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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Occult Novel: "Finding Emmaus: The Lodestarre Book 1"

"Finding Emmaus: The Lodestarre (Series Bk 1) by Pamela S.K. Glasner

Here's a summary from the book jacket:

"The psychiatric community has confused Empathic personality traits with mental illness with tragic results, leading two Empaths -- Francis Nettleton and Katherine Spencer -- who live three hundred years apart, on personal journeys to learn the true nature of Empathy.  Transcending time and death to right a centuries-old wrong, they inadvertently uncover a multibillion dollar conspiracy in which millions of Americans are being misdiagnosed and drugged for no other reason than the enormous income they generate."

"Finding Emmaus" is one of those books in which the author has a fabulous idea and great characters, but the book needs better editing.  I enjoyed Ms Glasner's first book in the series, despite the fact that I thought it began to bog down in places. If one will understand this up-front, and will give allowance for the fact that it's a first book...I think it can be a worthwhile read, and certainly one that may produce a great series in the future! By her own confession, Ms Glasner, a high school English teacher, was surprised when she felt compelled to write this novel having had no prior experience.

In this first book, we hardly have time to get to know Katherine, though she is our first contact with the strange occurrence of "Empathy."  It's through Katherine's psychiatrist that she's led from thinking of herself as insane and into researching information on Empaths. [Empaths are described as those who "can see, hear, feel, and communicate with spirits as if they are real people, based on the premise that spirits are pure energy, and that Empathy is, by definition, a reaction to pure energy."]

This sort of  person or "condition" described to her by her psychiatrist, inevitably demands Katherine's taking a leap toward a journey of self-discovery...a discovery that might explain her seeming "madness" as something "other."  She sets out with her doctor's guidance to search for Francis Nettleton who lived 300 years ago, and who called himself an Empath.  If Nettleton's research proves true, much of what has been historically and currently diagnosed as insanity has actually been this phenomena.

With renewed hope, Katherine begins her quest by travelling to a sleepy, New England town in Connecticut, thought to be the home of this unproclaimed "Father of Empathy"...a man who actually lived and who is thought to have created a book of instructions or answers about Katherine's possible condition. Through a very rapid series of events, she becomes the owner of Emmaus, the home of Francis Nettleton, and she is ensconced in the local community.

Ms Glasner spends most of her book giving a background story of Francis Nettleton and his gathering information for the writing of the Lodestarre, his book of history, instructions, and answers for Empaths.  She explains the Lodestarre to be more than a set of guiding principles, and "everything that Frank came to believe in throughout the course of his life."  It is this journey of discovery that Frank makes and documents that we primarily learn of in "Finding Emmaus."

The author's writing style is clear and easy to read, not fussy, which I appreciate in such a novel.  Ms Glasner tells her story as a sort of chronicle of this mysterious condition that early colonial settlers experienced, and which seemed to be hidden or at least kept guarded from others.  I found this situation believable, particularly given what we now know about early settlers, their beliefs about witches, devil worshippers, and the inevitable Salem Witch Trials. We know from other historical records that those suspected of "madness" were kept in hidden parts of the house, or were found missing, or were sent to asylums/madhouses in the course of human history.  So, I felt she portrayed this timeframe and the mindset of the people with accuracy.

What I found missing and what I had hoped for was a better sense of "showing" and not just "telling" the story. While we were given the meat of the stories about other Empaths, there were no real examples of interest to anchor them in our minds. This made Frank's journey hopeful for me, but not as enthralling as I'd hoped. The characters were well drawn in terms of period detail and personality, but they had little of interest to show to convince one of their strange and frightening skills. In a word, they were often dull, and their personal stories were somewhat shallow in the telling.
The collaboration of Katherine in the present and Frank of the past is an interesting concept. It's one that will certainly pool both of their resources for the good of Empaths they seek to free and absolve of the stigma of insanity in the 21st century.

In this sense, their unity will begin a battle with the physicans and drug companies that join forces, and gain money and influence by keeping such Empaths suppressed and imprisioned in mental hospitals...thus, giving hope to those prisoners of mind, spirit and body. Those seen in Katherine's time as the hopeless and insane; those viewed by big business as needing pharmaceuticals to keep them under control, subdued and socially acceptable, become the possible Empaths that are trapped and misdiagnosed for profit's sake. It's a good and worthy cause to bring enlightenment and to squelch the profits of a blighted medical/pharmaceutical corporation conspiracy. 

But, I'm left questioning...is this the underling intent of the author's story?

Let's say that "Finding Emmaus: The Lodestarre Book 1" is about something more than the surface story and the secondary storylines.  Let's say that this book is a story about the occult...the real occult. This is a story about: Those who, to quote our author, "can see, hear, feel, and communicate with spirits AS IF they are real people..." Let's say that this is actually a Lodestarre - Manual on How to Commune with These Spirits as mentioned above.
The author goes on to mention "the Shimmer," Frank's guide to his Empath gates.  She talks about seeking occult gifts, about "familiars," and about heresy and that "everything is religion" including witchcraft.  As an educated reader and student of comparative religions, I found "Finding Emmaus..." a thinly veiled attempt to present ancient, occult precepts, and communing with "spirits."  Those of us who are familiar with the controversay of using Ouija Boards to contact "others who have died," will understand the incidious nature of this book's message. 

I have no issue with authors who write books about the occult. I'm a staunch advocate of freedom of speech. I do wonder, however, in this case, why one would disguise it as a book about helping the insane who might only be misunderstood and empathetic (which meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary is: the ability to understand or share the feelings of someone else). At least, that's how I initially viewed the book from the book summary. It seems only fair to be open with those who are choosing whether or not to read a certain book.

I believe Ms Glasner's course is varied and unclear in this initial book.  There are so many directions she could take, and so many interesting turns! Perhaps those possiblities kept her focus a little off in the distance. Perhaps she needs to check with her spirit guide before she finishes Book 2...  ;]  I wish her well, and I wish her clarity.

3 stars for a good read with editing issues and an underlying agenda.  Read at your own peril...


PS:  I forgot to mention that the cover of this book is so beautiful, and that the interior pages are wonderfully printed with light designs that the text print is then written upon.  That sort of detail is paid close attention to, which is lovely.


Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com

Great review. I don't know what is going on in publishing house editing these days. Sometimes I believe that we bloggers could do a better job. I am sure it is a case of downsizing and unmanageable workload. But, it is obvious that in an instance where there is a problem with direction that someone was asleep at the red pencil.


So true, Steph. Thanks for visiting and for commenting!

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