Friday, August 30, 2013

REVIEW: THE ROCKIN’ CHAIR by Steven Manchester

Title: The Rockin’ Chair
Author: Steven Manchester
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Genre: Family fiction
Reviewed by: Margitte
Source: NetGalley
Margitte’s rating: 5/5


Memories are the ultimate contradiction. They can warm us on our coldest days or they can freeze a loved one out of our lives forever. The McCarthy family has a trove of warm memories. Of innocent first kisses. Of sumptuous family meals. Of wondrous lessons learned at the foot of a rocking chair. But they also have had their share of icy ones. Of words that can never be unsaid. Of choices that can never be unmade. Of actions that can never be undone.

Following the death of his beloved wife, John McCarthy Grandpa John calls his family back home. It is time for them to face the memories they have made, both warm and cold. Only then can they move beyond them and into the future.

A rich portrait of a family at a crossroad, THE ROCKIN' CHAIR is Steven Manchester’s most heartfelt and emotionally engaging novel to date. If family matters to you, it is a story you must read.


It is not a genre I normally read, but something about the title and the cover design prompted me to read this book. The cover reminded me so much of my childhood, visiting my grandmother on her farm; the old porch where we used to sit, she peeling and slicing fruit for bottling, telling me stories of the family and her childhood. I was too young to remember who finally took her rockin' chair when she passed away, but it never bothered me. I had so much rich and beautiful memories whenever I encountered a rockin' chair ever since.

This family saga of the old gentleman, John McCarthy and his family pulled me into the American way of rural life which we often see in movies, but seldom read in books. The characters in the book were so familiar as though I knew them all my life, yet so very American in their values, talk and outlook on life. Decent, honest folks who were paternally lead and protected by a grandpa who also wrote a diary.

The writing style, the story elements, the characters...everything, gripped me from the first sentence before I even knew what the story would be about. I only knew I wanted to learn the story behind that rockin' chair on that porch and I was determined to hear it! 

It was as though the author knew where to get to me. He went straight for the heart and left me sitting in total wonderment on how it was done.

Who would not react emotionally when a simple, decent, proud man writes these words:"I've had dreams of Alice calling me home and I reckon my time is close. But I'd leaved a pig-headed fool without makin' a few things clear. I reckon I've lived a life most men could only hope for. I had folks that taught me right. I found a woman that loved me right. I worked a farm that treated me right. But none of it ever added up to the love I had for my boy, Hank. Even if I owned words fancy enough, I couldn't start to say how much I love that stubborn boy." 

The symbolism in the Rockin' chair is strong enough to have everyone reading this book yearn for family we never knew, or who passed away, or for opportunities we wished we had treasured. We would all agree that those rockin' chairs was more than just a few pieces of wood that made up a useful piece of furniture! It really rocked for a special reason. They all have stories to tell. 

This Rockin' Chair had me in tears - of memory but also of joy. I felt so part of this family in which the challenges of a tough life, misunderstandings, and hardship did not leave much room for emotions such as love and appreciation. Yet it does not mean it did not exist. 

It is a brilliant book in so many ways. It is a book that men should read just as eagerly as women. There is a lot to contemplate and a lot of our own changed values to weigh against the message this book leaves behind. In the end I needed to ask myself: and how do you measure up, girl?

Five stars for everything, grampa John!


The Rockin’ Chair by Steven Manchester has 90 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



Steven Manchester is the author of the The Rockin' Chair (to be released June 18th), as well as the #1 best seller, Twelve Months (2013 San Francisco Book Festival award winner). He is also the author of Goodnight, Brian, A Christmas Wish, Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy, Jacob Evans, and several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.


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