Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, essayist, environmental activist
“I don’t expect new authors to be so sly or quick in engaging, holding, and enlightening their readers. Whenever I pick Heart Wood up, I always regret having to put it down. Shirley DicKard is extremely good.”
The US Review of Books: RECOMMENDED Review, by Kate Robinson
“Fans of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Alice Walker’s By the Light of My Father’s Smile will appreciate the union of vibrant writing with strong sensory elements and sense of place, careful plotting, and memorable characters combined with the light touch of an almost magical realist sense of the paranormal. The story moves smoothly in a rotating narrative through the lives of three vastly different women living in vastly different eras, all compelled to buck the patriarchal status quo and live with the grace guided by their feminine wisdom. A fourth-generation Californian, DicKard delivers a sense of magic, deep engagement with environmental issues, and the bright hope that feminist perspectives will ultimately heal the ecological degradation and restore the earth to its proper balance.”
Kurt Lorenz, retired educator, community and environmental activist
“If you pick up this book you will be reading about three related and determined women in radically different times whose decisions and fates are connected in some manner by a small oak desk. This is not a book about “saving the planet.” It is a book about female energy and intelligence in multiple generations of a very American family. There are some rays of hope in their response to numerous brutish points along the way, and their individual accomplishments are impressive, but there is no golden sunset, and no utopia at the end. Nor should there be. The reader does not get off easy and will not heave a sigh of relief that all will turn out OK. We are left with a clear understanding that most aspects of existence will only get worse, but we have been privileged to travel part of the way with three brave women whose choices along the way are inspiring. That is a gift.”
“I love to read. Especially dystopian fiction, historical novels, and books that feature women with courage under daunting circumstances. What can I say. I was an English major. I plow through too many poorly written novels which annoys the dickens out of me. I LOVED Heart Wood! My husband, an engineer, falls asleep while reading books, sometimes just a few pages in. He devoured this book, reading for hours at a time. He was fascinated by the details of these past, present and future women’s lives. Triggered by the book, we talk extensively about our own lives during this covid-19 pandemic, ever aware of the climate crisis. My husband ordered copies of Heart Wood for a couple of his friends. Great idea! I’m going to do the same.”
“Holy Moly and OMG…..not sure where to start, well….from start to finish a completely engrossing story for our current world and our future. Brilliantly researched and written, fast-moving while still allowing the reader to be totally entwined in the lives and times of each of these interconnected women. I was grabbed from the first sentence and even had a difficult time letting go at the end. These characters rapidly became a part of my state of being and my life. Even the movement back and forth between different eras is so smoothly written the reader can follow connect the dots with ease. The reader develops a deep and abiding affection for each of these women as we sense them within our souls. An absolute must-read in terms of heart, soul, and a call to awaken.”
John Deaderick, Theater Artist and Educator
“A plea for renewal and sustainability in these perilous times, DicKard’s book couldn’t be more timely. If you’re looking for an engrossing lockdown or post-lockdown read, choose Heart Wood. While some have labeled her work as “feminist dystopian,” I take a little issue with that. Though the work focuses on its extraordinary female characters and is surely a call to what may be termed a more feminine relationship with nature, any label sells the work short. And as its future view is indeed dire, it is not without hope. The author clearly sides with the POV that “we will find a way.” The way she finds is original and rooted in the author’s commitment to service and cooperation. For a debut novel to engage in such scope and purpose is impressive. Was it the Roman playwright Terence who first said “Fortune favors the bold”? Fortune is indeed favoring this bold new work.”
Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, author, speaking and writing coach, licensed therapist
“Shirley DicKard has created a bookstore dilemma with this story: on which shelf will it be housed in bookstores? At once historical fiction, mystery/suspense, futuristic sci-fi, and empowering feminist fiction with supernatural nuance, it could sit well on any number of shelves.
Heartwood is a climate change cautionary tale and a celebration of the feminine spirit of nature and the three timeless women who serve as its protagonists, past, present, and future. At first, the story seemed like a jigsaw puzzle when you first empty the pieces onto a table. As the chapters unfold, the puzzle takes shape and the picture becomes undeniably clear. This is a work of great accomplishment and a worthy read for anyone, especially anyone who cares about the one and only planet we inhabit. “
Albert Dover, Retired Superior Court Judge, Nevada County: Impeccably Crafted
“Just finished this impeccably crafted read. It has now been properly placed in my den’s library between Gary Snyder’s This Present Moment and Steve Sanfield’s The Right Place. ” Proper” because the best of the Sierra should be able to rub dust jackets if not elbows during this pandemic.”
Ashley Overhouse, California Water Policy Professional
“In this fast-paced novel, DicKard has skillfully described the outmoded approach of building dams as an answer to water shortage crisis that is worsened by climate change. She then gives a highly technical issue a human face by illustrating the fight through the collective power of women working to protect the earth. It’s the bittersweet and inspiring novel all future environmental activists need to read.”
