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author info retrieving isaac & jason whispering pines everett falls

copyright © elliot fliés foster 2015

author info

elliott fliés foster

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In September 1993, four generations of the Travis family gather to celebrate the 80th birthday of their matriarch,
Isabelle. Reflecting on their experiences at the rustic family cabin set on a lake in the Chippewa National Forest,
they talk of fishing for walleye, cooking the perfect beef roast, pulling pranks, making love, and living life abundantly
over eighty years. Simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking, the stories told by Isabelle, her daughter Ruth,
and her grandson Eddie slowly unwrap secrets long held by the family, tucked away deep in the Minnesota North
Woods and in their memories.

Come home with the Travis family and listen in as they tell you about everything from the hardships of building and
maintaining a cabin, to the colorful characters ringing Lake Dunbar, and the bittersweet promise of changing traditions.

Interview: WISC TV, Madison

Intreview: WCCO TV, Minneapolis

red city review banner Red City Review has named Whispering Pines
one of its five finalists in General Fiction for 2015.
(click the banner at left for more info)





The Beginning and the End

Our story begins and ends on September 15, 1993, in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, a bustling midwestern town of two
thousand inhabitants, hugging the banks of the Cannon River halfway between Rochester to the south and the Twin
Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to the north. Outside of town along U.S. Highway 52 sits The Edgewood. This
renowned local supper club is nestled in a growth of tall pine and mighty oaks—the remnants of a great hardwood
forest that once swept the fertile plains from the Mississippi to the Missouri rivers. The Edgewood is a respectable
establishment with well-dressed patrons. It's a place to order typical midwestern fare like New York strip steaks,
broasted chicken, and batter-fried shrimp. And, a baked potato accompanies every meal, as do fresh-brewed coffee
and unlimited trips to the salad bar. All for $9.95 per person.

From Minneapolis, two cars sped toward The Edgewood. They quickly passed through the towns of Hampton,
Coates, and Vermillion. From the south came two more, bearing down on the Cannon Falls city limits, passing
through the hamlets of Pine Island, Zumbro Falls, and Harwood Corners. By 7:30, all had arrived, and the most
important was Isabelle. Each had journeyed to The Edgewood this particular evening for a special celebration:
Isabelle's eightieth birthday party.

Our family has been known to transform birthdays into raucous celebrations filled with culinary delights, youthful
enthusiasm, and passionate laughter. At Jack's fortieth birthday party, he was ruthlessly roasted by family and
friends alike, culminating with his wife's affectionate toast: "Here's to Jack, raise your glass. Here's to Jack, he's a
horse's ass!" At Ruth's fiftieth birthday extravaganza, hotel security was summoned as she proudly rode her
cherished birthday present, a restored maroon 1948 Roadmaster Luxury Liner bicycle, around the tenth-floor
balcony of the Embassy Suites Hotel to the cheers and laughter of those in attendance. When other guests had
summoned hotel security to investigate, all the guard could do was suppress his own laughter, and assist the
birthday girl in re-attaching her loosened bicycle chain halfway through her route around the hotel's top floor.
Isabelle's eightieth birthday party was different. Not that the family avoided laughter on this potentially solemn
occasion, for they roasted and teased her thoroughly. In fact, between dinner and cake, each family member
took turns at a podium telling "Grandma Stories." With eighty years of material to work with, we continued until
well past closing time. Isabelle, after all, had been the matriarch of our family for sixty years. Her strong will,
fiery determination, and sense of family were legendary.

As the storytelling progressed, everyone quickly realized most of the stories revolved around our individual
and shared experience with Isabelle at the Travis family cabin on Lake Dunbar in northern Minnesota. Our
experience is the quintessential northern-Minnesota cabin experience. This is where we began fishing in the
1920s, built a cabin in the 1950s, and lived out our lake country dreams for more than half a century. This too is
where we encountered both the famous and infamous of northern Minnesota, including Mona Bell Hill,
Helen Bryan, Herb Beer, Dusty Lane & Fiddlin' Russ, and of course the unforgettable Screamer from Squaw Lake.
The Travis family's rich story on the shores of Lake Dunbar, as told through the memories of those attending
Isabelle's eightieth birthday party on a cool autumn night in 1993, is a tale of natural beauty set in the heart
of one of our nation's last vast forests. Ours is a story of joys and triumphs echoing across the generations, as
well as a story with sorrows and tragedies that molded the will and strength of this family.

It is indeed a blessed gift to experience life amidst the power of the trees and rivers, with the freshness of the
wind always in your presence, and the limitless freedom of the wilderness. Such is the foundation for this sacred
place that shaped the lives of the Travis family for four generations, and counting. By the end of the September
night in Cannon Falls so many years ago, those assembled had re-told tales of comedy, tragedy, and triumph,
virtually the entire story of the family's shared journey through time, and with our neighbors along the shores
of Lake Dunbar. That story, as told in three parts by Grandma Isabelle, her daughter Ruth, and her grandson
Eddie, went something like this.


Reviews for Whispering Pines:

cabin life image    Elliott Foster
   Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views
   “Whispering Pines” by Elliott Foster is beautifully
   written story about several generations of one
   family who enjoy their family cabin along the
   shores of Lake Dunbar, in rural Minnesota. Part of
   what makes this story special is that it is written
   from the perspective of several family members, all
   of different generations, providing unique
   viewpoints from each individual.

