The past and the present converge in this enthralling, serpentine tale of women connected by motherhood, slavery’s legacy, and histories that span centuries.
In 1850 in Massachusetts, Whittaker House stood as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It’s where two freedom seekers, Little Annie and Clementine, hid and perished. Whittaker House still stands, and Little Annie and Clementine still linger, their dreams of freedom unfulfilled.
Now a fashionably distressed vacation rental in the Berkshires, Whittaker House draws seekers of another kind: Black women who only appear to be free. Among them are Dominique, a single mother following her Grand’Mere's stories to Whittaker House in search of an ancestor; Michelle, Dominique’s lover, who has journeyed to the Berkshire Mountains to heal her own traumas; and Kaye, Michelle’s sister, a seer whose visions reveal the past and future secrets of the former safehouse—along with her own.
For each of them, true liberation can come only from uncovering their connection to history—and to the spirits awaiting peace and redemption within the walls of Whittaker House.
Lisa Williamson Rosenberg is an author and psychotherapist specializing in depression, complex trauma and racial identity. She is also a former ballet dancer, having performed with the Boston, Pennsylvania, and Pacific Northwest Ballet companies.
A born-and-raised New Yorker, Lisa now lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her husband and dog. She is the mother of two college students.
Lisa graduated from Princeton University, got her master's from Hunter College School of Social Work, her post-master's certification in family therapy from the Ackerman Institute. Before becoming a therapist, Lisa was a ballet dancer with the Pennsylvania and Pacific Northwest Ballet Companies.
All her life, Lisa has been writing – essays and attempts at novels–becoming published for the first time in 1998, when Social Work In Healthcare accepted one of her graduate school papers. Several years later, Lisa published a talk she did at a Synagogue on Multiracial Jewish Identity.
Lisa is Black, biracial (African American and Ashkenazi Jewish), the only child of her parents’ very happy interracial marriage. It was a progressive, yet strangely traditional home, where her parents created a joint cultural environment where race and politics were part of the family dialogue.
As a Black Jew – a ballerina turned shrink – dual identity is part of Lisa’s life and central to her writing.
Lisa’s debut novel, Embers on the Wind is coming 8/22 from Little A. She has two others in progress. She is represented by Dr. Uwe Stender, founder of TriadaUS Literary Agency. Lisa has published articles in Longreads, Narrative.ly, Grok Nation, The Common, Social Work in Healthcare and Interfaith Families Online, New Jersey Jewish News, and The Defenders Online. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Lisa’s fiction has appeared in Literary Mama and The Piltdown Review, where she won 2nd Prize in the Winter Short Story Contest.
A gorgeously layered novel, cinematic in scope and yet hauntingly intimate. Embers on the Wind crosses the barriers between the living and the dead, illuminating how intergenerational trauma reverberates through history. An incandescent debut, luminous and mesmerizing.
Embers on the Wind is a deep page turner. I can't say enough about this beautifully-written novel! This book -- from the opening seance -- drew me into the lives of contemporary women with wounds and the spirits of freedom seekers. Lisa Williamson Rosenberg deftly weaves several converging, generation-jumping stories. I was especially gripped by the journey of Pam, a teenage mother whose baby was taken from her and later that same baby's grown up life as a supernaturally-touched "seer". It felt like magical realism meets confessional truth. For me, this is everything I want in a book: to be enthralled, moved, and taken on a unique ride. Highly recommended!
An unexpected ghost story. Deep and full of feelings.
This story makes me wonder, though. Is it a house that is haunted? Or the memories?
The house I grew up in was the original limestone homestead house, built in the 1800s. I know generations of people died in the house. Other relations swear it's haunted, but I never saw or felt anything odd. My cousin, on the other hand, never liked being in the house. I still often wonder if it isn't just the weight of memories within the house that make people feel like there are spirits within in. Like the history of a house, of a people, are somehow heavy within a place. Like perhaps the history lives on.
It certainly does in this book, a well-crafted tale about finding yourself and your family heritage and the ghosts that haunt you. Told in a quick series of time jumps in short chapters through many different voices, the narrative is hauntingly beautiful and perfect for autumn.
"...the results from Kaye's DNA test arrive by email. Kaye knew it was a shady idea: to spit into a little vial and send it off to a company that would forever have access to her genetic material. But thanks in part to her recent visions, curiosity defeats prudence." (76)
2.5. The storyline could have been interesting. I thought I was going to learn some history regarding the slaves trying to seek freedom in Canada. But I would not consider this a historical fiction book as I learned very very little history of that time period. The switching back and forth in different time frames with many characters in both time frames and then the characters from the 1800s also appearing as ghosts in the current time frame just didn't flow smoothly.
WOW. A terrifying ghost story full of possessions and seances and homicides, rapes and teen pregnancies and stolen babies, spanning centuries and the intertwined lives of so many Black families — this book blew my expectations out of the water and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely, definitely worth a read.
