By JEAN HAVENS
Snippets of life as experienced by a young Missouri boy captured the audience of this month’s Friends of the Library program, as award-winning author David Gerard read excerpts from his book “God’s Acres.”
Set on a 12-acre farm outside St. Joseph, Mo., in the late 1950s, “God’s Acres” portrays the life of a family, driven by a Catholic mother wanting perfection in an imperfect world.
Gerard based his book on his childhood, and the things that happened, along with the trials, his family faced.
Gerard said the idea for his fiction was a common theme.
“Two people created by God to live in a perfect setting, but something always happens, so the setting can never be perfect,” said Gerard. “My mother wanted a place where God was honored and her children were isolated, somewhat, from the evil in the world.
He said his mother wanted a place where she could teach her children the values and morals important to her.
“My mother tried very hard to shelter her children , but it couldn’t be sustained,” he said. “Why does that happen? Why can’t we create a perfect world ?”
In the book, the boy’s mother suffered from depression, just as Gerard’s own mother did.
“She was given shock treatments that were common cures at the time,” he said.
The time period his book covers is 1958-1960.
“Those three years were filled with big changes in the world,” Gerard said.
He gave the example of his father’s feelings about the space race and “those darn Commies” beating the U.S. into space.
Gerard also said that things happen in life that are “just plain weird.”
The example Gerard used for this reasoning was the life, and talent, of Mark Twain. He said that a sign of weirdness of Twain’s life was that Halley’s Comet appeared the year he was born and the year he died.
“How can you account for Twain and all that he created?” Gerard asked. “How did Mark Twain, who was born in an obscure little town to a family that was not exceptional become one of the most influential and studied authors in the United States?”
It comes down to the weirdness of life, according to Gerard.
The excerpts Gerard read from his book were full of humor about serious topics seen from 7-year-old “Bud’s” point of view.
Crazy Cow describes a scene of a contrary cow that, while being milked, kicked the bucket away. It also showed the tension between the mother and father in the story.
“It was Dad’s big moment, because he’d bragged about how he’d milked cows as a boy,” Gerard read.
In the scene, the father curses as the bucket flies away, spilling the milk. The children were amused by this, but didn’t laugh. The father’s milking process proved unsuccessful, while the mother confidently squirted milk into the bucket.
Another excerpt topic was Bud’s first confession at the local Catholic church. The children were in line to go into the confessional. Another boy went in to give his confession.
“A whine began in the confession box that soon became a wail,” read Gerard. “The box muffled what was being said, but not the whine nor wail. The box didn’t muffle the scolding the monsignor gave to the boy inside. All the while, “the nun kept looking at her watch.”
As the boy leaves the confessional, he loudly prays for forgiveness. “The boy (Bud) hears this,” the author read. Then Sister Mary turns to Bud and says, “You’re next.”
“God’s Acres” is Gerard’s third book. It was the 2011 fiction award winner of the Oklahoma Book Awards sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
Gerard was a reporter and editor for the Muskogee Phoenix for 15 years, his last five as opinion editor. From 2001 to 2010, Gerard wrote a weekly column titled “Sketches from Three Rivers,” which he later compiled into his first book “Sketches from Muskogee, Oklahoma.” His second book, “Judge Not” is a murder mystery based on a murder he covered as a reporter.