STAN CORWIN PRODUCTIONS, Beverley Hills, Hollywood, United States:
Stan Corwin emailed to say: Hi Brenda. Just to let you know that I am reading your wonderful novel (1/2 way through) & I am so mesmerized by your writing, your evocation of the Blue Mtn. ambiance, the unbelievable characters. Your writing reminds me of somebody else who I couldn't put down – an author named Gloria Keverne (the author’s sister). Onward. I am with you. He later emailed to say: Well, I finished & the characters still stay with me. What a story. Congratulations on a terrific novel. How do you know all about these people? You captured every aspect of their lives, their thoughts, the ambiance of the Blue Mtns. Bravo Brenda…Have all these wonderful characters come out of your imagination, or are any based on real people? Those characters are still in my thoughts.
And later: Those characters are still in my thoughts.

FELICITY KEATS, publisher, teacher of right-brain writing, Durban, emailed the author with the following: I have read, without stopping - couldn’t stop - the first two books of your novel and they are superb! Wonderful, Brenda, you are a truly amazing person – great stuff, Brenda, and the cover is superb! She later emailed to say: You have a wonderful book, Brenda. I couldn’t stop reading it and now am into the last book. You have a superb story Brenda, absolutely wonderful, and I am hugely impressed. You are a wonderful writer! Yes, you can be a best selling author! She later emailed to say: I finished your book, couldn’t put it down. Wanted to know what would happen to Eli, I got to like him. Sorry, he didn’t get Annabel. But it was a great read! Well done, I don’t know how you do it!

COLLEEN RITCHIE, Panorama Park, South Africa, spoke to the author on the phone in great excitement. She said that she has a library of some 2000 books, of which only about 50 are fiction, because she’s not interested in fiction. But she is so enjoying this book, she is just loving it, and is so impressed with it – it is too beautiful! It is so beautifully descriptive, the leaves and the snow and the mountain that she feels as if she is right there. She said the characters are so real, they are alive. That she’d been to America and seen the hillbillies and they were exactly as the author described. She said she wants to read the book, but after three pages she puts it down, because she is loving it so much she just does not want it to end. But then she can’t help picking it up again. She said she’s never been so excited about a book in her life. When she had finished the book, Colleen told the author: ‘It was fantastic, absolutely fantastic! Have you ever read a book where you want to read slowly because you know you are getting near the end? That was your book. I really and truly loved it! Your characters were real-live characters – magnificent. And I could see everything and felt I was there. When you mentioned the leaves, I could see them.

LISA SUTHERLAND, South Africa, phoned to say she was absolutely loving the book – she was right inside the main character’s head, and couldn’t put the book down, often reading paragraphs over and over again because of the words the author had used. Besides talking about different scenes and characters, she said the book is so precious she will never lend it out to anybody. And that she was going to start reading it again immediately after she had finished. She also said that the author is so deep and understands human nature so well. LISA later wrote a letter saying the following: 'Falling leaves and Mountain Ashes’ was GREAT! … I couldn’t put it down. (The scene) … about the barn was so evocatively descriptive I was in there with Mary. There are many such passages in the book. Mary and Zachary will forever be etched in my mind, and Eli and Obediah actually drew some sympathy from me, especially Eli who was so damaged emotionally. I knew nothing about the mountain folk and customs, but now I feel I could go and dwell with them, having learned so much about them from your hugely well-researched book. Well done! You’re done what not many others could have!

HEATHER CHORN, South Africa, phoned to say she had just finished reading it TWICE. She loved it so much she began reading it again the moment she finished it the first time. She said it was magnificent and she loved the characters and lived with them. She couldn’t believe the research that had been done on the book. She even wrote a detailed assessment on the book afterwards so she could see how the author had constructed it.
She later wrote the following: ‘I was so absorbed by your fantastic book “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes”, I was compelled to read it twice, and after reading it twice, I had to summarize the whole book. I can’t remember ever being transported in time and place as I was when I read your masterful descriptions of people, places and events in this book. Right from the first chapter, one feels one must get to know what’s eating at Eli for him to behave in that fashion. I simply had to get to know these poor disturbed people better. Your portrayal of the characters was nothing short of superb. I felt as if I had met them myself, and that I had to know more about them, what made them tick. What an absolute tragedy it all was, but through it all ran the wonderful character of Mary, and supported later by Zachary Thomas, not forgetting that Jediah made a very positive statement with his personality. I am waiting with bated breath to see how he, with his mission, is going to change things.