Deborah E Bushnell, State Chair, CFWC Women’s History and Research Center
“I was first contacted the by author when she was researching the California Federated Women’s Clubs (CFWC), and specifically information on her Great Grandmother Emily Hoppin, who had been involved in CFWC and was elected President of the state federation in 1915.
I was struck by the similarities of women in Heart Wood with all the women involved in the CFWC from the beginning. Women like Emily Hoppin. They were and are the backbone of every part of our lives, be it home, business, social, or political. In the early days, women were considered 2nd class citizens, but Emily rose above the norm of her day and was a shining star. Shirley has brought to life three strong women. It was a privilege to be involved with this book.”
“I loved meeting the women in this book and going with them on each of their journeys: journeys both of physical distance and personal development. I loved immersing myself in their worlds, and discovering the threads that tie them together. This book is a warning, but also a testament to humanity’s ability to hope, and to adapt. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it.”
“Heartwood is WONDERFUL! Engrossing, lively, moves nimbly between time periods and characters. A great read!
This is an engrossing and lively novel that moves nimbly between time periods and characters. It embodies “eco-feminism” with grace and authenticity. I was inspired and only wished I could have more time with these characters.
With this book in mind, I went on to read the Overstory, by Richard Powers, a powerful novel in which again the trees have an ancient and vital message. And after that, I listened to the audio of Braiding Sweetgrass, read by the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, a native American mother, poet and scientist.
These books have formed a “braid” for me that inspires me to want to know more about building a real and healthy relationship among all living beings.”
“From the first sentence to the first paragraph and chapter my 13 year old daughter was captivated. We had made the agreement that I would read it first and hand it to her when finished, but now we are in a battle of who get’s to read and when! Should have ordered two copies!”
Jenifer Bliss, Felix Gillet Institute, author of Grandma Bunny, Forest Herbalist
“Reaching through time and space, the wisdom of an old native grandmother, calls out through the wood of an ancient oak tree across generations to three women, who feel the urgency to alter the catastrophic destiny humanity has set out for itself. Beautifully written, Heart Wood calls you back to find out what happens next.”
Catharine Bramkamp, writing and social media coach, author of After I’m Buried Alive
“Based on the author’s own homesteading experiences as well as that of her great-grandmother Emily Hoppin, Heartwood explores man’s impact on the earth – from the gold rush to the present environmental degradation concerns of back-to-the-land homesteads in the Sierra, to the future world of 2100 that is not the utopia we hoped for, but the cumulate of everything we’ve so far ignored. The book is a masterful weaving of three generations and three stories that will keep readers enthralled to the very end.”
“Heartwood has left me with a great sense of my interconnectedness with all life on this planet, past, present and future, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share the grand journey of the authors family, of the acorn, and of all of us.
I hope the author is considering writing screenplays for TV! The way the chapters of Heartwood ended, reminded me of excellent tv series’ “cliff hangers” — very exciting, and I wanted to binge-read more and more to see how things would turn out. The author has an incredible knack for peaking my interest and closing a chapter at the same time.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how well Heartwood took us into the future! It was amazingly detailed and absolutely believable. As I was reading, at first I thought that it might be more like the world in 100 years or so, but not likely in just 50+ years, but then I remembered how fast things are actually changing in our electronic/plastic laden/ever warming world, and sadly accepted and went along with the author’s vision…totally absorbed into the 2070’s. Such great adventures!
The book’s travel back to ancient times was equally amazing and so very vivid and real! So powerful…I just LOVE it!!!
Every generation was absolutely believable and interesting. I completely felt as if I really knew all the characters.
I’m very thankful to Shirley DicKard for writing this wonderful book. It’s a treasure! I hope there are more books/screenplays from her in our future. If she writes it, I want to read it, and that’s really saying something for this dyslexic non-reader!”
“It’s a real treat to be so caught up in a book! As you follow the intersecting paths of these very different women, you find yourself mentally cheering for each one to succeed in the challenging work of her time. The characters quickly become dear to you, the fast-moving plot keeps the pages turning, and the details of the women’s eras and natural surroundings immerse you in each environment in turn. DicKard’s view of the future is chilling, especially in light of our current world troubles. May we all wake up in time to “do the work that must be done”! Tip: Be sure to read the historical notes at the end, which make the story even more compelling!”
“Reading Shirley Dickard’s novel, HeartWood, is an enjoyable experience on many levels. It is 3 engrossing stories, woven into one. Three strong women, in 3 different time spans of about 100 years apart, creates an interesting cadence. The women are connected by biology and each is deeply connected to California; so we see a deft history of California’s evolution throughout the book and its possible future trajectory. Ms. Dickard has taken on no small assignment here, taking on big issues! But she takes them on masterfully with the theme of interconnectedness: the interconnectedness of the 3 main characters, the interconnectedness of events through time, and the connection of human activity to Mother Earth. Yet through her skillful writing she makes these big issues approachable and fascinating by connecting us, her readers, to the tale.”
