Destinies by Karleene Morrow – An Indie Gem Featured Book

Indie Gems

Dear Readers,

Today I have the very great pleasure of introducing our first Indie Gems author and book. Karleene Morrow and her splendid book Destinies kick off my new feature. The purpose of Indie Gems is to give fine independently produced books the recognition they deserve. Indie Gems has a few rules, to which I will adhere.

Without further ado, my review of Destinies follows. Karleene Morrow will add a note of her own.

Sandy Nathan
Indie Gems of Your Shelf Life


Destinies by Karleene Morrow


Brilliant, Astonishing, and Impossible to Forget

I finished Destinies yesterday and feel like I’ve lost an old friend. I’m in that floating period that comes after finishing a good book: I’m mulling over its scenes, characters, and settings. I’m also wondering what on earth I’ll do until I find another book that carries me away so completely.

Destinies is an epic of sweeping scope that reminds me of famous works about Russia, Dr. Zhivago, for instance. Destinies presents a very original twist on life in Mother Russia and is remarkable in its originality.

It’s the story of a group of German peasants who leave the Rhineland at the invitation of Tzarina Katherine (the Great). Life is rough in the Rhineland. They’re tenants, not landowners, and at the mercy of pretty near everyone in their German life. The village decides to take advantage of Katherine’s gracious offer to bear the expenses of their traveling to Russia, and to set them up with their own farms and all that would be needed to run them: houses, horses, farm implements and seed. Sounds like a good deal, especially when compared to being exploited unmercifully by their landlords and local nobles in the old country.

The tzarina’s plan is to modernize Russia. She intends to settle her new citizens on eastern lands beneath the Ural Mountains, an area undeveloped, sparsely populated and invaded by marauding robber bands and wild tribes. Thousands of individuals—families and whole villages—heed the call. Morrow wisely focuses on one Rhineland village, giving the reader a close-up view of village life and introducing characters that I will never forget.

This book is intricately plotted, but isn’t confusing. It moves like a freight train; the pace being fast and exciting. Right from the beginning things begin to go wrong. I think this work could also be put in the suspense genre. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading into the night.

The plot alternates between the trials and tribulations of the German immigrants and the court life of the tzarina. I wanted to slap that woman. While communicating with Voltaire and the literati of France, and thinking of herself as an enlightened monarch, big (and growing bigger by the day) Tzarina Kate squeezes her own serfs almost to death, which incites a revolt she doesn’t understand.

The book bears the stamp of many hours spent researching everything about her characters, sites and the world around her work. The author presents detailed descriptions of the colonists’ difficult journey to Russia and what happens afterward. For instance, the way that Morrow describes the experience and sounds of the deep Volga ice breaking up during the spring makes you feel as though you’re right there. I can hardly wait to read more by Karleene Morrow.

Sandy Nathan, Indie Gems

Karleene Morrow

Karleene Morrow

A Note from Karleene Morrow:  You asked where I got the inspiration for Destinies.  My grandparents were Germans who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia. They spoke very rarely of ‘the old country’ so I knew little after they were gone. When I started into genealogy, researching my family, I found myself wishing, like every genealogist, that I’d asked my grandparents a hundred questions. The more I researched though the more ideas percolated in my head. When I bumped into Catherine the Great then, of course I had to research her, too. I started all this before genealogy on the internet was much of anything, Cindy’s List was about it and even that was new and extremely limited. was constantly pressing researchers for information. Now they sell that information to new genealogists.

Destinies ended up being loosely based on the family history I was able to find, particularly an ancestor who was a founder of the village of Krasnoyar.  Of course that was in the 1700s and Russia is not very cooperative with her information, being the secretive country she is, so the novel is fiction – but fiction based on fact.  There is an organization in Nebraska called the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.  I was able to learn a great deal about the Europeans who answered Catherine’s call and made the incredible trek to Russia. One of the things I did was to read 20 years of their professional journals and “Clues” magazine and researched books in their library. I can’t begin to say how I felt when I finished that epic novel of drama and history and held it in my hands as an actual book. It was an emotional moment, misty eyes and the overwhelming feeling that the labor pains were worth it.

Sandy, I want to thank you for the marvelous review of Destinies and of course for loving it. And special thanks for inviting Destinies and me to your Indie Gems feature.  Destinies is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes (Apple), Kobo, Smashwords and as a paperback at Amazon, Create Space, Barnes & Noble, and from my website, discounted and autographed.

Karleene’s Website

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