Titanic: Finding Owen Allum

My husband’s last business trip, before retiring, was to San Diego.  He invited me to go along—a great treat, both for the wonderful weather and for the opportunity to travel with him.  Besides splashing in the clear Pacific Ocean and feeling the rush of sea breezes through my hair, I was eager to visit Balboa Park.  There I did a little research for a potential novel, and we visited the Titanic 100th Anniversary Exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  This article paints a vivid picture of that exhibit.

The tour was fascinating and well done.  Because I’d spent so much time reading about  and researching Titanic for Promise Me This, I didn’t expect to learn much that was new to me.

But, I was not prepared for the experience.

Perhaps because I’ve read so many stories–personal accounts of those who survived and tales of those who didn’t–parts of the exhibit felt as though I was there, but viewing it from a distance, about to experience it again.  I couldn’t quite catch a deep breath.

I did not anticipate the emotional charge at the end of the exhibit.  There, on a large board were the names, divided by class, of those passengers and crew who’d survived, and those who’d perished. Under the list of those who’d perished was the name, Owen Allum, third class passenger.

Allum was the young gardener on whom I’d based my fictional character, Owen Allen.  An entire life was created by combining the real Owen, my great-grandfather and imagination, then painting him  as an Edwardian Era picture of Christ.  Owen, as well as Annie, Michael and all the other characters of Promise Me This became so real to me that I still half expect to meet them.

When I saw Owen’s name on the board in San Diego, when I traced the letters of his name with my fingers, my heart caught in my throat, and tears stung my eyes.  I knew him.  At least, it felt like I knew him—as he lived, as he died, and as he lived on in the hearts of those who loved him.

I came away with new insights into the wonder and power of books—for those who read, and for those who write them.  We create, enter, and inhabit a world together.

En route to San Diego I read the manuscript for Janice Hannah Thompson’s new Titanic novel, Queen of the Waves, which will release next year.  You’ll read my review and endorsement for her excellent book upon its release.

Soon after my trip I read Kathleen Kovach and Paula Moldenhauer’s new Titanic novel, Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal  (available in paperback and on Kindle).  I loved this book—both books—and found that their characters sprang off the page and into my heart.  Authentic, with voices that ring true, they both hold life lessons that I’ll carry with me into the future.

It’s a rare point in history to live through this 100th anniversary of the most romanticized peace-time maritime disaster in the history of the world, and a privilege to read stories by writers who’ve worked so hard to “get it right.”

After the foundering of the great ship, writers everywhere drew lessons and parallels from the tragedy.  Now, 100 years later, the wonders of technology and the opportunity to investigate the wreckage have brought much new information to light and inspired new versions of the story.  With time and distance to mull over the changes in society and the mysteries of human nature, writers bring different perspectives to the event.  Quite the epic journey.  And we’re living through it.

I  hope you’ll  make time to read some of the Titanic novels releasing this year and next.  They’re woven with wonderful historical detail and a tremendous sense of time and place.  If, like me, you loved “Downton Abbey,” then Titanic novels, similarly set, will fill that void.

Some exciting news–I learned this week that Promise Me This will release in Russian!  It’s exciting to think that this story that paints a portrait of Christ’s love for the world and our response to His love is spanning the globe!

Summer is flying.  I hope you’re enjoying each day and savoring the sunshine.  Already I’m thinking of September, and school, and my new book release.  So much to look forward to!

But, for now, how about a refreshing dish of Peach Melba?  Let’s sit in the white wicker rockers on the porch.

Looking forward to seeing you, here, in the garden, next week.

God’s blessings for you,

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  • Carrie says:

    Hi Cathy, I loved reading about your trip to the Titanic exhibit in San Diego. It’s good to hear more about those other Titanic novels too. I would so love to sit on the porch with you and hear more about your travels and all you are learning and this new book. The time will come!
    Blessings on you and your family,

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      I would LOVE to sit and talk, Carrie! I’m looking forward to doing just that as soon as we can.

      Now my writing has my head in WWII Germany–quite a switch! It reminds me of Emily Dickenson’s poem that begins, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away . . . ” How wonderful to travel through our research and through our writing, and then again by reading! You know just what I mean, my friend!

      God’s blessings for you!

  • Hi Cathy –

    I’ll have to add the other two books to my Wish List. I loved Promise Me This!

    I’m thinking about the orange sherbert in Mom’s freezer. So refreshing!

    Susan 🙂

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      You’ll enjoy them, Susan! So glad you loved “Promise Me This!”

      That’s so funny–I was WISHING for orange sherbet tonight! You’re absolutely right–it’s very refreshing!

      Have a wonderful weekend, and God’s blessings for you!

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