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The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes Paperback – March 30, 2015
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes offers us slices of classic Americana lovingly transformed by the spirit of Welsh storytelling. It is the spiritual odyssey of a woman finding her way back to faith. Her journey is touching, amusing, and at times hilarious."
-- Rev. Timothy Vaverek, S.T.D., Christian Writer
"Witty, wacky, zany--this is a postmodern romp which astonishes with moments of spiritual wisdom and provocative piety."
-- David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Baylor University, Author, Houses of the Interpreter and People of the Book
"A relatable, funny story of a spiritual journey for anyone who appreciates wacky anecdotes."
-- Kirkus Indie, indie@kirkusreviews
"A riveting and entertaining read from beginning to end."
-- Midwest Book Review
"No matter what was going on in Elaine's life, she ran from God until late in life and refused to believe that He cared about her. And yes, there have been plenty of times in my life when I have run from God. As I read this book, I learned how she came to appreciate her rich Welsh heritage, how she discovered who God really is, and how He drew her back to him. This is a book definitely worth reading."
-- Lisa's Writopia (lisaswritopia.com/the-curious-autobiography-of-elaine-jakes-a-review/)
From the Inside Flap
Elaine Jakes was a schoolteacher in suburban Philadelphia. Living in the vivacious and eccentric community of New Hope, Pa, in the 1970s and 1980s, she very much reflected that town's character. Yet another place, Wales, the land of her forefathers, ever kept a spiritual hold on her, beckoning her homeward through the most unexpected of mechanisms (e.g. scents, strolls along a canal, animals, family and friends) until she discovers who she really is and the redemptive power of the cross.
Her son, H.R. Jakes, a writer who lives in Texas, compiled her story. He has been writing all his life, and she thus felt confident to entrust him with that task. Through him, further books in this series will be forthcoming, first among them Curious Recipes: the Mostly Welsh Cookbook of Elaine Jakes, a charming (and tasty) combination of Elaine's tales with detailed recipes, featuring as an aspect of every vignette the story behind each culinary delight. H. R. Jakes is married to Diana, whom he met in Italy in 1979. They have 7 children and one grandchild, in whose eyes it is evident to one and all that Elaine's legacy lives on.
"I carefully set out the tea service, giving pride of place to the brown teapot, Grandmother Lucy Hughes Jones's favorite. Its brown bands undulated like waves of the sea, if a sea characterized by a dark, unwelcoming current. Stationed in front of the pot were the teacups--adorned with petite English silverware, pawns on the tea set battlefield--and, on the right and left rear flanks, were a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, not quite matching, but nice pieces and thoroughly Welsh. There was also a small plate of lemon wedges, stranded to one side, should Dr. (Champ) Clark Carney and his good wife, Bess, his better half and my best colleague, so desire. In the center of it all was the grand oversized cheese plate, like a tank, lid in place, bearing its Cheshire smile that always frightened the small children in the family."
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The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes is all at once heartwarming, sobering, hilarious, and pious. It tells the life story of Elaine Jakes, from late childhood up till her death (and at times even past it in her posthumous reflection), a life spent overly in religiosity and little in piety but, as Elaine learns towards the end of her life, never truly far from God and His watchful hands. The autobiography was edited and transcribed by her son and according to his note for the most part contains true stories, though at least a couple are most likely embellishments. Considering it was transcribed and edited by another person after Elaine’s death, the voice of Elaine is strong, consistent, delightfully unique, frank, humble, self-effacing, and bold from beginning to end. She is a woman with many faults who made some terrible mistakes, yet they are the type of mistakes that almost anyone could make if he loses sight of God, mistakes that arise out of pride and religiosity not malice. Her growth and humble humor is inspiring, encouraging, and enlightening. This novel boosts the reader up with encouragement and comfort instead of dragging him down.
Elaine is raised Welsh Presbyterian and in early adulthood breaks from the family faith. Throughout adulthood, in which she raises her son as a single mother, she becomes Chinese, Jewish, mother to a monkey, a teacher, a rancher, and eventually a Welsh Presbyterian. She is ornery, resilient, honest, untruthful, selfish, vain, and utterly lovable. This book had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions, usually in the same scene that had but moments earlier brought tears of sadness to my eyes. This great feat in itself is nothing compared to how seamlessly God is revealed through the little moments captured from Elaine’s life. The story in Chapter 10 where one of the characters finds God is truly touching in its simplicity and masterful progression. The basis for the novel in true events is nowhere more obvious than here: only God is capable of such masterpieces, only God can work in man’s heart through such seemingly insignificant but well-placed seedlings to bring about such an abundant harvest at exactly the right time. The pace of the novel and interweaving of time and tale expertly conveys the patience and omnipresence of God throughout our lives. Elaine’s story is very unique and yet at the same time it reflects the story of us all.
The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes is a story about her journey of faith from growing up in a Welsh Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania only to reject that faith in favor of becoming a white Chinese Jew (you just need to read it to understand) and eventually turn back to the faith that she was raised in. The book is laced with many humorous stories that Elaine tells; however, in the Afterword, Mr. Jakes admits that some of her tales are somewhat exaggerated, but there are some details that he can confirm as accurate since he was witness to them.
I normally do not read autobiographies; however, I did enjoy this one. The only issue I had with this book, and it is more of a personal preference, is that the chapters are not chronological but topical in the way they are laid out. I thought it was hard to follow since there was several overlaps in the timeline, which caused a little confusion. Despite that, I found Elaine’s life story to be fun and interesting.
If you like autobiographies, you will find that The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes is a good read to enjoy and see that everyone has story to tell.