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
Available in: Print & Ebook; 276 Pages, The Brothers Path


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.


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



October 11, 1531

For us here in the US, history started in one of several discrete moments. For those of us with Viking ancestry, it begins in Vinland — Newfoundland — around 1000 CE meaning Newfoundland should properly be called, “Nearly-newfoundland.” For others it began in 1607 in Jamestown or 1620 at Plymouth Rock. Yet, events in Europe that occurred long before the colonies began to succeed and endure affected the culture than emerged in America.

One of these events was the Second War of Kappel that happened in Kappel am Albis in near the border between Canton Zürich and Canton Zug, a brief, bloody rout in which 500 soldiers from Protestant Zürich were killed by an army from the five nearby Catholic Cantons.

Zürich had not been Protestant long — in fact, nowhere had been Protestant long. The conversion of Zürich was led by a charismatic preacher, a priest, by the name of Huldrych Zwingli.


Portrait of Zwingli by Albrecht Dürer

When we think of the Reformation now, we think of Tudor England and Martin Luther, but it was a far more complex event. Luther and Zwingli, who were contemporaries, debated over doctrine several times, hoping to find a way to bring their two movements together. Their efforts fell apart over the question of whether the bread and wine changed to the body and blood of Christ during communion. For Luther it did; for Zwingli, no. The two men, from then on, led rival reforms each in his own Imperial city with more or less support from local princes and city leaders.

Each of these reforms increased in size and power until the Pope convened a council in the Imperial city of Speyer in 1529 and declared all reformed religions heresy. Those who practiced these religions — and any other of the emergent non-Catholic religions — were declared heretics.

See the full story at: October 11, 1531


This is a nice little piece of Boston history. Most people don’t realize almost all of modern Boston began as landfill projects. I believe Back Bay was the first major city area built on landfill.

This is Real Life.

boston_1630_1675The year was 1630. They looked across a swampy bay that seemed somewhat eerie in how quiet it was. They could see their boats in the distance bobbing up and down in their newly made harbor. The smell of the mud and animals wafted up toward them as they stared into the future of what this land could behold.

Almost 400 hundred years later, I looked across the same water. It was in a very different shape now; wrinkles and hills still shaping the streets of the old city. Boston has been shaped and melded into an industrial, financial, and scholarly city that is very different from its beginnings.

I was taken to Boston the new-fangled way, a very different trip than the first settlers. Boston Logan International Airport is fairly atypical for a large city because it’s so close to downtown. It took a quick subway ride to get to…

View original post 282 more words


“So let them eat cake,” Marie said, merriment dancing in her eyes.

The peasants found her statement revolting. After all, they had no cake. Nor eggs, flour, sugar, or any of those cute little plastic cake decorations.


Exécution de Marie Antoinette le 16 Octobre 1793

Instead, they made Marie eat her words. Alas, but they were not a tasty treat.



When a thousand years has past and the archaeologists — or whatever they are called in that long distant future earth — stumble on the tel that was our home, what will they find?


More remnants of dogs than people. Dog toys, dishes, food. Mountains of dog hair.

When they dig up our stuff, it will be a strange mix. Ancient and modern. Chinese and Asian pottery and artifacts. Toys from an earlier time and pottery from earlier millennium.

Technology. Digital imaging equipment, film cameras and computers in all shapes and sizes. Television and oil-burning lamps. A woodstove. Electric lights and oak floors.

Fireplaces and oil heating systems.


Carved wooden cabinets. Sofas, rocking chairs, hand-hooked rugs. Pillows and blankets. Shoes. Boots. Pots and pans.

Glass and plastic bottles. Copper kettles that whistle, and microwave ovens. Cast iron door stops.

Musical instruments. Lutes. organs. A piano. Wood flutes, DVDs, vinyl records. Thousands of bound paper books. Bricks, stones, cement, steel and wood beams.


No flying cars. Not one.

Millions and millions of aluminum cans.

And they will have no idea what it means. None whatsoever.


The odds favor that, if you life a full life, you will witness some event that’s historically important. Depending on your definition of “witness,” you’ll inevitably witness a lot of history. You can’t avoid it. Some is more dramatic and makes better stories. Even if your witnessing was accomplished via television and news reports, you are no less a witness.

