Eden Waits is based on the true story of Michigan’s utopian experiment. In 1893 financial panic imperils the settlement homesteaded by Abraham and Elizabeth Byers. Abraham, a preacher and self-proclaimed man of the people, rails against greed and corruption and launches Hiawatha Colony, a product-sharing community designed to support its members through self-sufficiency. But can this cooperative community withstand internal strife, the harsh wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the antagonism of the outside world? When discord rocks the community, Abraham must choose between dissolving the colony and compromising the ideals that elevated him to its patriarch.
Although numerous utopian communities were formed in the United States in the nineteenth century, there are few accounts of the day-to-day life and challenges faced by these communities. Abraham and Elizabeth were in their advanced years when they homesteaded acreage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. What drove them to risk so much to build a community of kin and like-minded idealists? This carefully researched historical novel explores the struggle between ideals and practicality and the collision of political and religious realms. The events bear surprising parallels to today’s climate of polarization, questions about leadership, and concerns over corporate power.
Maryka Biaggio, PhD, is an award-winning novelist who specializes in historical fiction based on real people. She enjoys the challenge of starting with actual figures, dramatizing their lives, and recreating a sense of their emotional world.
She prides herself on crafting carefully researched and realistic fiction. She travels extensively, is an avid opera fan, and enjoys gardening, art films, and, of course, great fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Set in 1890s Michigan, Eden Waits retells the story of real characters facing real historical problems that are, sadly, hauntingly relevant today. Utopian dreams fuel an attempt to create a society where everyone is cared for; you can’t be fired on a whim; you can’t be driven out by overcharging; you can’t be made to starve just because you’re sick… It sounds great, but outside the Utopian village is a real world waiting to win, and inside there are real characters, driven by a wholly convincing blend of faith, hope and the determination to succeed.
Author Maryka Biaggio recreates her characters convincingly, divining believable motivations, and bringing the reader deeply into both the practicalities of 1890s life (house-building, farming, logging…) and the tortured loyalties of good people making honest mistakes. The dialog feels real, the voices are compelling, and the storyline moves pleasingly from a well-chosen start to a perfectly-timed finish.
Some typos distracted me at the start, but perhaps I had an early copy. By a few pages in, I was hooked, and I thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse into history, and its relevance to the present day.
Disclosure: I loved the author’s earlier novel, met the author, and couldn’t resist reading this one too.
Disclaimer: Maryka's a friend, but my reviews are always an honest reflection of what I think. I bought the book because the subject-matter interested me and not because of our friendship. Warning: may contain spoilers.
This is an interesting and well written fictionalization of a piece of the author's family history, and will be of interest to students of nineteenth-century America. With spacious tracts of land available for homesteading and the protection of constitutional freedoms, utopian and/or faith-based colonies cropped up fairly regularly, and some of them are still features of American life. Eden Waits highlights one of the many failures, the true story of how a small family settlement in Michigan's Upper Peninsula briefly experimented with the idea of a self-sufficient "village" that would free its members from having to work for the large logging concerns that were increasingly dominant in the area.
This is definitely a book for readers who like their historical fiction heavy on the history. It's packed with factual detail, often referencing the documents produced by the community. It gives a good idea of what life was like for these late-nineteenth-century settlers, who were in touch with modern technology and the news from the cities yet still had to think like their ancestors, planning ahead for the bitter winter and vulnerable to any kind of wrong decision or change in the weather. I'd like to have seen even more of that--what about the culture shock suffered by the new arrivals from the cities? This story is just a little, tantalizing slice out of the epic adventure of homesteading, about which not nearly enough has been written.
An enjoyable work of historical fiction based on a true story and real-life characters. Abraham Byers and his wife Elizabeth head up the Byers Settlement in 1890s Michigan, a small group of likeminded family and friends. Disillusioned with the way the country is going, when Abraham comes across a book called The Product-Sharing Village by Walter Thomas Mills, published in 1894, he feels that he has found the answer to society’s ills and is determined to start a product-sharing community of his own, the Hiawatha Colony. It doesn’t take much guesswork to realise that things are not going to go smoothly and it will all end in tears, and the book charts the rise and fall of the community. Such Utopian communities were very popular in late 19th century America, and the Hiawatha Colony was one of many, but the issues it faced were common to them all – how to get a group of people to live together amicably and without conflict. The novel is well-researched and successfully gives a voice to those who have left little or nothing in the historical record. Although conversations and feelings have been recreated from scratch, the book nevertheless has an authentic feel to it and manages to dramatize the daily life of all those involved with empathy and insight. A good read.
Eden Waits by Maryka Biaggio provides a fascinating glimpse into a utopian experiment, an actual attempt to form and sustain a product-sharing colony in Michigan during the economic downturn of the 1890s. The characters feel real and the harsh realities they confront are well-drawn. I loved the period details and the many twists and turns in individual lives and in the colony. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
A slow read, but a very interesting one. This fictionalized story of real people and events tells of a Utopian experiment in Michigan. It happened around the turn of the century and the main characters are the author’s own ancestors. I enjoyed reading about this ‘village’ concept.....sounds good to a point, but then stuff happens. What could possibly go wrong?
I loved Maryka Biaggio's "Eden Waits". I could hardly wait for my evening reading time so that I could get back to it. Great character development and story. Rich and compelling story of the struggles and commitment of this group of folks in the UP.