten I have, moving stuff around from this shelf, to that shelf. The former piece was open, no glass. There were just two shelves, one open top, the other 16-inches tall. The secretary’s shelves are about 13-inches high, so the taller things have had to move elsewhere, and some of the plates will fit, but not on their wood stands. Housing and displaying very old, delicate things is not as simple as it looks unless you have a lot more space for display than me. But, I did it. I gave away one picture — big 11X14 of the dawn over Ogunquit beach to my son and his partner. I have many things that need a piece of wall and there’s no wall available. I own the original of that print, so I can make another. Maybe I will. On canvas, this time.


I remembered something I’d put out of my mind and it saddened me. Last March, I (me, no one else, just me) knocked down a display cabinet in the living room. I wrote about it here: WHEN GOOD SHELVES GO BAD.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase.

I had forgotten that the Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase (the white vase with the Chinese characters) was one of two fatalities in that crash. I’m very glad I took pictures of it. It was probably my favorite piece. The prettiest and in the best condition of any of my antique vases. It was, in fact, almost flawless.

It no longer exists in this world. That’s the thing about the antiques and antiquities we collect. We collect them for ourselves because they are beautiful and rare and come from the mists of time. But we also preserve them so they will continue to exist in this world. Sadly, I failed in this and one other much older small vase.

There is more to collecting that just “having stuff.” Real collectors know this and it is probably more addictive than heroine. And possibly, even more expensive.

THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA

“And that’s the way it is” by Rich Paschall


With so many bad sources of news in the world, who do you trust to give you reliable and up to date information?  I know it is tough to decide.  At one time there was radio, television, newspapers and your grandma’s gossip across the back fence.  You may also have had a few barroom buddies who seemed to be pretty up to date on the happenings in the nation and even the world.  Now that there are so many more options, how do you know who to trust and what to believe?

Perhaps you still rely on Aunt Mildred.  She always seems to be well read and has a tidbit of news on everything.  When she shows up at family gatherings she can easily dazzle those who would sit down to listen.  She always shows up early to the parties and is willing to stay until the very end, as long as there are snacks and highballs around.  Her whisky fueled news items show the great recall she has from the supermarket publications she gets regularly.  Sometimes she also gets the Sunday papers, but that is more for the store coupons than the news.

Then there is cousin Billy, also a regular at the family gatherings.  He tries not to get into arguments with Aunt Mildred because her vocabulary is better than his.  However, you just know he is right about his views of America.  His sources may seem a bit murky, but if you can not trust someone you practically grew up with, who can you trust?

cronkite-395Your nephew Chad is probably much more up to date than the others because he is on social media all the time, reading up on the environment, politics and his favorite rock bands.  He often shows you those clever memes that contain some of the best quotes for your education on the latest issues.  If you mention a topic, Chad can find a meme, video or highly respected blog that will educate you on what you need to know.  At least the blogs are highly respected by Chad, and you respect Chad, don’t you? (Chad respects this blog.)

When I was younger (much younger) and staying with my grandparents, dinner had to be finished by 5:30 PM so that my grandfather could get to his favorite chair.  We lived in the Central Time Zone and the CBS Evening news came on early.  It was OK because it fit right into their retirement schedule.  My grandparents had been farmers and were use to early breakfast and lunch, so 5 PM dinner did not seem too early.  Their main source of news was a Monday through Friday evening broadcast.

It was not just that it was a news program.  There were others at that time.  He could have watched the venerable team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.  He could have tuned to Howard K Smith and Harry Reasoner.  But my grandfather only followed the man who came to be known as the most trusted man in America.  Many years of strong and steady broadcasts of news events had led one man to the top of his field.

Solid reporting

Solid reporting

Walter Cronkite Jr. was a broadcast journalist who started his career in 1937 covering major news events around the globe.  Later he covered NASA and brought us all the early successes and some failures of the space program.  You could rely on Walter to describe the event and educate you on space all at the same time.  It was the facts that he brought to a broadcast, not the spin.

In 1962 he became the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and the main face of the news division.  If there was an important story, Walter told us about it.  With a confident and authoritative tone and a grandfatherly face, people came to trust him with the news.  In fact as his tenure on the evening news went on, polls began to show that it was not a politician or entertainer that people trusted most, it was Walter.

In 1963 I recall watching Walter as he told us all about the assassination of President Kennedy and the events that followed.  No I did not see the earliest broadcasts live, I was in grade school.  But I did see all that followed.  I have seen the early footage many times since in documentaries, as Walter had to tell a nation that the President was dead.  To this day that broadcast will evoke tears.

