As the Sycamore Grows: A Hidden Cabin, the Bible, and a .38
By Jennie Miller Helderman
SYNOPSIS – A cabin behind a padlocked gate, no power, no phone, only Revelation and a .38-a true story of abuse, loss, redemption and hope, which winds from south Texas to a sycamore tree in Tennessee. Mike escaped his father’s fists, but years later glimpsed himself in his father’s casket. Ginger named the sycamore tree for Trent. It grew slowly-like independence. This is Ginger’s story, and Mike’s yet it didn’t begin with them. Mike shoved and slapped but his primary tools were isolation and economic abuse, until he discovered the power of the Lord. Veteran journalist Jennie Miller Helderman’s harrowing nonfiction narrative is about ending the legacy of abuse. Ginger McNeil was brought up to pray and obey, but she escaped the padlocked cabin in the woods where she lived with her two young sons off the land with no electricity or telephone. In interviews, her ex-husband Mike admitted the abuse, held no remorse, and said he would do it all again. “God made women to serve,” he said. “It’s their job.” Jennie interviewed both Ginger and Mike, their families, friends, ex-spouses, and others. Threading through the story is loss: the alienation of families, a spiritual void from betrayal by their church, and the death of the son Ginger had abandoned. This special updated edition-winner of six literary awards-updates the story of Ginger, who became a court-appointed advocate and partnered with Jennie to speak frequently about how to help those with violent partners. It also provides resources for domestic violence. Most of all, “As the Sycamore Grows” offers hope.
MY THOUGHTS – A moving, powerful story that I was blown away by. This is a 2nd special updated edition of the book from the original. Told from more than one point of view. It can be triggering but offers hope ultimately. Well-written and kept my attention.
PUBLISHER – Lucid House Publishing, LLC – 380
PUBLICATION DATE – May 2nd, 2023
MY RATING – 5/5 STARS
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Jennie Miller Helderman championed women’s and children’s issues from the grassroots to national levels, beginning with a call to a crisis center that led to the first women’s shelter in her hometown. She helped add a forensics component to a children’s advocacy center; chaired the boards of a statewide advocacy organization and later Alabama’s Department of Human Resources, (DHR). Charged with oversight of all the state’s social programs, DHR saw 5,200 clients per month. Jennie worked with a national organization to develop personal safety and leadership training for women. Jennie has taught school in rural Alabama, worked in a congressional office, and been photographer on an archeological research team at Pompeii. She is also a Pushcart Prize nominee who writes both fiction and nonfiction. Helderman was presented with Alumnae Achievement Award in 2012, the highest honor given by Kappa Kappa Gamma, based on her work as an author and community leader. Helderman’s “As the Sycamore Grows” garnered her six national nonfiction awards, and she revisited the story with Ginger because the book offers a unique perspective on domestic violence and the need for such stories is stronger than ever. The veteran journalist frequently speaks on domestic violence and women’s issues.