Goods & Effects
by Al Schnupp
Golden Antelope Press

"Just before her eleventh birthday, Hannah had confessed her sins, accepted Jesus as her savior and was welcomed into the fold."

The story begins as Hannah, a Mennonite, is told by her deacon that her husband can't be given a proper church funeral. She pulls a knife, but only to cut glazed buns. The author deftly depicts the feel of a Mennonite farm from the strictly gendered division of labor to smells "that capture and celebrate life," such as freshly mown hay. Soon readers become involved with the people whose lives Hannah impacts, as she seeks gravediggers for her sons and husband and neighbors to perform other tasks.

The author skillfully portrays Hannah in grief as she "stared numbly out the window, at an incomprehensible truth." Her home no longer seems familiar; she feels estranged. Her spunk, which is evident throughout the novel, begins to emerge. As one example, she goes out to buy a gun. This clever and nimble exchange with the storeowner reveals a tenacity of character: "You know how to shoot this?" he asks her. "I know how to work a sewing machine," counters Hannah. "It can't be all that hard." Hannah leaps off the page in this and other instances as a strong, powerful, and self-directed woman who acts upon (as opposed to being acted upon) her environment. She even survives falling into a ditch in a snowstorm. Each incident unfolds with intriguing and gripping prose.

Schnupp is to be applauded and appreciated for his uncanny ability to guide Hannah's transformation. In what begins as a stereotypical but nonetheless sympathetic character, she is fully developed, believable, and admirable. The author does so by continuously relating actions as if they were unremarkable when actually they build from an inauspicious start to construct a remarkable person not easily forgotten in the field of literature. In the larger sense, it's a tale about a women ascending from restricting pasts.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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