That Was Tomorrow is a historical novel. Most of the story takes place in the remote reformist enclave of Fairhope, a real place that seems very unreal today, but it begins in Hoboken with a poor-little-rich-girl heroine raised on upper Hudson Street in the early 1900s. She escapes through a helpful and loving aunt who raises her with her rambunctious family, is educated in Quaker schools, and decides to become an educator herself.
This takes her to the Alabama town where a unique form of education is being practiced, and where she thrives and considers life as a New Woman of the 20th century.
The book has been on amazon dot com since the end of April, and was reviewed there by 11 people so far. The following reviews include some of those and others from the publications I mentioned.
Timbes knows of a secret place, and once she gets her wagon rolling, she carries us there with grace and intimate charm…a strange yet familiar world is here for the taking.That Was Tomorrow drops itself squarely in the middle of Fairhope’s golden era. It is the 1920s…via narrative fiction, Timbes has lifted this world from the dust of time and holds it up for us to inspect to the best of our abilities. We are allowed into the town via its unconventional ferries and dirt-road main streets. We are invited into its leading hotels and community gathering points. She lets us wander through the classrooms and sit with the children as they are taught by the Organic Method. We are treated to an intimate and personal account of life as it existed nearly a century ago in a place now accessible by car but almost impossible to find again in the mind.
While this is Timbes’ first novel, it is her third book on Fairhope. She is herself a graduate of The Organic School, and she served as the curator for the Marietta Johnson Museum in Fairhope. She grew up in Fairhope, left for the world at large, and came back. And left again. Educated in the same place and manner she describes, she has cultivated a precise and careful prose uncommon in popular fiction. Her nuanced, period tone carries us easily backward to the innocence and charm and guileless rhythms of 1920s Fairhope. Her fiction is lively and ambitious. That Was Tomorrow is a historical novel, so her literary license comes with some restrictions. Yet she seamlessly twines Fairhope’s known personages into her own creations, allowing the reader to speculate beyond the range of straight fiction.
Although her descriptions of seemingly insignificant details such as the layout of a cottage, the flora on a specific street, the intricacies of a folk dance, or the plot line of a stage play can be viewed as overly worked, they actually carry the true substance of her effort. It is precisely through this detailed reconstruction of the daily lives of the citizens, the teachers, and the students that we find ourselves ultimately swimming far, far below the surface of the Fairhope we can drive through today. And when we surface, is it our eyes that are changed, or has tony, flip-happy Fairhope once again become full of thinkers and artists and bons vivants? Read; then decide. It’s certainly nice to think so.
For anyone wanting a realistic portrayal of yesterday’s sleepy South, a more informed connection to modern Fairhope, or a working re-enactment of Marietta Johnson’s Organic Education philosophy, Timbes’ book is a clear choice. She escorts us into the cliffs and gullies, the dirt and the shine, the people and the place, and the village on the bay that was a utopia for the taking. Jump in. Mobile Bay hasn’t felt this good in decades.
Rex Anderson, Mobile Press Register
It's hard to believe that there was once a time in this country, between the Last Great War and the inevitable onset of the next one, when there existed utopian communities across America, testing shared principles of civic idealism, personal actualization and the common good. And it's harder to believe that one of the more interesting was located in the Red State of Alabama, in the coastal community of Fairhope. In That Was Tomorrow, Mary Lois Timbes brings the improbable to life, complete with complete with believable, flesh and blood characters all living out their hopes and dreams in a concretely described, lush Southern setting. Take a trip to Fairhope. You will not only discover a progressive community of the past, but also what is finest in the American character. believable, flesh and blood characters all living out their hopes and dreams in a concretely described, lush Southern setting. Take a trip to Fairhope. You will not only discover a progressive community of the past, but also what is finest in the American character.
Jonathan Odell, Author, The View From Delphi, The Healing
Historical fiction is a much abused genre. Too often fascinating people and events are treated like museum pieces - fragile, silent, and dead.
That Was Tomorrow avoids these pitfalls, giving us a vivid portrait of a time and place in history filled with colors, scents, sounds, and a strong sense of the future.
Along with heroine Amelia, we explore the turn-of-the-century Utopian experiment known as Fairhope, getting to know the colony's eccentric citizens, their habits, their politics, their fears, and their dreams. It is a coffee-fueled, romance-filled, full-sensory trip back to a dynamic time in a very unique place - and is well worth the visit.
Michele Feltman Strider, Author Homecoming, Hometown
The character depictions in Fairhope, some fictional and others not, are the highlights of That Was Tomorrow, together with the details of the activities such as folk dancing and singing that occupied such a central place in the Fairhope school. Having written on Fairhope before (A Fair Hope of Heaven and Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree), Timbes hits her stride in the telling of these tales…That Was Tomorrow is a very good read, well-written, nicely laid out and gives just enough coverage to the somewhat raffish character of the colony in those early days to underline the point that, in a very unprogressive state, a flower grew and flourished.
Ralph E. Thayer, The Fairhope Courier
If your appetite is whetted--and I hope it is--go to my website for more details and buttons where you can order the book directly from me or from any of the sources. Or go to your favorite online book retailer (i.e., amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or Vook. Yes, I said Vook) and search for That Was Tomorrow.