Book Review: Almost to Eden

5 Jun

Almost-To-Eden-Cover-200x300Almost to Eden is the captivating fictional narrative of an Irish immigrant, Maggie O’Brien, whose life intertwines with members and workers of the historic Jekyll Island Club. Seeking a new Eden in America, she discovers that freedom and justice, even in the new world, do not always triumph over wealth and power. In the process of her journey, Maggie finds and loses the things she loves most, but grace and courage lead her toward a fulfillment she never thought to find.

McCash_croppedAuthor June Hall McCash was born in Newberry, South Carolina, where she lived until she was eight years old.  Her father was an army officer, and the family eventually moved to Raeford, North Carolina, not far from Fort Bragg where her father was stationed. After graduation from high school in Raeford, she made her way to Georgia to study at Agnes Scott College. After spending her junior year in college in Paris, while her father was stationed in France, she completed her undergraduate education at Agnes Scott, then went on to do a Master of Arts degree in French and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at Emory University.  She taught for three years on the faculty there before taking a position at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she served as the founding director of the Honors Program (now an Honors College) and as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. She is now a full time writer dividing her time between Tennessee, where much of her family lives, and Jekyll Island, Georgia, where she owns a cottage and where she does much of her writing.

She is a member of the Georgia Writers Association as well as a board member of the Tennessee Writers Alliance.  With her late husband, Bart McCash, she first visited Jekyll Island in 1983 and fell in love with it.  As a couple she and her husband, who chaired the Department of History at Middle Tennessee State University, wrote one book together, The Jekyll Island Club, Southern Haven for America’s Millionaires, which was ground-breaking in its research and on which many later writers have relied for information about the club.

Following her husband’s death in 1991, she published The Jekyll Island Cottage Colony in 1998 and Jekyll Island’s Early Years in 2005.  Three of her earlier books dealt with the Middle Ages, which was her academic research area.  She has also published many articles, especially about a 12th-century writer named Marie de France. She has recently published an article on a colorful Savannah figure named Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar in Georgia Backroads magazine.

Her most recent book is her debut novel, Almost to Eden, is set at Jekyll Island, Brunswick, and New York and tells the fictional story of an Irish immigrant who becomes a chambermaid at the historic Jekyll Island Club.  June McCash has appeared in three A&E film documentaries and on “Good Morning America.” She is also a frequent speaker, having done presentations for the Georgia Humanities Council, various historical societies, libraries and universities, as well as the Georgia Library Association, the Jekyll Island Museum, and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

My Impressions:

Almost to Eden is the June selection of my church book club, Page Turners. We selected this book because of its connection with Jekyll Island and because the author was awarded a Georgia Book award for it in 2011. While part was set in Jekyll, the majority of the book was centered in New York City. The novel follows Maggie O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, from her first steps on Ellis Island through her young years as a domestic at Jekyll and through her later life as a nanny. Maggie faces what other immigrants face — loneliness, prejudice — and faces the unconquerable struggle against power and wealth. Beginning in 1911, the novel would be perfect for those who love Downton Abbey or the older series, Upstairs, Downstairs.

Almost to Eden was a good read, but not what I was expecting. Not enough of the book was set in Jekyll Island and it was a bit of a soap opera. The author does do a good job of weaving significant historical events into Maggie’s story. She even includes a very controversial adoption case from the 1950s that I remembered from a movie I saw years ago. Those were nice touches. But for a book billed as a Georgia novel it falls a bit short. One side note: two of the characters that play an integral part in Maggie’s life actually existed and were the inspiration for the story. You find out just how in the afterword.

So should you read this book? I think so. It is a good story that held my interest, and was full of historical detail and family drama. It should be noted that this is not a Christian novel. There was mention of God’s hand in circumstances, but God is treated as a far off being, concerned about us, but not really in a relationship with His people. There is also an intimate sexual encounter that is detailed. (It was kind of funny to me — pure romance novel stuff.)

(I purchased Almost to Eden for my Kindle. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Almost to Eden”

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  1. 2013 Georgia Novel of The Year: Plum Orchard by June Hall McCash | BY THE BOOK - June 25, 2013

    […] Hall McCash, named 2011 Georgia Author of the Year for her first novel, Almost to Eden, once again delivers a story of hope and renewal with Plum Orchard. The saga is set on Cumberland […]

  2. Saturday Review of Books: June 8, 2013 | Semicolon - July 13, 2013

    […] 13)25. Brenda (Favorite books and authors)26. Beckie @ ByTheBook (Death Comes to Pemberley)27. Beckie @ ByTheBook (Almost to Eden)28. Beckie @ ByTheBook (By Reason of Insanity)29. Sara @ CurriculumofLove (The Blessing of a Skinned […]

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