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What if?

The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment

What if at certain points in history, mankind decided to turn left instead of right? The weather blew exploration ships east or south but never west. What if Hitler had been ignored, Einstein had never been born? That John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had not been assassinated and they and their ideas had been alive to serve the nation another 50 years?

At every turn of the road and tick of the clock there are so many possibilities that form our world, our nation and our lives. “There but for fortune go you and I” is written in the song by Phil Ochs and sung by many, my favorite being Joan Baez. And fortune is what you and I live in, for good or for bad. A new genre in writing is emerging, described as Alternate History. This theme explores what might have occurred if certain historical events, people and activities had been different. Some shun it as being the same as fiction writing. But as more authors experiment using the concept of writing within an alternate history, the creativity is almost unlimited and it prompts our minds to explore possibilities we might never have embraced.

Tolkein took his ideas of “Lord of the Rings” and created a whole new earth history of mankind. He wove together an earlier history before man, with traditions, trials and tribulations. He filled it with hobbits and wizards, dragons, orcs, elves and talking and walking trees, setting them before the age and rule of man. C.S. Lewis wove his stories of “Narnia” in a parallel timeline with human history, where his characters moved back and forth between realities.

In a new publication, “The Light Between Two Worlds,” by Laura Wegmouth, she too creates a parallel world. It is 1944. Bombs are dropping in London. Three children, Evelyn, Phillipa and Jamie run for cover to their backyard bomb shelter. And before their parents can join them, they are suddenly transported to a quiet forest. No blasting air-raid sirens screech. No bombs explode. Just the rustle of leaves and pines, accompanied by birdsong. The stag Cervus walks softly, approaching. And then he speaks. They are now in the Woodlands.

It is an uncommon occurrence for humans to find entrance there, but because of Evelyn’s begging wish to be anywhere but London, Cervus transported them. And as they spend the next several years in a magical place, this land is also preparing for battle against enemies. And there the similarity with Narnia ends. Weymouth takes the reader on a ride of page turning where the story is told both in this world and that world, simultaneously both present and past. The characters return home to the exact time they had left, only to find themselves emotionally injured and suffering greatly. Two of the children are happy to be home. The third yearns for her Woodlands. They must find a way to heal when their desire to always protect each other pulls them apart. The struggle parallels that of all humanity, with the search to find oneself and one’s place in the world they live. The ending of “The Light Between Two Worlds” is a poignant example of how the heart stretches and grows.

I believe the final book in this review to be a true illustration of Alternate History. Imagine a world where the Americas were not taken over by European immigration. Where the land that is now the United States has been maintained by indigenous tribes. Controlling their own destiny and decisions, time has pushed forward to our present day. There are roads and cars, air flight, flat TV’s and iPhones. But homes are still built in the wigwam style and the traditions of the tribes have evolved carefully through time, held fast by the original inhabitants of the land and their descendants. B. L. Blanchard has opened a window into such an alternate world in her book, “The Peace Keeper.”

It is the 21st century. The story takes place in the land we know as Chicago. But it is a small native town, close knit, following many century old traditions. It is fall and they are celebrating Manoonim, the harvest of the rice, with traditional dancing to separate the husks from the rice kernel. It will be shared by the community. But as happened 20 years earlier, a murder occurs. The main character Chibenashi must solve the crime. Don’t be intimidated by the complicated names the author uses. They are from the traditional language of that area before white immigrants arrived. Blanchard weaves their life and names seamlessly to make this transition seem quite real. The story is sewn with a sure thread, neatly solving the crimes. Feed your imagination in a new unique way.

We are anchored in our own reality today, but it is interesting to see what might have or could have been. It is both sobering and exciting to realize that we are part of history-making in our own time. And as Joan Baez sings, “Show me the country where the bombs had to fall. Show me the ruins of the buildings once so tall. And I’ll show you a young land with so many reasons why. And there but for fortune may go you and I… or I.”

Good books.

Good reading.

*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.