Welcome to Family Legacies: A Novel about Families
How much are we affected by the experiences of our parents and grandparents? Do we benefit from those experiences, or are we cursed by them? Family legacies can leave something behind to taunt the next generation — and the next.
In Family Legacies, four children — two boys, two girls — are born to four couples: James and Adeline Cullen, William and Martha McAlan, Jacob and Katherine Jacobsen, and Alex and Mary Donohue. Those children — Simon Cullen and Janie McAlan, and also Jacob Jacobsen and Lizzie Donohue — are destined to meet, marry and carry on family traditions and attitudes. A young couple from a new generation — Al Cullen and Kate Jacobsen — will struggle to build and hold a relationship despite their sometimes disturbing family legacies.
You can access Chapters 1-36 from the index below; it is also easy for you to link from one chapter to the next, without returning to the home page. Please use the index below or just begin reading at CHAPTER 1.
Susan Overturf Ingraham, Vancouver, BC, Spring 2008
I’ve lived in a lot of places, but it’s hard to beat this sunset at English Bay in Vancouver, BC. (Photograph by my husband, Bob Ingraham)
Family Legacies Chapter Descriptions and Links:
Refer to the Family Tree to keep the relationship between characters in mind.
CHAPTER 1: April 1887 in rural Nebraska, near Elk Creek. Adeline Cullen lives in a shanty with her husband, James, and several children. On this day, she gives birth to her son, Simon.
CHAPTER 2: August 1894, first in rural Nebraska and then in rural Illinois. The Cullens have an exciting day, while in Illinois four-year-old Janie McAlan plays on the porch during a long afternoon and waits to hear how her mother is.
CHAPTER 3: December 1895 in Minden, Nebraska. Katherine Jacobsen lives with her husband, Jacob. On this day she gives birth to her first-born son, Lars.
CHAPTER 4: March 1896 in Heartwell, Nebraska. Mary Donohue has given birth to her first child, Lizzie. She speaks with her mother and sister and lives on a rural farm with her husband.
CHAPTER 5: September 1906 in Illinois. Janie McAlan is now a grown woman, at the age of 17, and prepares for her first day of teaching.
CHAPTER 6: June 1911, on the train back to Hastings, Nebraska. Simon Cullen returns from a longer-than-planned trip to the west. On the train, he talks with a stranger about his life.
CHAPTER 7: July 1911, in Hastings, Nebraska. Janie McAlan and Simon Cullen share a special day.
CHAPTER 8: September 1914 in Minden, Nebraska. Lars Jacobsen confronts his father’s scorn with a plan for his future.
CHAPTER 9: April 1915 in Kearney, Nebraska. Lizzie Donohue passes the time, waiting to hear from Lars Jacobsen.
CHAPTER 10: December 1916 in Heartwell, Nebraska. Lizzie Donohue marries Lars Jacobsen, despite opposition from both sets of parents.
CHAPTER 11: August 1917 in Hastings, Nebraska. Janie McAlan Cullen has just given birth to her second son, Al, and she and her husband, Simon Cullen, discuss their son’s future.
CHAPTER 12: September 1918 in Hastings, Nebraska. Lizzie Donohue Jacobsen and Lars Jacobsen bring their new daughter, Kate, to be baptized at the Presbyterian Church. Lars Jacobsen and Simon Cullen meet for the first time.
CHAPTER 13: It is September 1927, and Al Cullen is ten years old. He reflects on his busy summer and observes the difficulties his older brother has with his parents. For Al, though, life is good. He’s about to start 5th grade and a cute girl named Kate Jacobsen has joined their class.
CHAPTER 14 September, 1927, Hastings, Nebraska. Now in the 5th grade, Kate Jacobsen leaves school and walks home with her two best friends, only to face the usual tensions at home.
CHAPTER 15: In September, 1930, the Depression has begun. Times are tough, and everyone is struggling. Lars Jacobsen begins a day at work with a phone call from a business rival, Simon Cullen. Sparks fly.
CHAPTER 16: It is October, 1931, in Hastings, Nebraska. Late at night. Lizzie Donohue Jacobsen awakens in her room and realizes Lars is not yet home. She paces and frets, fearing his return but wanting it over.
CHAPTER 17: The Depression is part of the daily lives of everyone who lives in Hastings, Nebraska. In September, 1933, Janie McAlan Cullen says good-bye to her husband, Simon, knowing that today he will close his store and lay-off his employees. Desperately, she tries to find the goodness left in life.
CHAPTER 18: It’s the night of high school graduation — May 1935. Al Cullen asks his girlfriend, Kate Jacobsen, to marry him. Things couldn’t be better — well, almost.
CHAPTER 19: Hastings, Nebraska, March, 1937. Kate Jacobsen finds herself trapped at home, banned to her room by her father, and wonders what the future holds.
CHAPTER 20: Forced out of her home by her father, Kate Jacobsen quits college and gets a teaching job. It’s 1937.
CHAPTER 21: It is May 1938 in Hastings, Nebraska. Al Cullen misses his girlfriend and knows her father will never accept him as his daughter’s husband. He makes an important decision.
CHAPTER 22: It is July 1938, just north of Hastings. Kate Jacobsen and Al Cullen ignore everyone else and do what they believe is right. It’s a tough decision.
CHAPTER 23: In September 1939 — More than a year since their marriage — Kate Jacobsen and Al Cullen reveal their marriage to her father, Lars Jacobsen .
CHAPTER 24: Nine years later, and four babies to raise, both Kate Jacobsen Cullen and Al Cullen struggle with finding happiness in their marriage.
CHAPTER 25: Simon Cullen dies and his family gathers for the funeral. It is 1950.
CHAPTER 26: Five years later Lars Jacobsen dies and the Jacobsen family returns to fight old battles. Kate is conflicted about how she feels about her father’s death.
CHAPTER 27: On an early June morning, Kate Jacobsen Cullen calls her mother-in-law, Janie McAlan Cullen.
CHAPTER 28: Excerpts from Kate Jacobsen Cullen's diary, 1960-1965.
CHAPTER 29: It is April, 1964, and Al Cullen must decide if he breaks his long-ago promise (one of many) to Kate.
CHAPTER 30: It is September 1964. Janie McAlan Cullen Cullen dies, and her three sons get together to divide up the estate.
CHAPTER 31:: Lizzie Donohue Jacobsen is taken ill and Kate believes her last link to the past may be ending.
CHAPTER 32: In May of 1970, Al and Kate struggle to be happy, and Al is forced to make an unhappy decision.
CHAPTER 33: Eight years later, after another move to another city, Kate makes a decision.
CHAPTER 34: Nine years later, Kate and Al are retired and face new challenges.
CHAPTER 35: Ten years later, living in a world of silence because of his stroke, Al Cullen sees the end for him. And he is glad.
CHAPTER 36: Kate Jacobsen Cullen and Al Cullen’s youngest daughter, Allison, recalls the past and hopes that her parents are now both at peace. She is certain, however, that the ghosts of past generations will continue to haunt the current one.
Disclaimer: While it is true that my characters were inspired by my own genealogical study, I could not and did not know my ancestors with the same intimacy that I have created in my characters. Therefore, let it be said that these characters are fictional and created from my own imagination. Similarity to persons living or dead is unintentional and coincidental.