MARIE COMBRINCK, South Africa, phoned to say it wasn’t the type of book she usually read, but she found it fantastic and gripping right till the end.

DEBBIE KHAN’S praise was overwhelming. First email reported: “Started reading the book. Cannot put it down – fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My poor family is being neglected. Every spare moment my nose is in the book – went to sleep at four on Sunday morning!” After finishing the book, she said it was absolutely fantastic, stunning, stunning, stunning, with brilliant writing. She loved the characters and the story, which she said was very, very sad in the end. She said that it haunted her and she hadn’t been so moved by a book since she read “A Man Cannot Cry” many years ago. (Incidentally, “A Man Cannot Cry” was written by the author’s sister, Gloria Keverne, and edited by Brenda George!)

MIKE JOHNSON, South Africa, said “Oh, fantastic! She’s a brilliant writer. Bloody good! She and Gloria are both brilliant writers.” (He was referring to Gloria Keverne, the author of the international bestseller “A Man Cannot Cry”, which Brenda George edited.) Referring to Brenda’s book, he said over and over how he felt like he was right there in that place, and that the characters were so real to him, he felt like that were living beings and that he knew them personally. Regarding the characters, he said how much he loved the main character, Mary, who did so much for the people who lived on Claw Mountain, and through her goodness, changed their lives. And he even felt himself sympathizing with the main antagonist, Eli, especially when he understood why he became the man he did. Then after reading another book given to him by his brother-in-law, he handed it back to him, and said: “Oh, it was alright, but once you’ve read the Keverne sisters, everything else pales in comparison!”

RODNEY GLASS, Hilton, said “I’m loving the book. “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes” is so jolly enticing, to turn the page is infuriatingly wonderful!’

JENNI RIDDELL, Pinetown, South Africa, said it was brilliant, absolutely stunning, and that she could not put it down. She said the author is such an unbelievably talented writer, she even found sympathy for the main antagonist, Eli. She loved all the characters, especially Mary, Zachary Thomas, the spunky little mountain child, Emma, and Mary’s little mystic son, Jed. She found the end very moving and sad, and said she never wanted it to end. She says she wants to read it again in a few months time, because she is so haunted by it.

TAMMY NASH phoned from Kokstad to say the author is a brilliant writer and she loved her book. That she found it difficult to do her household chores, because all she wanted to do is get back to the book to see what happened next. She loved all the characters, and cried in the end. She didn’t want it to end and can’t wait for the next book to come out.
Tammy recently contacted the author again to say she is reading it for the THIRD time. She said she simply ‘had to’! She says she feels as if she is right there in the story with the characters. She especially loves Mary, the main character. Her boyfriend keeps complaining that every time he sees her, her nose is in the book, but even though it’s the third time round, she cannot put it down. Loves it! Loves it!

LEONIE ALEXANDER, Kokstad, South Africa said: “It’s the best book in the whole wide world. I love it! I can’t put it down. I just can’t wait to see what will happen next!”

NORMA PIQUITO, Johannesburg, South Africa, phoned to say that she loved every single word of the book and that she thought it was absolutely stunning. She said her previous all-time favourite book was “Gone With the Wind” but that the author had set a new standard in excellence with her brilliant writing. In fact she didn’t know what she could possibly read after this because the author had set such a high standard. She said that she was so involved with the characters that she could not put the book down and felt really heartsore when she finished it, because she just wanted it to carry on and on. She found it so moving at times that she was reduced to tears.

VIVIENNE GRANT, Hilton, South Africa, was speaking to Rodney Glass over lunch in Hilton, South Africa. He emailed the author: ‘Vivienne reads like lightning, and, is a bookworm par excellence, of the highest order. In fact ALL she does is READ... Vivienne sits daily in the winter sunshine, SOAKING up BOOKS!! Vivienne told me, ‘“Rodney, I enjoyed Brenda's book thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly!! You know how well read I am... Well, when I say a book has a future, believe me, it has a future! I wouldn't be in the least surprised if Brenda's book receives film rights! I found it fascinating, and a truly fine read. Oh, without question, I've really enjoyed ‘Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes’!"’ Brenda, coming from a READER, like Vivienne, who honestly, NEVER is seen sitting without her book close by, her glowing comments are definitely worthy of note!! Vivienne, of course, need I say, is of high intelligence!! I was thrilled to the hindmost molars, hearing a reader of Vivienne's stature, saying such wonderful words about your book!!’

