by mary k sonntag and mary jo sonntag

Write, If You Live to Get There...speaks eloquently of the spirited family who chronicled more than a century of living in the letters they wrote to each other, from Pennsylvania and Vermont, to California and places in between.

Mere memory might paint our pasts in glittering gold, but the reality that Mary K. Sonntag uncovered in this treasure trove of family letters and photographs, reveals something even more precious. Here is a clear, personal and intimate glimpse into life in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"..when Mehitable Jane awoke, there, looking in...were Indian heads... Mehitable Jane was very surprised...[she] patiently explained [to the Indians] that it wasn't polite to peer in windows, at least [not] early in the morning."

This remarkable collection of letters, kept true to the idiom and spelling of the various writers, takes readers into day-to-day events and concerns of the real-life characters. There is the energetic and enterprising Sierra Nevada "Vade" Phillips who established a mineral water spa in early Tahoe, adding to her profits by marketing the water with the slogan, "tastes better than whiskey!" And there is Mehitable Jane Ball Phillips who divorced her first husband because he took the "wrong" side in the Civil War.

There are the marriages, the births, the heart breaking losses of babies and children, blizzards, Indians, plagues of insects and illnesses all recorded in these precious letters.

"If luck comes my way, I will come see you, if not I will keep on digging and live in hope."


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