Tuesday Book Review: “Molly’s Rocker”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

molly's rocker susan hoskins

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Molly’s Rocker

by Susan M. Hoskins

ISBN: 9781478789741

Synopsis*:

Molly was born the youngest of seven children and the only girl on a tobacco farm in rural Kentucky. Though there’s a lot of love in Molly’s life, family tragedy follows her from childhood through marriage. Molly is left destitute after the betrayal of her husband’s son but she refuses to abandon her dearest friend, Henry Jackson, the son of former slaves. With no land or income, they must survive alone by their wits, enduring the wrath of townspeople who rail against the bond of a white woman with a man of color.

Inspired by the life of her husband’s grandmother, author Susan M. Hoskins wrote Molly’s Rocker as a book to be enjoyed by grandparents with their grandchildren. As warm as Little Women, Molly’s favorite book, Molly’s Rocker, also shares crucial lessons about the tragedy of racism, sexism, and other ways society forms inequalities. Hoskins helps even the youngest of readers understand the frightening connection between tobacco and slavery and what transpired in rural America following the Civil War.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

“Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins tells the tale of Mary Molly (Van Meter) Fry.  Known by friends and family as simply Molly, the story takes us through Molly’s life from the age of 7 all the way through the end of her life.  The story opens and closes in the present, with her grandson and his wife sorting through old junk in the attic of the family property.  In the process they find an old grand rocking chair and recordings made by Molly, detailing her life as a child and beyond.

The summary of the book as posed by the back jacket supposes that readers are going to read a story about racism and civil rights in late 19th and early 20th century America, something akin to “To Kill A Mockingbird” perhaps, however, that prominent storyline does not really come into play until the last 50 or so pages of the book.  Really, the book takes readers through life as a lower-class farm girl in Kentucky. Readers learn with Molly how to manage house, farm, and family while upholding strong Christian morals and decorum.

While the initial summary is misleading, “Molly’s Rocker” is a decent story.  Molly is a likeable and relatable character who reminds me of Laura Ingalls from the “Little House” books I loved as a child.  Molly goes through her life learning how important the power of love is in raising a family and maintaining a community.  I think this is what the author tried to show when the ideas regarding racism began arising in the latter part of the novel.  The character in question she focuses on in this regard is Henry Jackson, who was born just after Lincoln emancipated the slaves.  He works for a prominent family and comes to be close friends with Elijah Fry, who marries one of the daughters of his employer, and later remarries Molly after the death of his first wife Mary, during the birth of their third child.

A tragedy occurs in the town that sparked because of a struggle between a drunken white man and a young black serving boy who accidentally spilled some water during his duties as a waiter.  The man, who turns out to be running for the Senate, gets physical with the boy, which causes others to join the fray in attempts to restore a peaceful atmosphere.  Instead, a fire is started that rips through the entire town, killing at least two people.  After this, which takes place in the beginning of the 19th century, more dialogue about the evils of racism enter into the text and context of the story.  In all, I don’t think the message assumed by the book summary is that actual message the author was trying to portray.  She still portrayed a good one, as life lessons about love, family, and hard work and strife are always worthy things to learn.

“Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins is a book that can be enjoyed by a wide audience of readers, most likely female in gender, from ages of ten to 80.  Since the book details Molly’s entire life, there is something to appeal to readers of all aspects of life.  Young and old, innocent and wise all have something to learn from the prose.

– reviewed by Megan Weiss on Reader Views

Other Reviews

“Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins is a beautiful narrative about the courageous and inspirational Molly Fry. Molly endured more in her lifetime than most people ever experience, yet she persevered with dignity and grace, a loving heart, and a gentle soul. Molly was truly a woman ahead of her time and “Molly’s Rocker” is a brilliant testament to her life.

The author and her husband Larry discover Molly’s rocker one day while cleaning out the attic. Molly is Larry’s grandson and the son of Molly’s youngest daughter, Tula Mary. Larry remembers his grandmother coming to live with them after a fire destroyed her home. The rocker was the only thing to survive the fire. After seeing the rocker, Larry remembers some old tapes, narrated by his grandmother when she lived with them. These tapes provide precious insight into Molly’s life and the life of Elijah Fry, and how a twist of fate brought the couple together.

Growing up on a Kentucky tobacco farm in the late 1800s, Molly has to quit school at a very early age to care for her family when her mother is taken by consumption. As the new woman of the house, Molly implements some radical changes regarding the roles of males and females and vows to run the farm as an equal to her pa. The reader sees glimpses of Molly’s independent nature and impartiality early on in the story, and when she takes a stand with her father, insisting that women and men should eat at the same time (as opposed to the females waiting for their men-folk to finish their meals), I knew I was going to enjoy learning more about her. One of my favorite lines in the book is Molly’s declaration, “I wasn’t sure what would become of me as the years went by, but there was one thing I knew for sure that night. I was never gonna eat cold eggs again.” Don’t you just love her?!

Readers also learn the story of Elijah Fry, who comes to be Molly’s husband, by what can only be deemed as providence. Though Elijah has a rough start in life, he flourishes under the loving upbringing of his aunt and uncle, becoming a respected member of the community. His tragic past leaves him with trust issues however, and his only real friend is Henry Jackson, the son of former slaves.

Elijah and Molly raise a family, and have a successful tobacco farm. Life is good for awhile, until an unforeseen tragedy leaves Molly and Henry Jackson in dire straits. The two pool their resources to make ends meet, and their friendship causes quite a stink with the bigots and small-minded members of the community. Molly once again shows courage and integrity in the face of those trying to drive them out of town.

This story is absolutely amazing! It encompasses so many issues that are sadly, still relevant today. From feminist issues to racial tensions, the author manages to cover some serious ground in a seamless, thoughtful read.

Whenever I read historical fiction I get so wrapped up in the lives of the characters that I want to know everything about them. Where they lived, environmental conditions, cooking methods used, along with popular food items of the period, clothing styles, education – you name it, I want to know about it. Hoskins has excelled in writing a novel that authentically depicts every aspect of the time period. The characters have depth and integrity, and the dialogue is dead on, taking the reader straight back to another time, place and century. I contentedly imagined myself walking amongst the characters as I was reading.

I am truly in awe of “Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins. Imagine love inspiring a story through an old rocking chair that almost founds its way to a local flea market. I highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, coming of age stories, and those wanting to experience the life and times of a different era.

 – reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views

I wasn’t quite sure this book was the genre I was looking for. I had read a few of this author’s other mysteries and this did not sound anything like them. I quickly found myself absorbed into the very fabric and folksy details of Molly and her circle of family and friends lives. It was a captivating read . It was interesting to watch Molly through the years affect her family. This is a book that has a few book club discussion questions to mull over a few cups of coffee.

– reviewed on Amazon by T. Packer

I loved this book. It reminded me of The Little House on the Prairie. It is set in the late 1800s around Elizabethtown, Kentucky. It’s based on real people and places, but the author has taken license to invent a storyline and create characters that enhance the tale. In one sense it is old-fashioned; yet, it deals with controversial issues that we still face today. I really liked the dialect that comes from the mouths of some characters. I find it difficult to enter into some fiction, but this one got me. I was close to tears several times. The author writes with an authentic voice that drew me into the scenes. It’s an adult book; but middle school kids would probably enjoy it (though it does deal with some adult matters). I had read one of the author’s previous novels–of the thriller genre, so I knew she could write. Molly’s Rocker was a joy to read.

 – reviewed on Amazon by E. W. McLaughlin

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