On a stifling August night in 1906, Karl Bauer fired two shots at his second wife. His sixteen-year old daughter, Minna struggled to wrest the revolver from his hands and the shots went wild. Her father, believing that he had murdered, turned the gun on himself. His wife, the truly wicked step-mother, survived. He died. This true event serves as the fulcrum for the story. Minna at ninety reveals for the first time this shameful secret to her own daughter, laying bare the mysterious cumulative pent-up anger between them.
Her father’s struggles and eventual defeat provide the context for Minna’s story. Later in life, Minna and her daughter Julie, having exposed the burden of repressed grief and angst, strive to find honesty in their relationship.
“In Our Quiet Village” is historical fiction, inspired by these real events. The setting is Herkimer, a quiet village in New York’s Mohawk Valley, during the burgeoning late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The nearby infamous Gillette murder case (later the subject of Dreiser’s ‘An American Tragedy’), the rise of the labor movement, the battle for women’s rights and political figures of the time, provide a rich back drop for the personal dramas. Newspaper accounts of the tragedy and family photographs bring life to their story.
Characters from three generations populate the story. Karl, idealistic but uneducated, arrives in this country from Germany at eighteen, penniless and hopeful. He finds work as a teamster and joins the secret labor union, the Knights of Labor. After years of unrewarded toil and disappointments and the death of his beloved wife, he becomes increasingly disillusioned. In hopes of creating a home for his children, he marries his housekeeper who is revealed to be cruel and mentally unstable. Life becomes a hell. The tragedy ensues. The children, left alone with their mad stepmother, endure loneliness and deprivation.
In her attempt to understand the fractured bond between herself and her mother, Julie writes and publishes her mother’s story. Julie recognizes the terrible silence which surrounded such an event in that day. The imprint of loss becomes visible in the unfolding of Minna’s life. Grief and anger were never far below the surface.
It is only after her mother’s death, when Julie revisits the quiet village, scene of her mother’s sad early life that she is at last able to release judgment and to experience peace.
The novel is concerned with the power of familial secrets but also with the complexities and tenaciousness of the human spirit and the redemptive power of love.
Name: Mary Lou Chayes
Official Website: http://www.inourquietvillage.com
As a child, the author romanticized her mother’s early life; imagining her orphaned, left in the care of a wicked stepmother. However, the actual shocking truth was revealed when at age ninety, her mother confessed the shameful secret: that she had witnessed her father’s attempt to murder her stepmother, and his ensuing violent suicide. The author’s powerful imaginings surrounding these events became first a personal journal and then expanded into a memoir and eventually into this novel.
Her fascination with writing is linked to her lifelong passion and involvement in music. As a teenager, she left her home in Niagara Falls to study piano in New York under the great pianist, Schnabel.She completed her bachelor of music degree and performed as chamber musician and soloist, and since her youth, has continued to teach piano. Through the years, she continued her deep association with her mentor, Karl Schnabel.
Ms. Chayes holds an ATCM degree from Toronto Conservatory, a bachelor of music degree, a degree in Interior and Environmental Design from UCLA and was writer and executive producer of a critically acclaimed documentary film about her renowned teacher of piano, Karl Ulrich Schnabel.
She lived in Africa for three years where her architect husband was involved in a design project. After his untimely death, she took a degree in interior design in order to continue his work. During these years of teaching, performing and film making, she was mother to three children and eventually, to seven stepchildren.
Later in life she was inspired to make a documentary film honoring her teacher, Schnabel. The film, ‘Con Brio’, premiered at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts to high praise. It was through the experience of writing and producing the film that she discovered the powerful connection between the visual and the written word and also, importantly, the potent therapeutic value of the process of writing to free and illuminate the imagination. These insights inspired her to enroll in writing classes. Since then, and to this day, writing has become her daily joyful devotion. She is eighty-two years old and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Charles Dubin, a retired television director.
A true story of idealism, high expectation, and bitter tragedy.
"In Our Quiet Village" is a hard book to put down. Rich with the details of small town life in America at the turn of the last century, the author has captured an atmosphere which perfumes the pages of the book. The true story is the tragic tale of a German immigrant, whose suicide, the murder he had attempted, and the circumstances surrounding these violent events, reverberate through several generations. His daughter Minna (the author's mother) emerges as a strong heroine, with perseverance and idealism. The characters are three dimensional, flawed and admirable, and portrayed empathetically. Particularly noteworthy is the author's ability to get inside the minds and intense personal feelings of these real characters. In the historical context of the wave of idealistic German immigration, the beginnings of organized labor, the assassination of McKinley, the introduction of the automobile, the tentative emergence of feminism, and much more detail, the era is captured with substance. Compelling and touching, illustrated with photographs of the real people who lived this dramatic story, "In Our Quiet VIllage" is a suspenseful and emotional read. I give it my highest recommendation.
-Lincoln Mayorga, Chatham, NY
Great story and so much more!
The summary is an excellent description of the book - but there's so much more going on than just the main story. The author incorporates the news of the day - like the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo, the medical breakthroughs that are happening, the politics of the day, etc.
You meet Karl and his relatives and friends and get immersed in the hard immigrant life of the late 1800s. The book is a study of the human condition. That sounds trite but that's what I kept thinking as I read it. However, the innate insecurities we all have are so magnified by these characters that it almost brought me to tears knowing this story was based on fact. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.
I'm influenced by the feel of a book in addition to the story and how it's presented. This book has a nice glossy cover with excellent quality paper pages. The book is oversized (9.6 x 6.7 x 0.7 inches) and has an easy to read font. It has beautiful photographs of all the major characters at various ages which adds so much to the story. It's a true story so I assume these are the actual photos of the people in the book.
-Mary Mac, Redondo Beach, CA
A rewarding experience.
I have recently read a new novel, highly recommende by a friend whose reading tastes are generally confined to books on the best seller lists, and I found it a most rewarding experience. The book titled "In Our Quiet Village" by Mary Lou Chayes deals with three generations of a family living in small town in upper New York State and covers much of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th, and a closing bit of the 20th. In the course of the novel's dealing with the joys and sorrows, the loves and hates of the family and their neighbors, the author manages neatly and unobtrusively to include a history of the larger developing story of the country at large, a bonus for the reader. I heartily recommend this book.
-Jason Wingreen, Los Angeles, CA
A new Willa Cather?
What a book! Gripping, dramatic, sensitive, very direct, sometimes surprising in its truthfulness, and very moving. A slice of Americana, a real pioneer story and much more. Romantic, raw, cruel, and modern with all the charm of an old-fashioned story. A great ride.
-KRK, Los Angeles, CA