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Eliza’s Journey: A Future Novel

The following is a proposal and outline on a new book entitled Eliza’s Journey.

I’d appreciate your input on the book title, the plot’s twists and turns, as well as the name “Frederick.” (see below. I believe there’s got to be a better name.)

Let me hear from you.

Curt

Author’s notes: Tentatively Eliza’s Journey is planned as an 80,000 word novel. I am traveling to Congo and neighboring Rwanda this month (April 2009) on a mission trip. While there, I plan to gather more resources, observe the culture, and solidify the plot.

Eliza (Iles) and Leroy Harris were a real couple. They were my great great uncle and aunt. The outline of this story is factual and pieced together through journals, letters, as well as newspaper accounts.

Among the research and reading I’m presently completing are Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and the writings of explorers David Livingstone and Edward Stanley.

Eliza’s Journey

Premise: Can a love be strong enough to reach all around the world?

Love of freedom, love, romantic, adventure

Eliza Moore shocks her family, boyfriend, and friends when she announces her plan to go to Africa’s Belgian Congo in 1920. In spite of opposition from everyone in her rural Louisiana community, she forges ahead on what she stubbornly insists is “God’s will.”

Her sense of adventure, coupled with her to what she senses is God’s calling, trump all other factors and send her on her way to the remote area of Africa known as “the white man’s grave.”

In an Africa where departing missionaries often carried their belongings in a casket, Eliza sticks to her plans. This is in spite of the misgivings of even her closest family and friends.

Most dismayed by her decision is her boyfriend Leroy Harris. Sure of his love for Eliza, he sinks into bitterness toward both her and God.

One factor she must overcome and come to peace with is the deep racial prejudice of her hometown. Ironically, she is being sent to Africa by a church that would never welcome a Negro into its sanctuary.

This leads to great conflict among Eliza, her family, and friends. She deals with it alternately with humor and anger.

The first part of the story takes place in Louisiana during the time of the giant sawmills and demise of the longleaf pine forests. In fact, this sadness over the disappearing woods fuels Eliza’s decision to go where the “ax hasn’t been swung.”

Eliza’s journey from New York to Africa takes over three months. Readers will travel with her by ocean liner, train, boats up the Congo River, and finally overland as she travels to the mission at Wiembo, Niambo in eastern Congo.

However, her journey is about much more than miles. It’s also a spiritual and emotional journey for a young woman who has never been more than a hundred miles from home.

Her arrival in the Congo, then the personal province of Belgium’s King Leopold, finds the sad plight of the natives and the callousness of many white Europeans who are becoming rich at the expense of the Africans.

She realizes that not only do the souls of Africans need the gospel, but also need freedom from many of the whites who’ve come for the wrong reasons. This is a source of great divisiveness at the mission station—whether to tend to their own business of spiritual things or to become involved in stopping the oppression.

Alternating with Eliza’s growth is the parallel journey of Leroy Harris. Back in Lake Charles, Louisiana, he makes a decision as momentous as Eliza’s: to follow her to Africa, risking his life as well as his reputation in the process. Unsure of how his reception will be—not even sure if she’s received his letters—he follows her difficult route to Africa.

Leroy’s arrival catches Eliza and the entire mission by surprise. She is beginning a relationship with Frederick, one of the single missionary men, and therefore has mixed emotions about Leroy’s arrival. When he springs a proposal of marriage on her, the fun and fireworks begin.

Leroy is also dealing with conflicting emotions. His plan is to “rescue” Eliza from the Dark Continent and return with her in tow to America. However, he falls in love with Africa as well as the people of Wiembo.

His spiritual journey reveals a calling that grows as strong as Eliza’s.

However, Eliza holds the cards on their future. It seems she must choose between two men as well as two places.

Frederick or Leroy?

Africa or America?

In the climax of the book, Eliza makes her choice. She chooses Leroy and accepts his proposal of marriage.

In the sequel (tentatively entitled The River’s Flow) Eliza and Leroy fall deeper in love with Africa and each other. However, after Eliza nearly dies of appendicitis, the couple must make difficult decisions.

Finally, Leroy and Eliza return to America, taking home a portion of Africa in their hearts, determined later to return.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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