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Anne D. Emerson

Letters from Erastus

Levellers Press of Amherst, Massachusetts announces the publication of Letters from Erastus: Field Notes on Grace by Anne D. Emerson on April 21, 2015. Letters from Erastus is woven around twenty-two letters written by the author’s great-great grandfather, Erastus Hopkins, to his daughters in the 1850’s and 60’s.  Buried for 150 years in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the letters become the driving force in the author’s quest to figure out who this forgotten man was.  Along the way, they become a bridge to Linc, a schizophrenic cousin in prison, and a guide for the author’s understanding of her own life story and old New England family. While the book is full of engaging history, it is also a contemporary story, about a family of artists, the interplay of generations and values, and the ways we search for and find meaning as we move through the chapters of our lives.

Praise for Letters from Erastus

​“In all the many hours I’ve spent reading the religious diaries and letters of 18th and 19th century New Englanders, or reading scholars’ studies of personal religion, I’ve never come across someone who penetrated the core of their inner lives so well as Anne Emerson has done with Erastus Hopkins.  In this amazing book, she deepens her own exploration of a life of love and loss by engaging Hopkins’ remarkable faith in the face of family tragedy and a young cousin’s equally profound descent into schizophrenia and violence.  As readers, we inhabit these spiritual worlds at once, and come away enthralled by the exercise.”

Richard Rabinowitz, author of The Spiritual Self in Everyday Life: The Transformation of Personal Experience in Nineteenth-Century New England

“Most books tell either the story of the present or the story of the past.  Letters from Erastus tells the story of the present seeking and meeting the past, of the past nourishing and enriching the present.  Facing the crises that make up her own life, Emerson is consoled by her great-grandfather Erastus Hopkins.  His letters strengthen her faith and proffer comfort across the decades.  This wise book is a quietly passionate testament of the value of historic preservation.”

Michael Thurston, author of Making Something Happen: American Political Poetry between the World Wars

In the middle of the road of our lives, few among us would think to enter the doors of an august archive on Boston’s Fenway to browse through the contents of several acid-free manuscript boxes. But Anne Emerson did just that, and the result is a surprising confrontation with raw experience and emotion derived from real lives, past and present, recounted with quiet dignity in her remarkable family memoir, Letters from Erastus.

Megan Marshall, author of the Peabody Sisters and Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in biography and memoir

“Grace, that rare key to compassion and clarity, is the mortar of this book, which spans five generations, from letter-writer Erastus Hopkins, to his great-great granddaughter, author Anne Emerson.  Emerson, an artist in a family of artists, finds answers to the challenges of her twenty-first century life in letters written in the 1850’s, making this a riveting, timeless memoir illuminated by the past.  It is the kind of book that I long to give to a good friend.”

Sally Ryder Brady, author of A Box of Darkness

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