I loved this book! It is a must read for every generation, beautifully written that every piece of history came to life. There is so much heart in this book, written so you read it through the eyes of the author. It opened my mind to Kaye and Galen in the 21st century still reaching for that freedom. You have stop and ask yourself what does "Freedom" really look like? I have always known that my Dad is half native American and other half Spanish 3rd generation, my mom is white.That is all I knew till I did my DNA testing. Once I started digging into my Native American ancestors the sadder it got, it opened my eyes to so many questions. My research is still on going, I am looking at how they played apart in the Battle at Wounded Knee.
This story is told in multi-timelines but flows perfect, I love the fact that the women in this story have this gift of Obelisk or Sight. However, to Pam and Kaye is it a gift or curse?
The book is about women connected by motherhood, expends from 1850 to today and the history of the Whittaker house in Massachusetts that was apart of the underground railroad for freedom seekers.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little A for copy of this book for my honest review.
Lisa Williamson Rosenberg's Embers on the Wind is a wonderfully rich tapestry of characters, timelines, and plotlines. The Whittaker House, a home on the famous Underground Railroad connects them all. Multiple narratives explore the impact of the inheritance of generational trauma. Neither the dead nor the living can forget, nor should we. There are heroes, villains, and victims. We can feel their longing, hope, love, fear, anguish, anger, and confusion. There are many strong women of African American descent and I championed their causes, rooting for the underdogs, loving and grieving alongside each generation trying to make sense of both past and present. Embers on the Wind reminds us that there are horrors in our history that we cannot escape but there are also acts of extreme bravery and compassion that are equally important. I highly recommend this informative and entertaining read. I received a drc from the publisher via Netgalley.
Lisa Williamson Rosenberg's Embers on the Wind is a wonderfully rich tapestry of characters, timelines, and plotlines. The Whittaker House, a home on the famous Underground Railroad connects them all. Multiple narratives explore the impact of the Inheritance of generational trauma. Neither the dead nor the living can forget, nor should we.
There are heroes, villains, and victims. We can feel their longing, hope, love, fear, anguish, anger, and confusion. There are many strong women of African American descent and I championed their causes, rooting for the underdogs, loving and grieving alongside each generation trying to make sense of both past and present.
Embers on the Wind reminds us that there are horrors in our history that we cannot escape but there are also acts of extreme bravery and compassion that are equally important. I highly recommend this informative and entertaining read.
I received a drc from the publisher via Netgalley.
Can you feel like you liked reading a book more than you liked the execution of the storytelling? That’s where I am. There were elements of this story that I enjoyed —seeking out ancestors and trying to find your past and a dual historical and present day timeline that usually dovetails beautifully. There were other elements that had me confused and lost and frustrated, namely the large cast of characters, the magical powers, the presence of spirits…. I am unable to process those elements in a story and they only serve to muddle the plot and storyline. I just ended the book with….”what?” I don’t even know what happened and after sleeping on it, I am not going back to re-read what I didn’t understand. Several chapters. Many scenes were the repeated scenes doubled back to some point in history and re-told from someone else’s point of view. The writing skill is there. The flow of story didn’t serve at all.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Excellent! Raises so many questions regarding racial identity. My only problem was keeping track of all the characters, timelines, and how they intersected. I may have to read a second time and keep written notes about the characters. Fascinating story!
This story hops all over the place in time and perspective but it’s the absolutely right way to sketch in the details. I was drawn into the spiritual elements as they allow the reader the pain of looking for freedom and the lack of closure in a life. It hold true that most don’t get a happily ever after.
You come to understand that a story doesn’t come together in a generation, multiple generations create the journey and at least in this story complete the circle.
This was the second free book I chose from Amazon's prime reading and it did not disappoint. It's is a story about freedom seekers that have ties to the Whittaker house that was part of the underground railroad. It's a story about strength and resilience and love for one's family. Can't begin to understand what those families went through. Beautifully haunting story 5/5
This book was one of those rare books that grabbed me right away. Finished it in under a week and loved the combo of history, intimacy and fantasy. I loved the perspective of the author, characters and storytelling. Highly recommend!!
The premise of this story is unique and intriguing. It's worth a read just for its themes around slavery, race, interracial relationships and the unique perspective of the dead. But there is a thin line between mystery and confusion and the book sadly crossed into confusion. At times it felt like I needed a chart to document people and dates. There were too many jumps between people and timelines, to the point where you had to stop and remember who they were. There was also say too much jumping in point of view. It's like a huge tapestry was being woven, with us jumping from one strand to another, but we never got to see the whole thing. It really feels like some of the side stories were unnecessary. Just a little tightening and editing could have made this a great book.
This was a free first reads from Prime, if not I wouldn’t have gone past the sample. While the characters we’re connected to each other there was no concrete connection between the chapters. There were to many characters and they’re seemed no reason for why some of them had more part in the story over others. Some storylines were left unfinished. Some characters seemed to just be forgotten.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The author, Lisa Williamson Rosenberg has created a page turner with vivid and rich characters that include past and present story lines. Wonderfully rich in history and a beautiful story. Highly recommend!
Embers on the Wind is an oral story passed down from generation to generation. However, if one had visited Whittaker house in Massachusetts, they would be enraptured by the spirits of the runaway female slave and her infant daughter.
