I don’t want to beat my one-star review to death, but many of you had VERY good points. (Thanks for all who emailed me!)
Some thought the guy hadn’t read the book. Some said he had no write judging me when he couldn’t spell. Others pointed out that he gave many one-star reviews. And a few (my husband included) noted that a lot of his negative reviews mentioned Communism … which is an element of this novel.
I don’t know why I didn’t pick on this communist link myself. You see, this is something my editor and I actually discussed … and that is taking the risk of being historically accurate, but politically incorrect.
You see, A Valley of Betrayal starts in 1936. It’s in the middle of the Great Depression AND many (75%) of the men and women who volunteered to fight in Spain against fascism were communist. Of course, now we see what has happened in China and Russia (the whole former Soviet Union), and we know communism is not cool. But back then … in 1936 … Communism was very popular. The communist leaders had soup lines, provided for their members, fed the masses, and they fought against fascism. (They were the first to give their lives to fight the Nazi regime in Spain.) The Communist Party also allowed black men to fight, live, and serve alongside white men without segregation.
In my book, two characters are part of the Communist party. My goal in the novel was to show that The Spanish Civil War was not a fight between good against evil (like World War II with the US against Nazi Germany). Rather it was two sides–neither good–that fought to claim a country they knew would be vital to the war to come.
Through my characters, I show WHY people in 1936 would lean towards communism. Also, through the story, I show that neither side acted saintly. (Far from it.) Yet, I also showed that no matter what forces are fighting around us, we as individuals can choose to serve God and to help others. In fact, sometimes God places us in these situations so we can grow in Him.
Last year, I received flaming, unkind comments from a few members of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade society because they did not believe that a Christian woman could write about the ALB volunteers and their communist ideals. Then yesterday I noticed that one-star review and (with the help of friends) I noted the other comments from this reviewer concerning his negative attitude toward communism. I later had one of the ALB society members (who is an atheist) write a review, telling me what a fine job I did on the novel, which was HUGE. I doubt the one-star reviewer would ever change his opinion, but maybe if he had read more than 40 pages (if any at all), he could have known how I showed–through my characters–that communism wasn’t all it was believed to be.
So in the end, I suppose I have done my work. I have written historically accurate material and have I have shown historically accurate ideals and beliefs through the lives of characters. Yes, today these thoughts and ideals might be politically incorrect, but hopefully the story will help readers understand history a little better and human nature a little better. I know I understand it better after writing about it … and after seeing the responses I get!