Isabelle is the first narrator, and she is the matriarch of the family. She and her husband built the cabin
on Lake Dunbar, and thus begins the many trips up north for fishing, hunting, playing, bonding, and so
much more. Isabelle and her husband, Sam, took many trips north to their cabin on the lake. They
often would take other family members as well, including their children, and grandchildren, once they
came into the picture. They were known as the loud and boisterous family, always looking for a good
time. Most of the family members loved to fish, and that was the main activity that took place while at
the cabin. There were good times and heartbreaking events that make the reader laugh, as well as cry.

Ruth is the next narrator, and she is the daughter of Isabelle. When Isabelle is ready to sell the cabin,
Ruth and her husband, Ted step in to buy it from her, and keep it in the family. While many of the past
visitors of the Lake Dunbar cabin have slowed their visits due to life getting in the way, Ruth and Ted
find times to make it up to the cabin with their own children. Ted likes to keep a forest growing at the
cabin, so he and his family plant many seedlings in the hopes of creating a beautiful and rich forest
one day.

Eddie, Ruth’s son is the last narrator of the story, and he is a lawyer who also wants to keep the cabin
in the family. He loves to spend time at the cabin to fish as well as relax.

The author does a wonderful job of inviting the reader into the Travis family. I felt like I belonged,
and I had to double check to make sure this was a novel, and not a true story! Although there were
hardships in the family, they were there for each other, and cared for each other in a beautiful way.
Its simplicity is what drew me to this story, and I hope to ready many more novels by Elliott Foster!
I highly recommend “Whispering Pines” to anyone looking for delightful and easy read."
                                                                                                                                                                   — ReaderViews.com

cabin life image   "Whispering Pines: Tales from a Northwoods Cabin
takes place in September of 1993. The Travis family
   have come together to celebrate the birthday of
   their matriarch; Isabella Travis. Different members
   of the family share touching stories about growing
   up, hunting and fishing, and other antics they have
   gotten into in the past. The narration is shared by
   Isabella, her daughter Ruth, and grandson Eddie.
   Each story unravels memories long forgotten.
   It all begins with theories of how Lake Dunbar was
created and progresses to how the family found their way to Whispering Pine, the family name for their
cabin. It’s a fantastic story of building life, making new friends and memories, as well as the changing
of traditions to adapt with the times. It is a story of family, faith, and above all, love.

The novel opens with exquisite descriptions of the history and landscape of Lake Dunbar. Readers are
able to imagine the giant foot shaped lake Foster describes. The first segment depicts life in the small
town Isabella lived in and then how her time was spent at Lake Dunbar which required them to hunt
and gather. Foster captures the hardships and emotions the family had to endure such as Stella’s
death after her appendix rupturing and Sam’s early death from a heart attack. One of the elements
of the novel that was very well done was the different viewpoints. The novel is broken up into three
parts, three different generations talking about the family, and reminiscing on their lives together.
While each section is from another perspective, the fluidity and tone of the novel remains the same.
One can almost picture a soft smile on each narrator’s face. It seems as though Isabella and Ruth had
grand ideas of adventure and leaving the area, where as Eddie wanted to preserve the memories he
had growing up. This shows how things can change; Isabella and Ruth wanted to travel away from
where they grew up and away from the lake altogether. While Eddie realized the beauty and
importance of the area where his family started their legacy. Foster has created a compelling story
about family, and the places that shape who we become."
                                                                                                                                                                   — Red City Review

cabin life image     "Loosely based on both the author's own experiences
      and his family's cabin journal entries dating back to
      the 1950s, this novel paints a vivid picture of cabin
      living on Lake Dunbar in northern Minnesota.
      Go ahead; immerse yourself in four genrations of
      cabin tales. We recommend getting comfy in a
      hammock on a breezy summer day with this one."
                                           — Cabin Life Magazine


"In Whispering Pines, Foster unearths some of the greatest treasures of Minnesota—her wilderness, history, icons
of time and place, and the characters depicted within generations of the Travis family. In this soulful journey, you
travel like a ghost, never having to go very far, yet intimately entering the landscape of memories, folklore, and
understated Midwestern culture. As a love that comes softly and grows in its magnitude and scope, this vacation place
in the Northland beckons stewardship and preservation from all its partakers, readers included."
                                           — Carolyn Bizien, The Rural America Writers Center


 "A truly Minnesota story, with universal footings for anyone who loves the lake, the woods, the cabin—
and the characters who inhabit those places.”
                                           — Peter Anthony, author of A Town Called Immaculate


"If Henry David Thoreau made an American icon of the cabin in the Walden Pond woods where he stayed off and on
for about two years, Elliott Foster’s cabin is a grittier place in Minnesota’s Northwoods enjoyed by a family for several
generations. In writing that is as fresh and clear as the cabin’s lake waters, Foster recalls the simple pleasures and
setbacks that make the experience in his beloved “Whispering Pines” getaway not only memorable, but vital to the
family’s identity, unity, and durability.”
                                           — Emilio Degrazia, Minnesota Book Award Winner


"Elliott Foster paints a detailed picture of cabin life as experienced by three generations of the Travis family.
You'll feel like you are one of the family.”
                                            — Teresa Thomas, author of How to Tap Into the Power of Win/Win Connections