Or, if they ventured into the yard and to the root cellar, they would hear and feel the spirits of all the slaves that perished down there. Down there in the tiny, cramped space, room supposed to be for no more than 3, crammed dozens. (Because the Pattyrollers were constantly on watch sometimes the previous runaways could not move, this is why so many slaves were packed in the root cellar.) Either they died from sickness, or they died from the fire that fateful night.
Williamson Rosenberg brings a very compelling novel into what happens when African Americans begin searching for their true identity. When they stop leaving their fate to oral history alone, and lets scientific facts prove their case.
Such as the case with Dominique, whose Maman refused to accept that there was any African heritage within their blood. Saying they were only Canadian and French because she did not like African Americans.
I will admit this book was thoroughly confusing. A true head spinner in the best way possible though.
Thankfully, I have a copy and can reread this book properly and dissect it piece by piece, the way it deserves.
This book was extremely well written, however, to gather all the names, combine the past family members who are related to the present, is all a little mind boggling.
I thought I was Ok until we got to Timothy/Galen/Dominique, those 3 mixed with the past went straight over my head.
I had to pause and think “WTF DID I JUST READ?” HOLD ON!
Williamson Rosenberg’s book is amazingly well crafted, and she is truly a talented writer. I will be sure to have my highlighter ready next time I reread it.
This book was so heartbreaking, as so many stories are of slavery, underground railroads, and the struggle for freedom.
How many tears are actually shed by African Americans when we read these types of novels, knowing what our ancestors have gone through.
But still so many questions, go unanswered.
Who we really are will always remain a mystery, unless we have millions of dollars and can do a full genealogical analysis. If not, we will always remain Unknown!
But that may be for the better, sometimes ignorance is bliss! The unknown keeps you safe, knowing sometimes does more harm than good.
KUDOS WILLIAMSON ROSENBERG!!!
TAKE MY HAND, LET’S BE LIKE EMBERS ON THE WIND, LET’S LEAVE THIS PLACE!
Thank you NetGalley/Lisa Williamson Rosenberg/ Little A/ For this eARC. In exchange for my honest review. My opinions are of my own volition.
As soon as I started reading this book, I was drawn to what I thought was the premise. This had the potential to be a fantastic story, but the book quickly became tedious instead. There was quite a bit of back and forth between current and past eras, overt generalizations, and too many characters that were supposed to be connected. It didn't work for me.
One of those books where you get to the end and wonder, 'is this it?' The premise was very engrossing, however, there were too many characters, too many storylines, and too many loose ends that made the ending less than satisfying.
Overall, I thought this book was a worthwhile read. While only 216 pages, it felt longer. I really enjoyed the first half of it, which rolled right along and I enjoyed (and was able to follow) the various historical and time travelling threads. At that point, the fantasy element was subtle and subdued and worked well. I actually felt that the moment Maxine was in San Francisco that the climax of the book was right around the corner. Then things started to slowly unravel from there. There were lots of additional plot lines and new characters added that we were supposed to care about without being fully developed. The timeline hopping became more frantic and harder to keep up with. The fantasy elements, mostly Birdie and the way she was able to interact with the world, started to go over the top (the murders?). And then, some key elements of the story were just dropped, like eventually what happened to Maxine and the baby, especially after Kaye had sensed them? What eventually happens to Kaye and her adopting (we assume?) Dominique's baby? What happens to Timothy - we only last hear of him dropping off the figurine with Michelle - and, oh, btw Barrett dies - so sad - gets one line. And the story that connected Kaye and Galen was never resolved - why didn't she talk to her, why did she run from her or not even recall her later when she reminisces about the coffee trips? Ah well, the Underground Railroad details helped provide a stabilizing backbone to the novel, which was interesting, but just got a little lost along the way.
Embers on the Wind is a story of interconnected Black people that all have ties back to the Whittaker House, run as part of the Underground Railroad by a family of abolitionists of the same name. The house is haunted by a young woman and the child she was giving birth to when there was a raid on the home. This is one of the stories in what almost serves as an interconnected short story collection by Lisa Williamson Rosenberg. Many of the stories feature descendants of someone that passed through the house, and the complexities they face being part of a mixed race family. The book explores both the indignities of being regarded as less by people on the outside by Black people, as well as reflections on when a relationship between a Black woman or child with a white man could never be regarded as a loving, supportive one. I really enjoyed how Williamson Rosenberg connected the different characters together, although I kind of wish she’d gone in a more chronological order and devoted more time to each character, so the reader sees the connections more naturally. And while the characters aren’t one dimensional by any means, really connecting with their struggles would have made this book even more powerful. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Embers on the Wind is a beautiful and heart-wrenching turn pager! I will admit that the beginning was a little hard for me to get into as I wasn’t understanding, but the story picked up in such a way that it was hard to put down! The story follows different timelines and characters, which at times becomes a little confusing. It was fascinating to see how the characters related to each other through their history. We can feel the characters’ pain and longing through the author’s words. I really enjoyed the ghost and spiritual aspect of the story, and the way it helps tie everything together!
This was a 4 star read for me, just because it was a little challenging to keep track of the characters!
Thank you NetGalley and Little A for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!