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Letters from Erastus: Field Notes on Grace

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Letters from Erastus:Field notes on Grace is woven around twenty-two letters written by the author's great-great grandfather, Erastus Hopkins, to his daughters in the 1850s and 60s in Northampton, MA. Buried for 150 years in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the letters become a bridge to Linc, a schizophrenic cousin in prison, and a guide for the author's understanding of her own life story and old New England family

While this book is full of engaging history, it is also a contemporary story, about a family of artists, the interplay of generations and values, and the ways we search for and find meaning as we move through the chapters of life.

198 pages, Paperback

First published April 21, 2015

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Anne D. Emerson

1 book4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews
Profile Image for Anne D..
Author 1 book4 followers
May 2, 2015
"Grace, that rare key to compassion and clarity, is the mortar of this book, which spans five generations, from letter-writer Erastus Hopkins, to his great-great granddaughter, author Anne Emerson. Emerson an artist in a family of artists, finds answers to the challenges of her twenty-first-century life in letters written in the 1850s, making this a riveting timelss memoir illuminated by the past. It is the kind of book I long to give to a good friend." Sally Ryder Brady, author of A Box of Darkness

Profile Image for Len.
236 reviews28 followers
August 17, 2015
I received this book through Firstreads. It's a well-researched, properly-imagined, beautifully-written story of a complex family over the course of 150 years. Religious belief, art/artistry, widely-ranging personalities - all are carefully considered here. The occasional images of the 'family founder' Erastus' letters are very welcome and intriguing. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Georgia hillstrom.
44 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2015
I received this book through goodreads giveaway. The story is about five generations of family history. Erastus writes letters to family members is the basis of this book. I cannot imagine the hours of research and the tedious work of deciphering these letters as some are pictured in the book do not look all that legible
Even though this was not my family I so enjoyed this book. There was mention of Bible scriptures as Erastus was a preacher. The pages on the underground railroad, civil war, slave issues were very interesting. Things written here I had not known before. A lot of our country's early history is here along with Erastus's family history.
I could write more about the family but then you wouldn't read the book and I don't want you to miss reading this book.
I surely would recommend this book.
Profile Image for Lisa.
99 reviews5 followers
July 2, 2015
I've always been fascinated by my family history but Letters from Erastus: Field Notes on Grace made me want to dig even deeper. It also got me started on reading the bible which is something I've wanted to do but never had the motivation for. One of the signs of a good book is making you think whether it is what is happening in the book or how events in the book could help you in your own life. It is definitely a book I will be recommending to others. I got this book through Goodreads First Reads.
Profile Image for Cheryl Wilfong.
Author 15 books27 followers
March 8, 2021
Ancestors are still alive in us

Anne Emerson is a beautiful writer, braiding together letters from her great great grandfather, visits to a cousin in prison, art, family and daily life.
1 review
August 3, 2021
Thoughtful, insightful, moving, and funny at times. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Want to read it again. Masterful weaving of ancestry and historical info with current events and family dynamics.
A wonderful and enlightening exploration into one's life journey and evolution.
Profile Image for Eva.
578 reviews
September 16, 2016

Anne Emerson’s book contains letters from the past and observations on both the past and the present. We gain an insight into the concerns of her great great grandfather, Erastus Hopkins, who lived in the 1800s, from the letters he wrote to his family. Woven into the book are her letters and highlights of her visits to her cousin Linc who has been incarcerated.

Emerson clearly loves history. As an example, she describes, “In the history museum business, “stuff” is the heart and soul of the institution. When I first entered that profession, I was overwhelmed with the desire to collect everything I could lay my hands on because my imagination could invest the smallest thing with huge meaning. When I wanted to honor a board member, I would wrap up a hundred-year-old dime in a velvet pouch and present it with a story spun from the characters who had designed it, forged it, and the hundreds of laboring immigrants, excited children, and high-born ladies who had held it in their hands for a moment, for whom it might have represented their food for the day, or a child’s future piece of candy.” (p.93)

The smattering of period photos and some actual handwritten letters add to the magic of Anne Emerson’s writing.

Thankyou GoodReads for the book.
Profile Image for Deb.
1,119 reviews21 followers
October 20, 2016
This is not the book I expected, but something much better. I thought it would be a compilation of letters from a remote ancestor plus some ancillary commentary. Rather it is an examination of how far removed we are from the benevolent aspects of the author's New England ancestors' religion of the 19th century (love of family, acceptance of death, striving towards good) combined with the author's search for information about Erastus that leads her to find out his part in the Underground Railroad. She constructs a figurative portrait of him, and finds his literal portrait on the way. As well, she describes her own spiritual journey and connection to her family, contrasting her circumstances with his.

Emerson reflects on the meaning of the significant events of the early 21st century (Sept 11, the Bush recession and the election of Obama) in a hopeful way. One wonders whether her assessment would change today - and what it would be 20 days from today.

An unexpected treat for New England history aficionados.
1 review2 followers
September 18, 2016
Rarely do I read a book twice…..but “Letters From Erastus” was an exception. It was equally as good the second time. We were very fortunate to have the author attend our book club and read that special letter on page 11 that Erastus wrote to his daughter Nettie..it was so very thoughtful and sensitive. I loved all of Erastus' letters. Reading them the second time really helped me understand a little more about this very amazing man. I so liked the way the author connected those letters from her great-great grandfather, Erastus to events that were happening in her life.... past and present. Especially how she struggled to find a way to connect with Linc, her cousin who was in prison and also struggled with mental illness. Again she found the letters as a way to bridge the past to his present situation. He seemed to find meaning in those letters. I highly recommend this book..It is a memoir that is beautifully written…One you will return to in the future..
208 reviews
August 26, 2015
A sensitive look across many generations, journal style, including perspective on several serious life challenges.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews

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