Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review & Giveaway: "Helena: Unwavering Courage" by Sylvia Melvin

A woman gives birth while watching her husband's funeral procession from her bedroom window. She leaves town with her five children to secure an isolated riverside homestead. In a raging thunderstorm, she captains a rowboat in rough waters. With an ax, she decapitates a porcupine with termite-like tendencies. When a fast-moving fire threatens her home, she protects her children. Who is this courageous woman? She is Helena Matthews - grandmother of the author, Sylvia Melvin. All of the stories in Helena: Unwavering Courage are true.

Helena was a real life, flesh and blood woman who lived in a rustic settlement of Ontario, Canada during the early part of the 20th century. Advanced technology left her a widow when her pioneering husband, James, was killed while driving one of the area's first "auto wagons." With the help of her neighbors and her ingrained sense of determination, she perseveres in raising Edith, Ruby, Billy, Harry and Annie as a single mother.

Her children certainly put her to the test. Annie suffers a concussion after falling from the top of a stacked hay bale. Billy uncovers an illicit stash of moonshine during Prohibition. Edith thwarts her mother's attempt to encourage the advances of a gentleman caller. Ruby complains about having to leave her friends to live on the homestead for the entire summer. Harry joins the fun as the neighborhood children transform her brand-new window screens into makeshift sleds to slide down the steps, destroying them all in the process.

It is not just the antics of her children that Helena has to contend with. The owner of the general store cheats her. Their cow gets stranded in the middle of a river. A tuberculosis outbreak is a constant threat.

It is an enchanting idea to write a novel based on the life of one's ancestor. Melvin does a terrific job bringing her grandmother's past to life. What a wonderful way to preserve family history while at the same time sharing it with a larger audience. The book's pictures increase the narrative's depth. Helena's portrait graces the cover while interior photos show Billy and Harry fishing on the river and Edith, Annie and Harry playing in the woods. An epilogue explains what happened to everyone once the narrative concludes with the 10 year anniversary of James Matthews' death.

Overall, this is a real life heroine whose story deserves to be told.

Helena: Unwavering Courage by Sylvia Melvin is available for $10.00 at

A complimentary review copy was provided by Sylvia Melvin.

Also by Sylvia Melvin: Summer Guest

Enter to win a FREE copy of Helena: Unwavering Courage.

(1) Leave a comment below along with your email address & (2) become a (public) Google follower of this blog (widget found on our blog's right sidebar).

A winner will be chosen on April 15, 2010.

Congratulations to our winner!: Elaine R.


  1. I love a true story about Canadian women-should be a great read!

    Elaine R

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book. :)

  3. HI, I thought some of the readers might enjoy the "Cameras For Kids" blog. There's also some good photography books there..