From the author of Daughter of Australia comes a sweeping, heartfelt historical novel that follows a family of German immigrants who trade city living for the harsh realities of Pennsylvania farm life.
In 1914, Andrew Houghton’s family is one of hundreds eking out an existence in the coal mines of southwestern Pennsylvania. Though he longs to be a veterinarian, he’s fated for a life underground, picking rock alongside his father.
That destiny changes when his aunt, Eveline Kiser, arranges for her husband to secure Andrew an apprenticeship on the railroad. Wilhelm Kiser, a German immigrant, has found his American dream in Pittsburgh, with a well-paying job as a brakeman, and a secure pension. But on Andrew’s first week, an incident goes tragically wrong, leaving him severely injured, his dreams shattered. Wracked with guilt, Wilhelm finally agrees to his wife’s pleas to leave Pittsburgh’s smog behind. With Andrew in tow, they swap their three-story row house for a rough-and-tumble farm.
Life in rural Pennsylvania is not as idyllic as Eveline imagined. The soil is slow to yield and their farmhouse is in disrepair. But there is one piece of beauty in this rugged land. Lily Morton is quick-witted and tough on the outside, but bears her own secret scars inside. Andrew’s bond with her will help steer them through all the challenges to come, even as anti-German sentiment spreads across America with the outbreak of World War I.
Beneath the Apple Leaves is a vivid, deeply moving portrait of family—its hardships, triumphs, and passions—and a powerfully authentic evocation of life on the land and the hearts that sustain it.
My Review of Beneath The Apple Leaves
Harmony Verna weaves a raw and emotional tale of love and loss in her latest novel Beneath The Apple Leaves.
After losing his father in the mines, Andrew Houghton leaves his dreams behind and resigns himself to a life underground to provide for his mother and his self. Andrew’s mother, dismayed and disillusioned from her loss, is determined to save her son from a life of misery and back breaking work. Without Andrew’s knowledge she secures a position for her son as a railroad trainee under the supervision of her sister’s husband Wilhelm Kiser. Out of time and options Andrew accepts and is determined to make the best of his new job and a family he has never met. Leaving the coal patches behind Andrew heads to a new job and a new life in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Beginning this new existence is hard at first. The city is different from the coal community he left behind and Wilhelm is nothing like his father. Determined to learn fast and work hard Andrew is just starting to get comfortable when a catastrophic train accident severely injures his left arm leaving him an amputee. Guilt, distraction and anti-German sentiment due to the WW I leave Wilhelm unable to perform his job competently. When Wilhelm is fired he buys a farm and packs up Andrew and family and heads to the country in hopes of a new life.
Unfortunately difficulties abound on the farm in rustic Pa. The house has seen its better days as well as the land they hope to farm. Supplies are low and Wilhelm is forced to spend most of his reserves to buy animals, equipment and supplies. Andrew is frustrated with his body once strong and must learn to change and adapt in order to pull his weight and accomplish tasks. However, despite the fears and predicted failures not all is pain and drudgery. As the Kiser’s settle in Andrew meets and is immediately smitten with his neighbor Lily Morton. As time goes by Lily proves to be an asset to the Kiser family and a balm to Andrew’s heart. But Lily harbors secrets of her own. Secrets she fears could destroy any chance she and Andrew have of finding love.
Harmony Verna has created a novel full of raw emotion in Beneath The Apple Leaves with memorable characters the reader won’t soon forget. Andrew, whose heart was easily given was by far my favorite character. Sensitive, strong and caring Andrew gave all that he had to everyone holding nothing back. His love and devotion to Lily was pure and strong. It was a joy to watch their relationship grow and develop. Lily was my second favorite character with a heart as big as Andrew’s. The secrets she carried may have bent her, but they never broke her. Her love for Andrew and her sister Claire was sweet and delicate leaving me privileged to see it develop and unfold. And through the good times and bad, the Kiser family grew and developed into the people they needed to be in order to survive all the challenges rural life threw at them. Last, but not least is Frank Morton, my least favorite character. If ever a despicable character was created, it lived in the likes of Frank Morton. From the moment he appeared in the book I knew there was going to be heartbreak and trouble. Aside from memorable characters and a strong storyline the book did contain some cursing and some sexual content. Something to note for the reader.
Beneath The Apple Leaves by Harmony Verna is a powerful and impassioned story of love and loss with memorable characters that will stay with you long after you turn the last page
I would like to thank Kensington Books via NetGalley for an advanced copy of Beneath The Apple Leaves for a fair and honest review.
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