*TILLY GOUGH, Wartburg, South Africa, phoned to say she read it and really enjoyed it, then she gave it to her cousin who loved it, who gave it to her daughter, who also loved it. She said they three all loved it so much, all they want to know is WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT? Her son, ROB GOUGH congratulated the author in a supermarket, on her book, and told her that his mother can’t stop raving about it!

VIO CAMERON, Durban, South Africa, phoned Brenda and said ‘Bre-enda, I ‘m devastated.’ Brenda said, “Oh, no, Vio, what happened?’ Vio: ‘I’ve just finished reading your book and I didn’t want it to end – I wanted it to go on forever. It’s divine! Absolutely divine! I loved it so much I didn’t want it to end. It’s so different. But I’m sure I’m only one in a long line of people to fantastic it is. You must have because it IS fantastic. Like Gloria, you describe everything so well, you feel as if you are right there. What is it about you two Keverne girls that you can both write so brilliantly? You write differently, but both so descriptively that it comes to life.’

LESLEY THOMSON, well-known conservationist, South African said she loved the book, that once she started reading it, she just could not stop and that her husband complained, ‘When are you going to get your nose out of that bloody book?’ She said it really is a marvellous book and the writing is excellent. She especially loved the part with the eagles and the Senedo Indian and the descriptions of the mountains.

CAROL NASH said, ‘Oh, Brenda, when I was in Kokstad, I was reading your book, and it’s so lovely, I couldn’t put it down. It was a BEAUTIFUL story. I loved it.’

JUDY LEWIS, of California, USA, emailed to say: ‘I read your book and it was excellent. I enjoyed it immensely. It was one of those books I read non-stop from cover to cover until I was done. I can’t wait for the next one. I’m giving one to my Mother to read next. I have been telling everyone about it and a lot of people want to read it. I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it. It is quite an accomplishment (Your characters are amazing! I still think about them) and you should be very, very proud.’

MICHELLE HALDANE, United Kingdom, emailed to say ‘Just to let you know that I am LOVING reading your book! I can't put it down and don't want it to end.’

JAN KERNAN, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, phoned when she was midway through the book to say, she was going to wait until she was finished, but she just HAD to phone and tell the author she was absolutely LOVING it. She said she loves the English language and she was taking her time reading it because of the richness of the words the author used, which transported her right there, so she felt as if she was living amongst the mountain people. She loves the characters, and thinks the story is amazing! She doesn’t want it to end! She also bought a copy of the book for her daughter for her birthday. Later, once she had finished reading the book, she said how much she loved it and the characters, and said she cannot wait for the sequel! JAN’s final comments on the book: It's been a very long time since I've so enjoyed reading a book, longed to finish it and yet dreaded ending the experience. It was with a sigh of both satisfaction and regret that I closed the last page of your wonderful book. I'd dragged it out as best I could to make it last longer, and savoured every word. I adore the English language and I can only describe your writing as ''rich''. I was left in no doubt as to how Claw Mountain looked and felt, and could even smell the air in the changing seasons!! That horrific winter had me running for hotties and blankets! I was surprised that the characters didn't suddenly turn around and say,''Hi, Jann'', because I was right there with each one of them and knew them as well as if they were close family. I even found myself giving advice, warnings and congratulations!!
I smiled. I cried. My heartbeat increased. My heart filled with love.
I loved the way the focus seemed to be in third dimensional reality, but a spiritual theme weaved its way subtly throughout the book. It was real yet surreal.
Loved it. Loved it, Loved it!! Thank goodness it's sitting in my bookcase and available for a re-read!! Thank you! Can hardly wait for the next one!

DI POUPARD, internationally known horse whisperer, founder of the SPCA horse unit, Westville, South Africa, loved it. She loved the descriptions of the mountains and the eagles. She thought the scene when the eagles attack Obediah made her go cold. She asked the author if it was something true or from her imagination. When the author said it was from her imagination, she said she had a similar experience with owls, and the whole thing was utterly astonishing and believable. She said she felt as if she was there, and that the characters were all so believable, the story so compelling, she could not put it down. She gave it to her husband, PIERRE, a very recently retired banker to read. He had been so busy he had not read a book in about four years. She said he is a very reticent man, but he raves about the book to everybody he met about how fantastic it is. He said he had never read such a well-researched book in his life, and that he just HAD to meet the author.
The author wrote a later letter to the author: This book has been an exciting experience worthy of being made into a top class film. Brenda is so precise in her descriptions of the area (Blue Ridge Mountains) and the people (mountain men and women) that I could see the words I read like a movie in my mind. I especially enjoyed the part where the eagles surrounding the mountain reacted to sinister intruders, as this brought back memories of my own, of a female Great Horned Owl when I was a young girl. I was very curious about a nest the owl had on the ledge of a cliff, and amazingly, she would allow me to climb up to the nest to observe the growth of her owlets. However, when my uncle tried to climb up the female owl attacked him, embedding her claws into the back of his jacket as she attempted to pull him off the cliff face. The owl’s acceptance of me until she allowed continued until she allowed me to send the last owlet into its first flight. Brenda, thank you, for bringing back memories of how sensitive nature is to our intentions.

