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Up the Hill to Home: A Novel Paperback – April 28, 2015
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"The author creates believable characters . . . Yet history itself is the novel's best feature. The author has done her homework, infusing her work with convincing details of 19th- and early-20th-century city life . . . a good book." --Kirkus Reviews
"Beautifully and lovingly written, this sweet story is well researched . . . it deserves a Perfect 10 for the pure enjoyment . . ." --Romance Reviews Today
"Yacovissi has planned her book carefully, and the result is nothing short of remarkable." --Curled up with a Good Book
"Up the Hill to Home is an emotionally powerful, gorgeously imparted family saga." --Foreword Reviews Magazine
"She brings the people and the places to life in such a way that they take up residence in your imagination, fully formed and breathing." --Washington Independent Review of Books
About the Author
Jenny Yacovissi grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, just a bit farther up the hill from Washington, D.C. Her debut novel Up the Hill to Home is a fictionalized account of her mother's family in Washington from the Civil War to the Great Depression. In addition to writing and reading historical and contemporary literary fiction, Jenny is a reviewer for Washington Independent Review of Books and the Historical Novel Society. She owns a small project management and engineering consulting firm, and enjoys gardening and being on the water. Jenny lives with her husband Jim in Crownsville, Maryland.
To learn more about the families in Up the Hill to Home and see photos and artifacts from their lives, visit jbyacovissi.com/about-the-book.
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Top Customer Reviews
Jennifer Bort Yacovissi
Review by Barbara Bamberger Scott
"Over the course of nine pregnancies, Lillie develops her own little rituals in preparing for a new baby’s arrival into the family. One of the first things she does is to have Ferd go up into the attic and bring down her memory box. In fact, she sometimes breaks the happy news to him by smiling and simply saying, ‘It’s time to get the box again.’ For his part, Ferd responds with some combination of a smile or laugh, a kiss, and a sweeping, feet-off-the-floor embrace before he heads to the attic. "
In this fictional account of a family, based on the lives of real folk, author & reviewer for Washington Independent Review of Books Jennifer Bort Yacovissi has taken events, memories and family lore surrounding her parents and grandparents, and fashioned a multi-generational patchwork quilt— something like a wedding ring pattern, with interlinking circles. The chapters include diary entries, old love letters, and the up-to-the-minute happenings that swirl around a very busy, at times chaotic household in crisis.
At the center is Lille Voith, whose accidental fall on a Passion Sunday morning in April, 1933, begins the book. The story ends one week later, on Palm Sunday. In between are recollections that span American events from the Civil War to the beginning years of the Great Depression on a little farmstead originally located on the outskirts of Washington, DC. The memories come not only from Lillie, who is pregnant with her tenth child and now suddenly bedridden, but also from Ferd, her devoted husband, and Charley and Emma, her aging parents. While Lillie languishes in her room, struggling to recuperate, her parents, her spouse, and her nine children are plunged into new routines and chores they never expected to take on.
We learn of the family’s determination to balance traditional farm life with the increasing demands for cash and the encroachment of the city. In recollection we see Confederate Jubal Early’s march into Washington and suffer the distress of Lillie's grandmother Mary during long days of fear and gunfire. Through the letters of her Grandfather Miller, an army doctor, Lillie comes to understand war in all its gore, its scarce glory.
Yacovissi has planned her book carefully, and the result is nothing short of remarkable. We are gently lulled into thinking it is something rather simple, then watch it expand and become more nuanced, until the ending gradually slides into focus. The author deftly cultivates our interest in the historical background while keeping our sentiments trained on her very human cast of characters.
The book is peppered with archaic language and folksy idioms that keep us in the timeframe, contributing nostalgia without saccharine. The letters are charmingly redolent of their era; the observations of Charley and Ferd, both trying to manage nine young’uns while fostering constant concern on the ailing mother, are plausible and often amusing. And bridging all, Lillie’s thoughts, her memories and her fading sense of reality, are convincing and affecting.
(This review first appeared on Curled Up with a Good Book).
Washington City, District of Columbia – 1890s to 1930s
It all starts with Charley Beck, stalwart employee of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, who spies a woman that he cannot forget. She is quite obviously an intelligent, independent woman for this day, and Charley is intrigued. When he finally manages to meet her, he’s even more convinced that this is the woman he wants to settle down with, despite their age difference. Emma is thirty-seven to Charley’s twenty-six. To Emma, this late in life love is a true miracle. To Charley, he knows he’s made the right choice.
Charley wants their marriage to start out just right. Having been a frugal saver over the years, he has just enough to buy some land outside the city and he and Emma plan their new house. Seven forty-one is the house number, and soon, their only daughter Lillie is born there. Charley is a natural at fixing things, building things, and gardening, and he is also a natural at being a father. He and Emma adore their only child, and she shines in that light.
Thirty years later, Lillie is married to her beloved Ferd (Ferdinand Voith), the mother of nine, and pregnant with their tenth child. They live at seven forty-one with Charley and Emma. She and Ferd have a tradition that whenever she learns she is pregnant, she asks Ferd to bring her memory box down from the attic. Their lives are full with family, church, and the house.
While taking laundry down to the basement one day, Lillie falls, lands on her back, and thinks nothing of it. But something is terribly wrong when she develops a serious cough, and has trouble breathing. As Lillie lies in bed, the memories of a full, loving life swim through her thoughts.
UP THE HILL TO HOME is a debut novel based on the author’s family. The big house has seen love, births, sadness, and most of all holds the memories of the entire family. Lillie and Ferd and their brood have made the lives of Emma and Charley full.
Beautifully and lovingly written, this sweet story is well researched, brings Emma, Charley, Lillie, Ferd, and all of the children to life as the world changes around them. From Victorian turn of the century days to the Great Depression, readers will be drawn to the everyday lives of these average Americans who have made this country what it is today.
I highly recommend UP THE HILL TO HOME and feel it deserves a Perfect 10 for the pure enjoyment of getting to know this family.