"President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time."

“President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.”

Walter advised us of what was going on in Viet Nam.  Did it help turn a nation against the war?  Walter told us about Watergate extensively.  Did it help lead to the downfall of a President?  If he influenced public opinion, it was not because he twisted the facts or spun their meaning, it was because he reported them.

After 19 years, Walter Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News.  CBS had a mandatory retirement age of 65 then.  Today they would probably let him go on as long as ratings were good.  He lived to be 92 and remained active for many years after “retirement.”

Are there any broadcasters today that enjoy the trust of American people like Walter Leland Cronkite Jr.?  Yes, I know the answer to that.  Everyone seems to be interpreting rather than just reporting.  They all appear to have a point of view and we may trust them about as much as we trust Aunt Mildred.  Of course, there are a few that trust Aunt Mildred a lot, “and that’s the way it is.”

“THE BROTHERS PATH” by MARTHA KENNEDY

The Brothers Path, by Martha Kennedy


Publisher: Free Magic Show Productions (July 4, 2016)
Category: Historical Fiction
Tour Dates: Oct/Nov, 2016
ISBN: 978-1535101295
ASIN: B01HSDYD04
Available in: Print & Ebook; 276 Pages, The Brothers Path

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By award-winning author, Martha Kennedy.

The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.


I love history, yet somehow in my reading, I missed this critical period in European history.

Of course I knew about the Reformation, but I never imagined it as a particularly bloody period. I knew there had considerable strife and struggles between the Roman Catholic church which had ruled the Christian world since the end of the Roman Empire, and the nascent protestant faiths. Yet I had never given much thought to the impact these world-altering events had on the lives of people living through them.

72-martha-pikes-peakMartha Kennedy’s beautifully written book brought me a close and personal understanding of how the disintegration of the Roman religious hierarchy was the central event of its time. It affected everyone living, from the most humble to the most high. It was not merely the change in what people believed, but what they were required to believe — or at least act as if they believed. Life could not go on as it had.

Dissenters from the new order are hunted and killed, yet the old order is not without resources or power. And so there is war. A personal, ugly, close-fought war that tears families apart.

The Schneebeli family is one of many families that has descended from nobility to would ultimately be considered “middle” class. Landowners still, they must work hard to survive. They have mills. Horses. A crumbling tower to remind them of former glory, for whatever it is worth and it is not worth much. They retain considerable standing in their village in Switzerland as well as a strong sense of obligation and duty towards their neighbors.

As issues of faith and religion dominate their world, the family needs considerable agility to dodge and weave through an increasingly dangerous world. Peter, the warrior brother, is seeking a path that will not bring him into direct (and probably lethal) conflict with his family and friends. Hans, the monk, wants to continue to serve his people … and have a family, too. The Reformation offers him a path to be both — what he has been and what he wants to be.

For each brother, there is a road to walk … and whichever path they choose, it is fraught with danger.

To whatever degree religion in today’s world is a hot button issue, it cannot compare with the intensity or emotion stirred up as the indestructible Church, the linchpin of European Christianity for a millennium, ruptures.

This is a book about history and religion. War that is personal, close, intimate, and unavoidable. Love that finds a way despite the tumult of the times. Families that stick together. Lives saved, lives ruined. It paints a clear picture of why religion and government should always remain separate. When churches rule, people die. When personal belief is a legal mandate and defying it is worth your life, society cannot thrive.

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At the bottom of it all, aside from the battles and painful changes to life, the book is about people going about their business, living, loving, and surviving. The characters are resilient. They take their losses and they move on — because that’s what real people do. Through it all, they find a reasonable amount of happiness.

If this sounds like it might be depressing, it isn’t. The world may be a mess, but Martha Kennedy’s characters are sensible, educated, grounded people who make intelligent decisions. The winds of change and war buffet them, but they never lose their commonsense or belief in themselves. I found it refreshing to meet a group of characters who behaved like smart, civilized people, even in the midst of violent change and occasionally, near chaos.

This isn’t a lightweight romp, but it is not a grim slog from misery to misery, either. There are losses. There are victories. Good times and bad, sorrow and joy. Real people living in a challenging and complicated period of history … and making the best of what life offers. It’s a highly readable book that keeps you interested from start to finish.

It’s well worth reading. I only wish it had been longer.

“THE BROTHERS PATH” ON TOUR October 4 through November 30, 2016

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