Leslie Ann Rivers, actor, director, teacher, and author of Fiery Star: The Journals of Emma Rose Lightfoot
“Heart Wood is a compelling family saga set in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Its characters shift from one generation to the next, as do the struggles they face in saving their homestead from the ravages of climate change, fire, and human greed. But it’s time that poses the most dire challenges to the land and to those who seek life upon it.
Shirley DicKard deftly weaves the worlds that time turns up, from the pastoral world of the 19th century to the menacing environment of the future that transforms the homestead into a refuge. She writes from a knowledge of California’s hills and rivers, and with a fine eye for detail. Heart Wood’s fluid journey into both the past and the decades yet to come should not be missed.”
Mila Johansen, author of From Cowgirl to Congress
“Heart Wood is engaging from the very first page to the last. It’s fascinating the way the author weaves the lives of three women, past, present and future together and demonstrates how every generation affects the future. It is an eco fiction cautionary tale that all of us should pay attention to. Very enjoyable and thought provoking.”
Candace Davis – A must read for our generation and futures!
“I just finished your wonderful book. It is truly eye-opening! Earth needs to pay attention -perhaps this pandemic will bring on needed changes-it is certainly amazing that smog is virtually gone, fish are visible in Venice, more birds and butterflies-and very important, families are closer!
We are definitely ready to move forward and get hugs and enjoy activities that earth offers us but hopefully we will make changes for a better future. Thank you for the heartfelt, meaningful book.”
Realistic, Magical, and Wonderful
“I so enjoyed Heart Wood! For me, this special novel is reminiscent of a really good old-world fairy tale in its combination of concrete and magical elements. The characters are just wonderful…they are so real and relatable that I find myself thinking about them here and there outside of my reading sessions.
I also love the motifs that the author weaves though the characters’ stories to show how interconnected the women are with each other and the earth — through good times and hardship, transcending time. There are many aspects of this novel that remind me of the ever-present life-death-life cycle, encapsulating the necessity of endings and the understanding that new life and meaning will emerge in response.”
Christine Newsom MD, physician and environmental activist
“First, do no harm. As a physician, I know these ancient words apply not only to healing people, but also the environment. As an eco-novel, Heart Wood goes a step further and immerses us in a future world where children live in chronic respiratory distress because of polluted air, where they can’t tolerate most foods, a world of excessive heat and lack of clean drinking water, and where human fertility plummets. Heart Wood is a cautionary tale, yet one of unexpected insights and hope. You’ll find yourself asking what you can do right now that your great-grandchildren will thank you for!”
“A well-crafted novel that spans three inter-generations of frontier women from the past, the present and the near-future. Each of these women face societal and environmental challenges to their core values, guided by a spiritual impulse borne out of the last rite of a dying indigenous woman from many centuries before who had visions of a catastrophic future for mankind. The author gives us much to ponder as she braids her tale, each protagonist seeking answers and strength from an oak desk, the only remnant of the tree that grew out of that ancient woman’s last act. A powerful story, relevant in our era of climate-change and coming to terms with the attitudes and indifference borne out of 19th Century America’s exploitation of the planet’s resources. Shirley DicKard touches all of us with her spirit… Five Stars!”
“Heart Wood is a gem of a book. As the author develops the characters, 4 generations of women, you care, and you want to know more about them….The book encompasses an interesting and potent look into the future. I think it is too limiting to call it an Eco-novel, but Shirley DicKard is certainly aware of the degradation of the planet we live on, our beautiful Mother Earth. There are so many levels we can awaken to through the book…..The importance of intuition, and continuity of generations. I felt I had made new friends and was sorry to see it end!”
“As a 13 year old, I enjoyed this book immensely. I think this book is suited for many generations, mainly because of the many generations being written about. The author makes the message very clear: take care of your planet, it’s the only way we’re going to survive. I felt connected to this book in ways I have never felt reading anything else, because of the shockingly realistic view of the future. She also does a great job putting emotion and connection into the main drive of the story: a small writing desk made out of the heartwood of an ancient oak tree that connects three family women over the generations. Also, She has a very impressive and accurate description of all of the time periods, especially the the gold rush, making the story really come to life. Overall, I think that this book is deep and empowering, and has an amazing environmental message. Definitely a book to read.”
“An exciting approach to the soul of mother earth through a lens of the world past, present and future. A wonderful read of insight, passion and appreciation of the human spirit. Well written and captures the issues of today through the visions of four women linked by family legacy, love and beliefs.”
“The moment I picked up the book, I knew I would love it! And the minute I started reading, I was hooked until the very end. The author alternated the chapters between each of the women characters and time periods, teasing the senses. Each chapter makes you want to know more about that particular character and her story, only to be thrust into the next chapter with one of the other woman’s story. It was fun trying to find the threads that connected them together. Each of these women are passionate about what they believe in with courage, strength and determination. It is very well written. And while this book is written about women, it is a great read for men, too.”