My favorite “witness” experience was being in Israel when the Camp David Accords were signed. I had only arrived there a few weeks before. I was still trying to figure out what this place was about. It definitely wasn’t the romanticized venue in the novels I’d read … or even the idealized “homeland” my mother always imagined.

It was far more complicated, textured, and nuanced … which should not have been a surprise, yet sort of was surprising.

I bought a car shortly after I arrived. A Ford Escort. Ford had a little factory in Israel and Escorts were Everyman’s car. Small, and by American standards, under-powered, they were a “best buy” on Israel’s new car market.

The Ford dealership was directly across from the King David. And the King David was where Begin, Sadat, and Carter were meeting and deal-making. As fate would have it, it was also the day on which I was supposed to pick up my car. When I got there, it was obvious bigger events were taking place and my car would wait.

There were armed men everywhere. On the streets, the rooftops, and everywhere else you could look and probably thousands of places you couldn’t easily see. No one was getting assassinated on Israel’s watch. At least, not that day.

Around midday, to the enthusiastic cheering of the crowd, the official limousines swung past, each sporting the flags of its nation It was a sight to see.

There was much celebration and joy. It was one of the happiest, most optimistic times in Israel’s short modern history. Hope that finally, there might be a real peace. Hope that somehow, out of all the bloodshed and wars, this was a meaningful step forward.

Not long thereafter, back in Egypt, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Moshe Dayan who had crafted the accords, would die too. He had been sick with both cancer and heart disease for a long time, but, personally, I think he died of disappointment.

After that,the optimism faded. The joy was damped down and it was business as usual.

I was there for that brief, bright moment. A witness to one great moment when joy exploded in the streets of Jerusalem. No matter what anyone says nowadays about Israel’s intentions in the region, if you were there that day, you could not fail to see the foundation of everyone’s hopes, was peace.



A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an episode of “The American Experience.” It was part two of two and it focused on Lyndon Baines Johnson, Selma, Alabama … and the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights acts.

This is American history, but it’s also part of our personal histories. Those were titanic times. Garry was already a working reporter. I was finished with college and out in the real world.

We remember. It was a very big deal. It was a massive shift in our culture and the reality in which we lived. It was the consummation of centuries of racism and oppression plus decades of the ongoing battle for equal rights — still a work in progress. Of wondering, doubting, if change was even possible.

Selma alabama 1965 resized

Selma, Alabama, March 1965

After John Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson, a traditional Southern politician who had never shown any special liberal or progressive leanings, came forward and decided enough was enough. Of all the presidents I would never have expected to be the one who would make it happen, LBJ did it. He decided it was time, that this unfairness had gone on long enough.

Against all odds and current political wisdom, he succeeded. Not because he was the most honest politician. Not because he was the most popular guy on Capitol Hill. Possibly the reason he could get it done was because he was a practical, pragmatic, politician who did whatever he needed to do to get an enormously important task accomplished. A freshman senator or any of those idealistic pie-in-the-sky guys couldn’t have done it. A newbie wouldn’t even know where to start.

Later, after he’d gotten mired in Vietnam — huge mistake — he knew that his running again would blow up the party, so he did the unthinkable. He stepped aside.

Who in the modern political pantheon would do that? Is there anyone concerned more with America than with his or her own career? Do I hear any names?


We don’t just theorize the possibility that it could work. We know it can. We’ve seen change happen. We’ve been part of that change.

We know politicians don’t have to be the most honest or idealistic to do great things. In fact, often the most effective people are the ones who’ve been around a long time — and know where the bodies are buried.

The system can work. It does work. It has worked. We’ve seen it at its best. Right now, I think we are seeing it at its worst.

That things are ugly is not a reason to give up. Exactly the opposite. Now is the when we need to put shoulders to the wheel and exert some effort to make things better. To elect responsible, intelligent, sensible, practical people who know how to get stuff done and have a grasp of what the issues are. And who believe their first loyalty is to the country and its people.

It’s not “outsiders” who accomplish great things. It’s insiders who care enough to do it.