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Book Review: Annabelle and the Sandhog

Annabelle and the Sandhog. Ray Paul. Amazon Digital Services, December 7, 2013, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 196 pages.

Reviewed by Janet Cole.

Annabelle and the Sandhog by Ray Paul is a touching exploration of family relationships as seen through the eyes of three generations. The author approaches his subject matter and the well-described characters with great gentleness. Reading Annabelle and the Sandhog instilled in me the tranquil feeling that accompanies rafting down a placid river. My head is thrown back to enjoy the azure sky decorated with cotton puffs and the accompanying sounds of nature. And so, I floated through this tale.

Life in the early part of the 20th century was not easy, especially for a young, unskilled lad fleeing from his home. Because the protagonist was strong, enthusiastic, amiable, honest, and hardworking, he landed on his feet. Those qualities served him well in the grueling and dangerous profession in which he became involved—that of being a sandhog.

Now, if your knowledge of this profession is as scant as was mine, you are probably thinking, “What the heck is a sandhog?” Contrary to the impression created by this nomenclature, a sandhog neither wallows, nor is greedy, nor is a member of the pig family. A sandhog is a laborer who works in the bowels of the earth, blasting and removing rock to make way for the construction of basement supports for buildings that will soon populate an area. It was not the most desirable of trades; it was dirty and it was dangerous. Because of his tenaciousness and integrity, our author’s character not only makes a go of it, but also excels at it. He creates warm and lasting friendships in the process, and he marries the love of his life, to boot!

The author weaves the main character’s son and grandson into the story. There are also references to a great grandson. The reader becomes familiar with their flaws through their interactions with grandpa or great grandpa as the case may be.

The character’s final years in a nursing home are made tolerable by the presence of a sweet and caring nurse’s aide. She has grown fond of this feisty old gent, helping him with his stroke-impaired speech, and encouraging him to get out of his wheelchair and move about. He has developed quite a fondness for her, and she for him.

The story is tender and well told. However, because the chapters jumped from character to character, I sometimes had difficulty remembering whom it was that I was reading about. I wished that I had an organization chart to refer to, and, then, I found the family tree in the foreword of the book. Perhaps if the chapter titles contained the identity as well as the name of the character, my perplexity and the need to reference the family tree would have been minimized. That being said, I found this to be a sweet and inspiring story. 


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