“Kent Island, The Land That Once Was Eden”
A sensuous evocation of Maryland’s Eastern
“A jewel of a book…
Janet Freedman conducts a remarkably circumspective exploration of a place that engages all of the senses, including a heart that registers the passage of time into memory. This is no ordinary account, but a jewel of a book whose many facets reveal not only a fascinating, haunting place, but a creative inquiry imbued with imagination and grace.”
Charles Camp, PhD
sprouted up on Kent Narrows and long before the outlet shops and strip malls straddled Route 50, Kent County was something of an idyllic region of the Eastern Shore. At least it was prior to 1952, when the Bay Bridge made it easily accessible to motorists. Janet Freedman’s memoir, Kent Island, the Land That Once Was Eden (Maryland Historical Society), provides a glimpse of what life was like on Kent Island before the millions of cars started passing through each year. A Baltimore native, who spent summers on Kent, Freedman offers some historical perspective and deftly captures the easygoing rhythms of both time and tide. Her lively, almost conversational prose and a selection of scrapbook photos give the book a personality all its own.
Funny thing happened
to Kent Island en route to the 21st century. Once it had fishing, ferries and farms; now it has bridges, shopping centers and, every year, 25 million-plus motor vehicles streaming through. Enough to make an old-timer cry? Janet Freedman comes close to that in her book, Kent Island, the Land That Once Was Eden, but she also searches, listens, shudders, tastes, smiles. Freedman is adept at intermingling old history (the Matapeake Indians) and new (the Kent Island Heritage Society).
James H. Bready,
History and memory merge in this absorbing book…….
Janet Freedman seamlessly blends history and personal remembrances in this charming account of family and place. Her grandmother’s farm and the surrounding area are brought to life through the memories of a child, the commentary of family and friends, and detailed research. One need not be familiar with Kent Island to feel a stir of nostalgia for the simpler times she describes. No romanticized sentiment is found here. Hardships are made clear (“the shocking cold of January linoleum” in an unheated bedroom, for example, or a coat handed down through six children), but they are tempered with descriptions of the bounty provided by land and water and the reassurance of routine. The security offered by close family ties is evident throughout. Emphasis is placed on accurate and fond description of the region, hough recent comers might be hard pressed to reconcile the dirt roads and general stores of Freedman’s childhood with the asphalt and strip malls of today’s Kent Island. A selection of period photographs augments the author’s colorful prose, giving a visual record of structures that have fallen victim to “progress” and the people who helped shape this story. Sadly, the book’s poignancy is derived from what we’ve lost; the concept of controlled development has come too late to save much of Kent Island’s appeal. Freedman’s work will stand as a testament to what was and a warning of how quickly such things can be lost.
“The Land That Once Was Eden”
…….is a warm and personal account of a place and a time, written with restraint and delicacy. Freedman’s love for Kent Island comes through touchingly. Though there may be a different Eden for each of us, this author’s evocation of one of them is for all of us.”
Sidney W. Mintz, PhD
This is a charming and loving tapestry of a book…….
Memory, photographs, history, digressions and plants and animals, and even recipes evoke a largely vanished way of life. It is a wonderfully sensory book — the reader can hear, see, smell, and even taste the Kent Island of Janet Freedman’s childhood, as well as feel the hold the place continues to have on those who love it.”
Ronald G. Walters, PhD
Power in memory ………
This book is a wonderful tapestry of history and memory that makes for a warm enjoyable read, despite its message: what is lost. From Native American Matapeake Indians to Baltimore’s great fire, and the “second” Bay Bridge construction, the history reveals the natural resources, economy, and community values of early Kent Island, and its present reality of tract housing, expressways, and strip malls. Freedman’s microcosm of Kent Island is a macro for what’s happening all over the U.S. The book’s images are quite extraordinary though. The author’s memories and cherished photos of family and place possess an honesty that reached out for my own distinct early memories, and begged me to appreciate them. She also reinforced my appetite for finding value and beauty in simple things and ways that deserve human note and care. A few of my favorite parts of the book: Recipes Served on the Porch, My Mother’s Coat, and the twelve days of Christmas. This book was personally enriching for me, and it’s a wake-up call for those of us who’ve known a finer quality of life. We do know better. Janet Freedman came right out and said it.
A Beautiful Walk Back in Time……
Read this book and you will be transported back to a time when things were simpler, family was important, neighbors loved neighbors, and the land was undisturbed. A time where family sat on the porch and shared together – where history was taught without the aid of newspapers and television. The book is written in prose that will take you back to smell the flowers in the garden and to re-experience the warmth and joys of your youth. How development has taken the land but can never erase the memories. History blended with delightful descriptions of a family’s past. Reading that will take you back to remember your blessings.