wpid-2015-01-04-16.41.37.jpg.jpeg

I had the pleasure of reviewing this book pre-release (US as well as UK!) and found it quite fascinating. Author, John Daffurn has given me a couple of copies to give away. To enter to win one of the copies, like this review here, on facebook, on Goodreads or leave a comment on any of the three. Each like gets you one entry into the fishbowl, and each comment earns you 2!  Good luck and if you don’t win, you can order a copy by clicking on Seeking John Campbell to buy it from Amazon.  Good Luck! 

Please Note: Entries Are Now Closed! 

Congrats~ Barbara of Frankfurt Germany, Neil of New York State, and Luanne of Kalamazoo and equal dashes of California 🙂

Seeking John Campbell

by John Daffurn

a pre release review by Kassie Ritman

“Come sit here beside me” beckons an old friend, “I want to tell you a story.”

This is the most accurate description I can offer of the writing style of first time author John Daffurn in his incredible true story of finding what was lost. His book Seeking John Campbell is scheduled for release in hard copy and via ebook version in early and mid 2015.

Written in an intimate and conversational tone, The prose is easy, straightforward but also visually descriptive. He artfully walks the necessary line between scholarly report and the words a heart longs to hear. The author teaches us quietly while telling of his journey to flesh out so many forgotten and remarkable people.

What begins with author, John Daffurn, having a bit of curiosity and some spare time on his hands, quickly turns into a passionate, self driven chase. The hours he spent patiently pursuing this obsessive mission to know about a woman’s life, whose name he plucks randomly from a newspaper listing is as amazing. The fact that he finds such a surprising story going back many generations is incredible. Readers go along to find the surprising truth of a seemingly unremarkable woman’s life. Although Daffurn has no connection or relation to “Isabel” the story he tells reads like a love letter to all who have departed this world with little to no tether.

The real gem found here is for the reader. Finding John Campbell should serve to bolt the casual researcher from the worn end of their favorite sofa and out into archives and perhaps yes, even across oceans to find such stories to tell of our own “ordinary” ancestors.  The tenacity behind the author’s pursuit is inspiring, and some of his gentle tactics and clever ways around the “brickwalls” are enough to send most any family researcher scrambling to take note.

If picking up a copy of Seeking John Campbell  does not show us all the folly of leaving our own family behind as only lists and piles of documents, I don’t know what will.  Of key importance is the example set by John Daffurn. This book would not be anything beyond a few pages in a drawer without the story. As his example shows, the whole matter of John Campbell and Isabel can be resolved by looking over the pedigree charts preceding Chapter 1. But as he shows us, there is a benefit to going beyond the names and dates while researching.

As an American, I am rather (typically) blind to the ways and histories of the lands beyond my own. I rarely consider the idea that citizenry would ever leave their home country, especially a civilized place like England or Scotland, and make a home for themselves anywhere besides the United States. That’s where everyone went if they were unhappy…right? No. Daffurn explains the impetus for the Scot migration to Argentina–which was a new country just after the establishment of our own late 18th century Declaration of Independence.

As a nice aside, since this is written in the kindly and UK colored writer’s voice of a cousin from the Isles, we learn a bit more of the colloquial ways and settings. If you have Argentine or Scots for ancestors, and have not been raised in one of these countries, this is a must read! And for all other Americans whose roots sprouted out of any European soil, I recommend this book as an eyeopener.

The Great Wars (WWI and WWII) gave us our heart wrenching share of broken and lost brothers, uncles and fathers. Easily forgotten is that these times treated the “other” side to the same loss and wreckage too.  It’s a haunting reminder if you have been privy to consider this before, but a startling insight if you’ve only seen the great wars from our own American point of view.

I am impressed by the way the author interweaves the story he is chasing with the historical context of world events and the effects on the specific people involved. John Daffurn’s storytelling ability sets us at ease while he goes about mixing the mitigating details seamlessly with his own hunt for answers. The historical framing and intimate life events of those he writes of make for an enjoyable and dramatic true tale well told.

Here’s what  Seeking John Campbell taught me. I am reminded by this book of just how self concentric we all tend to be. The story seeks out a certain John Campbell, but turns out to be an amazing revelation of Isabel and the life and times of her 40 year marriage to a rather underground yet highly public figure.  I wonder how many of her neighbors who waved at her while each was out doing yard work or collecting mail, knew the depths of the person she was?

 Perhaps most importantly: Why haven’t I sought out my John Campbell?