‘A road trip with a spiritual dimension‘
– Journey to the Heartland
Journey to the Heartland is the latest release from Michelle Walsh Jackson, Irish bestselling author, travel writer and broadcaster. Published January 21st with The Novel Press, Journey to the Heartland has been chosen for the Hope foundation USA book club read for the month of March with registration beginning on the website from February 18th (The Hope Foundation (hopefoundationusa.com)
“I’m privileged to follow authors such as Erin Brokovich in working with this wonderful charity.”
– Michelle Walsh Jackson
Journey to the Heartland is Michelle’s eighth novel and I am delighted to be sharing an extract with you all today so I do hope you enjoy.
[ About the Book ]
This is the story of the fragile love between Roz Waters and her visually-impaired father, Patrick, a love that is revived on an extraordinary road trip through America’s heartland. The journey is an opportunity for Patrick to impart knowledge and wisdom that Roz is finally ready to hear.
Unexpectedly, Roz’s world is rocked when she meets Army Captain, Michael Williams, along the way. But his wedding band isn’t the only obstacle that makes their love forbidden.
The prairies pale in comparison to the touching journey into each other’s hearts. As time unfolds Roz discovers that she and her father are intrinsically linked to Michael and together maybe they will all find the real Heartland.
[ Extract from The Prologue]
I opened the front door to find a tiny bluebird dead on my doorstep and it sent a chill up my spine. It was probably a gift from our neighbour’s cat, but I knew what my father would have said – he’d have called it a sign. He loved nature and was in tune with the movements of the seasons and the cycle of life and death. Living in a different country to him, with the Irish Sea between us, meant that I lived with a deep-seated fear of “the call” and knew that it would come one day – that call from a neighbour or maybe a policeman to say that he was dead.
I suppose you would call my father “a character”. Proud is another word that comes to mind when describing him. Even though he’d lost ninety percent of his vision, I’ve never known greater foresight in any man.
Patrick Dónal Cullen was born on 8th August 1942, in the parish of Inniskeen, a small town in County Monaghan. Being the youngest of eight children meant his mother was worn out by the time he came along. His father died a few years after he was born, leaving a gap in the family that couldn’t be filled. Patrick knew what it meant to do his share and never expected much from his young life.
While his older brothers kept the farm going, he helped his mother and sisters in the house. As he grew older, his brothers made it clear that there was no room for him on the land and he would have to find another way to provide for his future.
So he made sure that he was well read and later instilled a love of prose in me that I’d never have found with normal tuition. How Green Was My Valley, Sons and Lovers – these were titles that none of my school friends had read but I bathed in his favourite literature.
His great love was cowboys, Indians and anything to do with the Wild West. Ironically, most people said that he looked like Clint Eastwood. He adored watching the Western movies that showed repeatedly on our black-and-white TV. It was a common passion for men of his time, especially those with a rural upbringing.
I wondered how much more he had to give to the world. A world that had left men like him behind and a world that needed men like him more than ever.
Every morning I remembered my father because it was he who always saw me to school when I was a child – not my mother.
I tried to shake the morbid image of the tiny bird from my mind as I shut the front door and got into my car. But it just wouldn’t go. I sat in the rush-hour traffic, my head filled with memories of my father. His profile chiselled, yet softened, by time. In my mind’s eye he would always be tall as a tree with broad shoulders and with arms that could protect me from harm. He’d shrunk since his heyday and the gradual change was more apparent each time I returned to Dublin.
The addition of a white stick would have thwarted and stifled many men, but not my father – he used it as a contraption to start chat with a stranger and make jokes with the ladies. He lived alone, in a little fishing village by the sea. I liked to visit Dublin but hadn’t stayed for long periods since my daughter turned into a teenager. Her life was in Oxford with me and I understood why she didn’t want to visit the sleepy town where her mother grew up.
