Local Author Shares World Of Enchantment

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Enchantment of Nebulon Grey by local author Francis Wood is not a Christmas story. Nevertheless, it is appropriate for the season. Above all, this is a story of hope and love.

“I decided to do an experiment,” Wood observed of his latest book. “I was going to let this be a character-driven story. I wanted to create strong characters who would really direct the story.”

The story of Nebulon Grey begins over a century ago when his father, Captain Tyler Grey, is engaged in the Indian wars. One of the opening chapters describes the action.

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The boy was eight years old when the soldiers came. His people were only a small remnant of what was once a great and powerful tribe. The Indian wars decimated the native people so that now they were scattered and vulnerable . . . Captain Tyler Grey led his men quietly through a light mist that drifted above the plain. In the distance a lone coyote howled.

A young Indian, Sabataw Mooneyes, survives the attack, but his family did not. When the Captain heard about the young Indian boy he decided not to send him with the others to a reservation.

The captain's answer came quickly, “Clean him up and bring him to my office tomorrow morning. I want to get to know this one. He could set some things right for me.”

Rescuing this Indian boy was the Captain's solution to a guilt that would follow him for the rest of his life. This sense of guilt also led the Captain to purchase Lone Oak Island. His plan was to build a sanctuary for his family that would be far away from the strife and unrest of the world.

The story that ensues follows the Captain's family and the young Indian Sabataw Mooneyes through several generations.

“The Captain tries to create this world that he can never have,” Wood noted. “He's guilt-ridden.”

As the story unfolds, this cast of characters, 15 in all, intertwine in ways that not even the author imagined.

“I just let the characters take the story in the direction that I felt was right for them – and it worked well,” Wood added “This book has a little mystery to it, there's definitely a love story there, and there's some imperfection. I wanted to see if the story would take a life of its own, which many of my stories do – but I'm always there to guide them along. In this book I didn't keep the characters in any boundaries.”

The title character, Nebulon Grey, enters the book in a dramatic way. When he is born, Nebulon survives, but his mother does not.

“I had him enter the story halfway through on purpose,” Wood explained. “I wanted to make sure that by the time he shows up the reader would know the background of the family – which has it imperfections. Nebulon is definitely a product of that imperfection.”

“I saw this story in my mind as a play,” Wood commented. “The stage is set, the characters are set – it's almost scene by scene. That's how it unfolded in my mind.”

Although not listed in the cast of characters, an ancient oak on the island plays a major role.

“Nature's always going to play a part in what I do,” Wood added.

Later in the story as a young man, Nebulon explains the mystery of the tree to his wife: Once, long ago, the Savior of man walked upon the land. And He was sad, for He knew the nature of man and the destiny of their souls. Sometimes overwhelmed with grief, He would weep as He walked, and wherever a tear touched the ground, a seed would form. Some of these seeds took root immediately, and others lay dormant for ages. The first trees to take root and grow had a purpose, for through them the Father of man would speak to nature . . . Among these great trees are the ones of light. They formed only in the places where the Savior paused and wept. To know one of these great ones is to realize sacredness like no other, for it is the Father's first light through their ancient arms that opens a passageway to heaven.

“When I was a child I wanted to stand in that light,” Wood related. “I love to see light coming through the tree branches. What if you have this ancient living thing, and when God looks down through it, if you're in its path you are somehow affected.”

As the plot unfolds toward its conclusion, the tree continues to beckon Nebulon.

For Nebulon, hopes and dreams were as fireflies drifting in a blackened forest, guided by a force so much larger than they were and held to it without escape. It did not matter that his mother had died in childbirth, or that his father had left him, but that he was born to live for reasons they could have scarcely known.

The Enchantment of Nebulon Grey leaves the reader with much food for thought.

A poet might tell that hopes and dreams are far away wishes burdened by time and fate. Certainly Nebulon Grey would not have argued such philosophy, for in his element, he was quite aware of the mysterious variables that play upon one's future . . . But life is what it is. Nebulon had withstood well the turns in his life, as he knew no other way than to face them head on.

Francis Wood's latest book is full of life's ups and down, but through it all is a common thread of hope and love.

“I felt like I was challenging myself with this book,” Wood concluded. “The truth is, I believe I could sit down anytime and write something people would expect. The challenge is to write something that is not expected. Ever once in awhile I think I want to step out a little bit.”

Francis Wood will be at the “Home for the Holidays” bazaar at Southside Virginia Community College this Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will hold a book signing at the Farmer's Daughters on Sunday, Dec. 2, from 2 to 4 p.m.