Deborah Heal considers herself a Christian fiction author. Right there, for a lot of people, that would wave the red flag: “Stop! Do not enter!” “This will contain over-zealous subject matter meant to weave a certain message into the story in which to enlighten or prescribe the author’s beliefs.” I almost passed up the chance to read this fun trilogy because of this worry. Through the first book, I turned every page with much trepidation that a preacher would jump out of page 25, 137, or 192 to scream at me about his way to see the light. In certain times and places I find this acceptable, but not when I am reading for enjoyment and to relax.
I was so wrong! In all three books--nothing like that happened at all. As a matter of fact, Ms. Heal did an excellent job of writing a great three-part story that young adults on up can enjoy. The first book was an introduction to Merri, Abby, and John and the Beautiful Home computer program. The second book took us on another adventure with the cheerful trio and their neighbors to seek out a puzzle of heritage. This last book delved further into Illinois history as Merri, Abby, and John used their unique computer program to help Kate, (Abby’s roommate from college) find an ancestor by the name of Ned Greenfield from Equality, Illinois.
Their arrival to Equality gave them an unexpected surprise. Everyone they met was hometown friendly in a down-home sort of way. The streets were crowded; and it wasn’t until they met the local sheriff that they learned it was the annual Salt Days celebration to commemorate when the village was founded in 1735. The area was the hub for salt mining in the United States after the Indians surrendered the “Great Salt Springs” to the US government by treaty way back when (Wikipedia). The story continues with little tidbits of local history to amuse and entertain as is the author’s penchant for sneaking in lessons without our being consciously aware we’re being taught.
With all the information they try to find out about this Greenfield relative of Kate’s, the farther down the family tree he seems to slip. These friendly villagers start to clam up and the true hunt begins. This tale tells of a salt baron’s ruthless rise to success, slavery—the likes of which you’ve never heard before, a spooky third floor in a mansion, and a ditzy old woman who has the answers, but takes to having “spells” when questioned too much.
On the social scene, John and Abby’s crush deepens as Abby (figuratively) pulls the petals off the daisy one-by-one “He loves me. . . . He loves me not.” This couple prefers to follow the old-fashion values of genteel courtship until marriage; whereas, Abby’s friend, Kate, was lured into a more complicated, serious relationship with her boyfriend, Ryan. The subject of sex is mentioned in the book, but it is handled with intelligence and decorum.
Now that the trilogy is over, I look back and shake my head when I think I almost missed a great opportunity to learn so much about our history and the history of Illinois. The information was presented in a unique mystery story that was fully entertaining and enjoyable. I liked the books so much that if I had my druthers, I’d like Ms. Heal to drop the trilogy and just continue the storyline into a lengthy series. I enjoyed the characters so much that I could imagine them on more adventures of this kind, and as long as the program is willing—why not? If more of us hungry readers are so inclined to persuade her, perhaps we can change her mind about this being the last book. I’m certain that the state of Illinois has many more hidden tales to tell that the Beautiful Home computer program could bring to light.
I’d like to thank author Deborah Heal for this lovely copy of Every Hill and Mountain in exchange for my honest review.