Blog Tour: Point of Departure by Dianne Kowal Kirtley (spotlight, guest post)

point of departure coverPoint of Departure
written by Dianne Kirtley
published by Publishing

find it here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads


About the book – from Goodreads: It is 1841, and fourteen-year-old Charlotte Mailliard should be concerned with French fashion, French tradition and her studies with her classmates, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephews. Instead, her Papa has decided to move his family to America. Now Charlotte can only think of a strange state called Illinois and the “savages” she will encounter on her long journey. No one could forsee that the family’s trek to that frontier would bring them to a Kentucky slave auction, an experience that would forever change their lives. Two decades earlier, another Frenchman, Henri Moreau, a street urchin of Paris, had made his way to that same Illinois, where life was a pleasant mix of his and native customs. But in 1832, that peace was destroyed by the Blackhawk War, an event that tragically impacted Henri and his family. As the nation and the Mailliard and Moreau families mature, it is the common theme of war that causes Charlotte to realize she is but one cog in the endless cycle of love and loss, the bane of a country where another Illinois native son will not abide “a house divided.”

Every Free Chance Book Reviews is pleased to welcome Dianne Kowal Kirley, author of Point of Departure, to the blog today. She has prepared the following guest post for all of you.

Who is Point of Departure’s Henry Moreau?

        Who is Henry Moreau? It seems to be the first question that readers of my novel, Point of Departure, are asking. In a work that is awash with historical figures, the query has to some extent been surprising, and yet, perhaps it is not totally unexpected.  Henry is, after all, exceedingly handsome, trusting, intelligent and loyal. Wow!  All that and good looks.

Henry, though fictional, is a legitimate strain of American history.  As an example of the son of many French trappers who came to this country in the 18th and 19th centuries and lived among the natives, he is the half-breed race that was not quite welcomed by either society of his parentage. Swift Eagle among the natives, Henry among the settlers, he was suspected and thus cautious wherever he lived.  He is the example of that which is “other” and thus never one of the fold.

Henry is also the remedy for Charlotte Mailliard’s, the protagonist, innate fear of American savages.  Raised in the gentile society of Paris and Florence, she cannot but fear the talk she has heard of “savages,” a fear somewhat reinforced by her chance meeting with Annette Savage, Joseph Bonaparte’s discarded mistress during Charlotte’s first visit to Point Breeze, New Jersey, Joseph’s estate.

However, it is Charlotte’s cousin Antoine who opens her eyes to the possibility that “savages” might actually be more civilized than members of society when Antoine exposes Charlotte to Benjamin Franklin’s insightful essay, “Remarks Concerning the Savages.”  The irony that her true love arose from savage beginnings is not lost on Charlotte as she matures.

Henry is also the answer to my question of why Charlotte’s letter to her granddaughter omits any mention of her husband, a husband definitely held in high regard by his townsmen, but curiously absent in reference.  In the side margin of her favorite book, Maria Antoinette, Charlotte writes “To be one’s own companion, thus have I been.”  One must ask why within a family of many siblings and as a married woman, she would have written that note.  To me, it signified a longing, an alienation from her usual society—and her longing for that which could not be, Henry.  In the novel, the connection to Henry cannot be diminished for Charlotte despite the passage of time and the physical distance between them.  In early April, 1865, when Henry is wounded in war, Charlotte experiences his injury and is unconscious for a period of several days.

There is no question that Henry is also the classic example of the noble savage, the outsider, the one easily maligned, and yet the one that remains selfless and giving, over-looking the smallness of others.  His selfless act of supporting his adoptive parents, Mary and Owen, and the continued gifts to their world exemplify his true nobility.

Furthering that goodness, the third deceased in Whitman’s “A Sight in Camp,” may also be read as an allusion to Henry and thus he may be regarded as a Jesus figure. (page 324)

As the novel closes, Henry’s letter to Charlotte expresses his hope that, “the decency of this country will survive this test,” the test of course being the scar of Civil War.  He hopes that, “love and respect” will triumph over “fear and greed.”  Henry is the very best of all of us, that which we strive to be, and thus an also an Everyman with his trials and successes.

Ironically, Henry Moreau was originally Henry Tuissant, but as my story was in progress, I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, whose main character is Henry Tuissant.  Thus Henry Tuissant became Henry Moreau, the first French name that came to mind.

Henry Moreau seems to have emerged as a memorable character, the one that evokes an emotional response.  What more could an author hope for?

Dianne Kowal Kirtley, April 2013  

Happy reading wherever you are and whenever you get a free chance!!!