It’s October 1955, an era of Eisenhower politics and stringent sexual roles. The airways have recently given birth to rock ‘n’ roll. James Dean has just died in that sexy, low-slung Porsche of his, and in the sleepy little town of Windhaven, Minnesota, Sibyl Webber has succumbed to pneumonia. The lives of her closest relatives are about to be transformed.
Young Natalie cannot mask her grief for her grandmother, but she dreams that the return of her absent father may fill the emptiness inside her. Her emotionally damaged father, however, has his own demons to fight.
Natalie’s mother, Alice, is once again dating her beau from high school, the fast-car-driving rock ‘n’ roll aficionado, Jake Baker, who has been more of a father to Natalie than anyone else and who doesn’t like the idea of her biological father’s return to Windhaven. A surprise in Sibyl’s will allows Alice to pursue a deferred dream, but is it a blessing or a curse?
Helen, the maiden aunt who still lives in the stately old family home with Natalie and her mother, hides a dark secret. But with the death of her controlling mother, she reevaluates her life and decides to make an unconventional proposal.
A Time of Need invites the reader to examine the lives of these fascinatingly flawed characters.
A Time of Need, by Barbara Paetznick, is a beautifully written peek into the culture of rural 1950s Minnesota.
The book is full of compelling, well-drawn characters. It’s fascinating to explore the differences between sisters Helen and Alice and between Jake and Benjamin, two men important in Alice’s life. I love watching young Natalie and how her imagination tries to modify her reality. The story begins with the death of Sibyl, who is Helen and Alice’s mother, Natalie’s grandmother, a character pivotal in the lives of all the characters. We don’t know Sibyl except through the characters’ memories and opinions of her. This creates a fantastic study of the dichotomy possible in how people view each other. Really insightful…and realistic.
There are several very touching, emotional scenes, yet the author does it without melodrama. The prose is lyrical and warm. The plot moves well. It’s an absorbing read, and I look forward to more from Barbara Paetznick.
Exclusive Author Interview:
1) A Time of Need takes place in the 1950s in a small town in Minnesota. Did any of the inspiration for the book come from your own life, growing up in a similar setting?
The answer is yes and no. I grew up in rural Minnesota in a small post-war bungalow, but the isolation that the youngest Webber female, Natalie, experiences was definitely similar to my own. The old Victorian home that the main characters of A Time of Need live in is a home that my husband, author/historian Lloyd Hackl, and I moved into after our marriage. It became center stage for my main characters.
2) If you could have dinner with one of the characters from A Time of Need, who would it be and why?
My choice would be Benjamin Raleigh, a tragic boy whose personality is shaped by his alcoholic mother and pious minister father and further crippled by the violence of his experiences as a soldier during World War II. In my opinion Benjamin is the most complex of any of my characters and the tragic hero of this novel. It gave me great comfort as an author to give him some small modicum of love and peace as his life slowly moves forward in the novel.
3) What is one of your favorite scenes in the book?
I truly enjoyed writing all of the sections in which different types of music took center stage. I hope that my musical choices, and at times lyrics, became actual characters within the novel.
4) What’s your favorite thing about writing? What’s the most difficult?
I love the rewrites and editing far more than the original hard work of the first draft. With the help of my awesome critique partners, who are both tough and fair with their comments of my submissions, I enjoy going back into my original manuscript to make my feelings and messages clearer. Often I learn new facets of my ever-so-interestingly-flawed characters I hadn’t even known existed.
5) You also write poetry. Can you tell us a little about that?
The poetry I write is, to coin a cliché, truly from the heart. I find being able to capture a time, an experience, a thought, in as few words as possible a marvelous and rewarding challenge.
6) What are you writing now?
My latest endeavor is a rewrite of an old manuscript, Whistling Girls and Crowing Hens. This novel takes place in the same Victorian home that the Webbers of A Time of Need occupied several decades earlier. Whistling Girls central character, Rebecca Morgan, is a middle-aged English teacher who has recently lost her husband to a sudden death and is dealing with near crippling grief. As the story unfolds, in alternating chapters the reader meets the young Rebecca and, in first person narrative, learns of the little girl and the experiences that shaped her into the grieving widow she has become. The reader also becomes involved in two students’ lives—that of a meek young lady and her boyfriend, a young man who as a youngster suffered abuse and witnessed great violence. At the time of the novel, both their lives have spiraled out of control and, ultimately, their dramas lock into that of Rebecca’s destiny in a confrontation that is bound to cost any or all of them their lives. The ultimate question that the reader will face is how a person survives and continues a life having lived through great trauma. I hope to have this novel available the summer of 2015.
7) How can readers find you?
My novel, A Time of Need, is available on Amazon. Just type in my name, or visit my Amazon author page.
A Time of Need on Amazon
A Time of Need on Amazon
As with the character of Helen Webber in A Time of Need, Barbara Paetznick was a high school English teacher in Minnesota for fifteen years.
She has won many competitions and awards for her short stories and poems, including first prize in the National Humanities Advancement competition for poetry, the Writer’s Digest first prize, and the Amelia Award for Poetry.
She has devoted the last several years to full-time writing and thoroughly enjoys “hanging out” with her characters.