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Setting the local scene: Area author's eighth novel partially set in Alexandria

For his eighth published novel, Gene Stark decided the perfect setting would be close to home. "God in a God-Forsaken Land" contains historically-accurate plot points set in Alexandria, and the extensive research involved in constructing a work o...

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Gene Stark of Glenwood has several other projects in the works, including a gardener's devotional and a sequel to "God in a God-Forsaken Land." (Contributed / Echo Press)

For his eighth published novel, Gene Stark decided the perfect setting would be close to home.

"God in a God-Forsaken Land" contains historically-accurate plot points set in Alexandria, and the extensive research involved in constructing a work of historical fiction took Stark several years to write.

The book tells the story of Pastor August Hertwig, who in 1874 is dropped by stagecoach into the wilderness of western Minnesota to minister to the area's early settlers and German immigrants. On his journey, Hertwig faces severe weather and isolation, but finds strength in his newfound lover, Elizabeth. Together the two forge a ministry in an unforgiving land as they bring the gospel to the stalwart settlers.

Stark, of Glenwood, was inspired to write "God in a God-Forsaken Land" upon discovering that his home church was founded by August Hertwig and that his wife was actually the early pastor's great granddaughter. Captivated by Hertwig's ministry, Stark visited countless historical societies and studied dated maps to paint the most realistic picture of the 19th century Midwest as possible.

"I really want to bring the reader into the book as if they were there and speaking with the main protagonist and get a feel for what the Alexandria area was like in those times," Stark said. "That time in history was really transitional for the area around Alexandria. It went from a really primitive area to a flourishing area in those years.

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"I also want people to realize the important work that Pastor Hertwig did as far as his incredible zeal for his mission. He brought something to the area that was really important to these early settlers. They wanted to have a church and a person to minister - to marry and to bury. The churches were really a very important focus in their lives at the time."

Stark's novel will be available for paperback purchase at Cherry Street Books, where from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, July 28, he is holding a book signing. The book can also be purchased on Stark's website, www.flyovercountryscribe.com , and he said digital copies are available on Barnes & Noble's website as well as Amazon.

Related Topics: GLENWOOD
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