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PLAYING ST. BARBARA: A novel ~Marian Szczepanski


PLAYING ST. BARBARA is an historic look at a time period in American History that was very dramatic -1929 to 1942.  It is a family saga that is about changing lives and thinking; coming into a new age as well as a new decade.  Marian Szczepanski is writing about the historic experiences of her own family in a fictionalized tale which condenses all that history and change into one family’s story.  Playing St. BARBARA would make a wonderful Masterpiece Theater Presentation and series to teach a segment of our history.

Our tale undertakes to tell the story of an Irish Immigrant who takes a German wife and proceeds to lie about her origins.  Fin does not succeed as a professional baseball player but becomes a miner determined to unionize his co-workers in the company town. He is a rabble rouser, extremely poor, and addicted to alcohol and violence.   He has produced 6 children but the 3 boys have died of crib death, violence and poverty.  Fin is furious.

The story in about the 3 daughters and how they free themselves from the state of extreme violence in the family and within the mining community, when the door opens for each of them in turn to act the role of St. Barbara in the yearly pageant they discover a new freedom.  St. Barbara is the patron protector saint of miners. Each opportunity opens the women’s voices and assists in setting them free to make their own way in the world.  The women in the mining community have a special bond between them.  They attempt to protect and assist in providing for each other.  They help out if the KKK ruins the garden or burns crosses, and they provide nourishment to each other.  Some even cross the alley to the black section of the miner’s housing.  They all shop at the company store and each woman hopes their husbands will be able to move up the hill to better housing and pay.

To have all these historic events combined into one family story is at times overwhelming. I had to set the book aside when they started into WWII and the hatred of the Germans and the Jews collided.  There was so much depth and detail I needed a breather.   To feel the fear experienced by this mother and her daughters was very intense and it certainly parallels many of the changes that are being made today.   The public hatred of immigrants is so present today and the coal wars are different but right here again.  As the story was about building up the Steel Industry in the USA – we now purchase most of our steel outside our country boundaries, and we know the terrible side effects of coal for everyone.   I think I needed to put the book down, because I was saddened by how we have not made much change in the decades beyond and yet yes! we have made astounding changes.   PLAYING ST.BARBARA is quite the read and is a wonderful story about the importance of the mine workers then and now.

Marion Szczepanski received her MFA from Warren Wilson College in the Appalachian Mountains. I went to school there also, that was a nice discovery.     She is the granddaughter of Coal Miners and this is her first novel.

Marian Szczepanski on the Web
Marian Szczepanski on Facebook
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It was a privilege to read this novel for review and I am very happy that the author and TLC online book tours sent me a copy.  I am quite sure you will enjoy reading – PLAYING ST BARBARA.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Sharing is a good thing!  Thank you

Recommended Reading:
Hannah Coulter
Muckers
In The Garden of Stone
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

11 Comments on “PLAYING ST. BARBARA: A novel ~Marian Szczepanski”

  1. #1 Sara Healy
    on Jan 16th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Patricia — I agree with you about the this book becoming a Masterpiece Theater Presentation. I also like that it deals with mining, which was a very dark and challenging occupation for both men and women.

    I like the link with the St. Barbara and the young women’s lives. That’s sounds very interesting. I have a friend who enjoys historical novels and this might be right up her alley. I’ll tell her about it.

    Hope all is well with you and you’re not too cold. Stay warm and well:~)
    Sara Healy recently posted..WoE Writing Challenge: The Bucking BullMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Sara,
    I truly enjoyed the fact that this dealt with women’s lives. Her history being told
    I think if it were broken into segments and great costumes and authentic action – it would be a tremendous boon to the telling of history and endurance.
    Patricia recently posted..PLAYING ST. BARBARA: A novel ~Marian SzczepanskiMy Profile

  2. #2 Laurie Buchanan
    on Jan 17th, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Patricia – I think once spring has sprung I’ll be ready for this type of read. Right now with the dark, snow-filled days, I think it would simply be too much “weight” to bear.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..Bookends for LoveMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    Yes there is a darkness in this story: coal and hopelessness.

    I do believe history is repeating itself right now and we will be in awful shape if we lose the UNION voices of the people. The greedy people are calling the shots then and now – scary Yes, I can see that it might need the light of day
    Patricia recently posted..PLAYING ST. BARBARA: A novel ~Marian SzczepanskiMy Profile

  3. #3 Talon
    on Jan 17th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    This sounds like a powerful read, Patricia. I wish we did learn from history…but it seems doomed to keep repeating and repeating…sadly.
    Talon recently posted..HostilitiesMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Kim,
    It is hard to read about all the hard ship in winter and the abuse, and yet I believe it to be important for these moments in history to be shared. Yes, take it to the beach :)

  4. #4 Marian Szczepanski, author of Playing St. Barbara, on tour January 2014 | TLC Book Tours
    on Jan 18th, 2014 at 11:39 am

    […] Thursday, January 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom […]

  5. #5 Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    on Jan 18th, 2014 at 11:45 am

    What an amazing reminder of how far we’ve come yet how far we still have to go.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

    patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    A very good read and important reminder.

  6. #6 patricia
    on Jan 21st, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I am sorry I am a bit slow on the comments here – I had surgery on a fractured tooth on Friday and I sprained my right elbow the week be fore….The antibiotic is full of side effects…

    Don’t worry, more reviews are on the way, I am listening to the next books coming up :) Oh these good devises!

  7. #7 Book Review: Playing St Barbara by Marian Szczepanski | Giraffe Days | Giraffe Days
    on Feb 3rd, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    […] January 14th: Book Journey Wednesday, January 15th: A Patchwork of Books Thursday, January 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom Monday, January 20th: Helen’s Book Blog Tuesday, January 21st: Bluestalking Wednesday, January […]