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Linda Kolhagen reviews "Lean against the Wind: The Teacher from Heaven"
The Trilogy, "Seeds from Heaven"
Linda, the Reader
Shortly after launching my writing career, I found myself talking to Linda Kolhagen about my fourth novel, “Lean against the Wind.” I told her how I had been rummaging around the warehouse looking for old manuscripts that I had written decades before and needed them for HUB material. I found a gem called Touch’n Base that was an accounting of my experiences as a Special Ed. teacher. It was nearly a diary and I had attempted to fictionalize it, however I really wasn’t much of a writer and had forgotten about it. She indicated she wanted to read the new manuscript and soon she was ready to give me her reaction. She told me she read around three novels a week and had been doing so for the last three decades. I figured I was fortunate to have her opinion. I called her on the phone.
“Hi, Linda. I want your reaction to “Lean against the Wind”.”
“Hi, Reynold. Yes, I‘d be happy to.”
Reynold Jay: “You wanted to read this, if I remember correctly. I told you I had found a subplot that worked beautifully into the story and was the inspiration to start from scratch and rewrite the entire manuscript. In that the subplot involved senior citizens being fleeced by crooked shysters, I did feel that the manuscript would have some appeal for you. Was I correct?”
Linda: “Yes, the subplot brought it all together, and being a senior citizen, I could relate to Mr. Harrelson and I can assure you that I’m on the alert and not going to get fleeced like poor Mr. Harrelson. You did tell me that you caught the idea from a newscast and that these scams are popping up around the country right now. Your novel will bring this to the attention of your readers and they can be on the lookout for crooked doctors, lawyers, and so-called management companies.”
Reynold Jay: “My first duty as a writer is to entertain, but there is always something always boiling underneath the story that the reader can walk away with and put to good use.”
Linda: “It worked for me. Yep—but your novel went far beyond anything I could have imagined.”
Reynold Jay: “Go ahead and tell me what you liked, then.
Linda: “Everything was wonderful. You have created enduring characters that reach out and touch your heart. The students, Tiny Tim, Big Jim, Arch, and, of course, there is Jon Causey. I actually cried during some of the big scenes with Jon. Your scenes with Jon and his mom (some of this edited for spoiler reasons) were heartbreaking. To see this happen to him broke my heart, and then I was elated when things took a better turn.
It will sound crazy for anyone who has not read the novel, but I was so happy for Tiny when everything turned around for him and he got his lawnmower.”
Reynold Jay: “Yeah—out of context, it sounds crazy. You need to be there in order to understand what something like this can mean to a person. Kind of like “Who shot JR” in the Dallas series many decades ago. The novel is riddled with tiny glimpses of life in a Special Ed setting. I remember you called me about one of the students using dog shampoo on his hair—”
Linda: “I had to know. Here I was just a few pages into the novel and already I was laughing at all these little gems that were coming down the pike. And you told me that was an entirely true event and little did I know what a marvelous story I would read before it was all said and done. I suspected that it was going to be great. Anyway, I hoped so at that point. I thought the whole thing was going to go along like this and then you revved it up with all the horrible things the administration was doing to the staff and to the students.”
Reynold Jay: “You felt that there were villains?”
Linda: “You jest! These are the scum of the Earth. I hated them from the get go and wanted to wring their crooked little necks.”
Reynold Jay: “I knew I needed villains after writing other thrillers recently where bad guys end up killing millions of people. This was a simple little story—”
Linda: “Yes it is a small slice of life, however it is a big story and totally engrossing. The characters simply jumped off the page and into my heart and I remember telling others that they should give this a try, but they simply cannot imagine how a story like this can touch a person. I’ve never read anything like this in my entire life! If anything, it makes me understand what a wonderful life you must have had working with the students.
Critcal Reviews of Fantasy books by Jenny (including Lean against the Wind & Watchdogg)
High and Low Points?
Your Lancaster character is the key to the entire Seeds from Heaven story and it is easy to figure that you must have had many battles with the administration. This is the kind of thing you cannot make up. I can see why you felt you had to write this too. It is a novel, but everything is like looking inside the head of Lancaster. He is an amazing character and one can only cheer him on as, first he is beaten down by the baddies, and then he slowly and methodically works his magic and turns the whole thing around.”
Reynold Jay: “Were there any low points in the novel. Anything that stood out that needs revision?”
Linda: “No, no—it was a winner from beginning to end…it would be a crime to change a single word. On a scale of one to ten, this is a ten, one of the finest reads of my lifetime.”
Reynold Jay: “You made my day as I know you have read a lot of novels and I’m up against the big writers of our time.”
Linda: “There are few novels that would ever come close to this one.”
Reynold Jay: “I’ve written another one called Watchdogg—it’s a political thriller. My goal was to put the “thrill” back in thriller. Are you willing to give it a chance?”
Linda: “You bet. I’m hooked—bring it on.”
Note: Linda passed away in May, 2013. The Watchdogg novel was eventually entitled, "Forty Days to Armageddon."
"Lean against the Wind" is the beginning of the trilogy, “Seeds from Heaven.”
Plan to read other Hubs about this exciting series.