Hancock author releases latest book ‘Chasing Eden’

  • ’Chasing Eden: A Book of Seekers’ by Howard Mansfield of Hancock.. Courtesy photo

  • Howard Mansfield of Hancock. Photo by Annie Card—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/13/2021 4:22:06 PM

Howard Mansfield in many ways is a seeker of knowledge. Through his writing, the Hancock author “sifts through the commonplace and the forgotten to discover stories that tell us about ourselves and our place in the world.”

In Mansfield’s latest book, “Chasing Eden: A Book of Seekers,” he focuses on three topics that many in the country’s history have been in pursuit of for generations – God, freedom, peace. It’s also about the pursuit of happiness and that longing for a promised land, a utopia somewhere out there in the world just waiting to be found.

“I want to get to the truth of it and tell the right part of the story,” Mansfield said. “What are we seeking? Do we even know?”

Each topic – God, freedom, peace – has its own section in “Chasing Eden” and is broken down into two chapters, each outlining a specific story.

“I didn’t really plan to write about the Shakers,” Mansfield said. But it was a story too important not to tell.

In “No Good is Ever A Failure”– The Believers at Twilight, you are introduced to Bud Thompson. Thompson, as Mansfield put it, is responsible for the Shaker Museum in Canterbury after spending 31 years of his life on the land. Thompson “was a seeker his whole life,” Mansfield said, and it was his pursuit of old songs that led him to the Shaker sisters.

Thompson helped shepherd the Shakers through their twilight years, which results in a story of devotion that is true to the Shakers’ beginnings.

“We Are Still in Eden” – Awe on the American Plan is a story of the famed White Mountains painters of the 19th century, who sought to capture the true beauty of what was once a very remote existence.

“Those painters taught Americans how to see the Earth,” Mansfield said. “But what did they want to find up there? What did they want out of those mountains?”

Mansfield traveled to northern New Hampshire with friend James Aponovich in search of the scenes that appear in those great landscapes, much like so many did decades before, searching for an experience in the White Mountains.

The 1949 film “Lost Boundaries,” based on a story of the same title was a nonfiction account of Dr. Albert C. Johnston and his family, and the first chapter in Seeking Freedom. Johnston eventually ended up in Keene, but his tale of landing in the southwestern city is one fraught with secrets and a longing to simply be accepted for his abilities as a doctor and not judged by the color of his skin.

“What does he want?” Mansfield asks. “He wants to the respected and what’s best for his family. It’s a famous story that more people should know.”

At the end of the Civil War, 40,000 Africans newly freed from slavery are granted possession of forty acres and a mule by one Civil War general and one secretary of war.

In “Forty Acres and A Mule” – The Promised Land Denied, you learn about the quick change in course that leads to their land being taken from them within months by another general and a new president.

“In each chapter, a deeper sense of what happens comes to me,” Mansfield said.

The idea of peace is always linked to the act of war and in Seeking Peace, Peace By the Quarter Acre is a story of the World War II veterans, those who grew up in the Great Depression, who would come home after the fighting stopped, ready to make a life for themselves in the suburbs. It’s a true “collision between peace and war, the American Dream and protest, children and parents.”

“It’s about this division of peace that eventually comes to heartbreak,” Mansfield said.

The tale of Thanksgiving that many are taught in school, The First Thanksgiving “is more false than true,” Mansfield writes.

It’s merely a fable, spun into the Thanksgiving story, that blinds us to the ingratitude and wars lying behind the holiday and our country’s founding.

“How it’s not all what we think it was,” Mansfield said.

For Mansfield, it’s about taking a story and getting to the bottom of it.

“I’m interested in looking at things, discovering stories we thought we knew, but don’t really,” he said.

It’s figuring out what is included in those stories and what is left out.

“I’m always trying to bore down into the stories,” he said. “Trying to follow my curiosity all the time.”

He seeks the true actions behind what has created the world he lives in.

“It’s about what do I know about this and what if the opposite is true,” Mansfield said. “And what is the absolute core of why I find this so interesting.”

“Chasing Eden” is now available through Bauhan Publishing. Mansfield will be at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 11 a.m. to read from his latest book and answer readers’ questions.

For more, visit https://bauhanpublishing.com/shop/chasing-eden/ and https://www.howardmansfield.com/.

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