However, it troubled me that my father was alone – especially since he lost his sight. He always put on a brave face to me and saw his condition as a challenge to be overcome. A change most people of his age would shirk from – but not Patrick Cullen. Keeping up to date with new technology was the best way to help him to live independently.
He was concerned about me since the break-up of my marriage. I’d been forced to change with the process and was starting to come around to the new me. My confidence was shaken and old hurts and wounds around my family had been dragged up in the transition. Even though my father wanted to help, I’d pushed him away because I was ashamed. I was ashamed at the failure of my relationship, and of the uncertainty and poverty that followed my divorce from Keith.
Thinking about my father made me smile and I’d forgotten about the dead bird by the time I arrived at work.
I was sitting at my desk for only a few minutes when Gerry, the supplement editor, called me into his office. I wiped my palms on my jeans and ventured across the row of desks to his office.
“Can you ride a horse, Roz?” he asked.
I laughed and said, “Sure!” I was ten years old the last time I’d sat on one, but I was still telling the truth.
“Are you available to go on a press trip in three weeks’ time? It will be for no more than eight days. It includes a stay on a ranch in Oklahoma.”
I’d been working at the Oxford Times for almost ten years and mostly wrote features and entertainment. I did a little travel writing from time to time which allowed me to visit the odd stately home and Christmas Market, but staying on a ranch was something that intrigued me. Besides, travelling abroad when I was married to Keith Waters was more than difficult. I was now free of my shackles in one way, but a sense of adventure was something that eluded me still.
“And there’s a festival too – Native American – you can pull it together with a Cowboys versus Indians feature,” Gerry said in a matter-of-fact tone. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Roz?”
Suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of my father again. He had such a passion for the Wild West – maybe this would be an opportunity to travel with him? When I asked if I could take him with me, I was careful not to tell my editor that he was blind.
“As long as I get photos with Stetsons and Indian headgear I don’t care,” Gerry said. “Here are the details.”
He handed over a contact number and my mind clicked into overdrive, instantly thinking of barriers and difficulties that would prevent me from going. Although I was divorced from Keith, he had a hold on me that made me query everything I did. Whatever I wanted to do, it would be wrong or selfish or bad. I hoped that he wouldn’t make it awkward for me to go. Our daughter, Thalia, was sixteen and well able to look after herself but she couldn’t stay home alone. She’d have to stay with her father.
But now I’d been handed a golden opportunity to spend time with the man who had given me life. If I was still with Keith there would be no way that I’d be going on this adventure or taking my father.
Once I’d put all the details in place, I called my father and waited anxiously for his reaction to my plan. And it was spectacular.
“Rosaleen, oh Rosaleen, is this a joke? If you told me I’d won the lottery I couldn’t be happier!”
Purchase Link ~ Journey to the Heartland
[ Bio ]
Best-selling novelist Michelle Walsh Jackson is a native of Howth, County Dublin. Her seven novels include titles ‘One Kiss in Havana’ and ‘Six Postcards Home.’ In January 2021 she launched her eight novel ‘Journey to the Heartland’ inspired by a journey she took through Oklahoma in 2014. Travel is a common theme in her books and she has been a travel writer since 2012. She was co-author of the bestselling popular non-fiction book “What Women Know” in 2010. Her books have been internationally translated into several languages, including German, Dutch and Norwegian under the name Michelle Jackson.
Michelle writes travel and business for national newspapers The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and The Irish Mail and several periodicals including Nat Geo Traveller.
She launched a travel podcast in January 2021 to go out on all good podcast sites and on GoLoudnow.com
Her website thenoveltraveller.com is one of Ireland’s go to travel websites. She has presented a bi-weekly Travel Slot on The Elaine Show on Virgin Media TV for the last eight years and is Travel Pundit on Newstalk fm’s drivetime show for the last three years. With Ivan Yates and now Kieran Cuddihy.
Website – www.michellewalshjackson
Twitter – @mjacksonauthor