HAZEL FOSTER phoned to tell the author that she has never, ever read such magnificent descriptions in her whole life! She said the similes the author used are quite amazing. She said it was so evocative she could see it all. She adored the characters and actually cried a few times during the course of the book. She couldn’t rave about it enough.

GERALDINE TALBOT, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, loved the story and the characters. She said it was excellent and she couldn’t put it down, with a few shocks at the end. While she was reading it, her husband, Chris, kept complaining she never talked to him anymore. But she got cross with him and said she simply couldn’t put it down, especially as she was at a particularly exciting and dramatic part. She said that it would make a wonderful movie. She spent hours talking on the phone to the author about all the different characters and situations, and wants to hold an Oprah-style dinner to discuss every facet of the book with the author.

NEVILLE HODGSON, psychologist, South Africa, read “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes” while on holiday, and said he had to congratulate the author on a magnificent book. He said the characters really stand out and he thought Eli (the main antagonist) was such an intriguing and believable character. He spent forty minutes on the phone discussing all the characters and their situations. He ended up by saying that he would remember Mary, the main character, for the rest of his life!

LYNNETTE THERON, South Africa, said she had got the author’s phone number from the bookseller because she just had to phone to tell the author that she had bought a copy of the book and how very much she enjoyed it. She said it was excellent and so well-written, she could not put it down.

BRIGETTE JOHNSON, South Africa (who designed the cover), said she is absolutely LOVING it, and can’t believe how well the author can write. She said the descriptions were so powerful and evocative that she feels she is right there with the characters in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is especially taken with the main antagonist, Eli, and finds him an absolutely fascinating character. Ultimately, she sympathized with him greatly.

DAWN DARBY, South Africa, phoned to say she had finished the book and absolutely loved it. She said she found the end deeply, deeply moving, and that she cried.

SHARYN SINCLAIR-HANNOCKS, Australia, emailed: I’m still reading your book, and am so deeply into it, I’m loving it. Your writing makes me feel I am really there on that mountain. I cried when Zack came to take Mary back home. (Will respond fully when she has finished the book.)

AMELLE STOW, Pinetown, phoned to say she is halfway through reading the book and that she is finding it excellent. She said right from the word go she was ‘captivated’ and ‘couldn’t put it down’, and that she was ‘right there with the characters’. Even though she was full up with the ‘flu, she couldn’t stop reading it.

ANNETTE HANDLEY-CHANDLER, Sag Harbour, USA emailed: I have been reading my copy this summer - perfect summer reading... and love it. It is a book to get lost in which is just what I have wanted these past weeks. A later email stated: As for your book, it is wonderful! I got lost in it and this is what I love in a reading experience … Your book deserves all the accolades it is getting! Amazing.

KAREN WORTH, American lady, Howick, South Africa, said she thought it was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. She thought the characters were amazing, and the descriptions of the mountains so magnificent and so real, she felt as if she was actually there. She had been to the area as a child and it was exactly as she remembered it. She loved little Emma, the feisty mountain child and thought the little doomed friendship between her and the young boy from a neighbouring clan, with whom her clan was feuding, seemed like Romeo and Juliet. She told her husband, “This book, this woman – It’s so amazing, I HAVE to go and see her before I go to America. ( She did.)

SUZETTE MEIRING: nursing sister at an old age home, Pietermaritzburg, said somebody had lent her the book, and she read it non-stop over a week. She said it was wonderful, and she didn’t want it to end. She loved the main character, Mary and her mystic child, Jed, for his affinity for animals and Nature. She said she loved it so much, she can’t wait to read the next book of the series.

JOY NAIDOO; Ashburton, said it was divine, just divine! She thought the book was absolutely brilliant.

SHAUN EBELTHITE, student, Grahamstown, South Africa, emailed to say: Whenever time allows, I’ve been sitting down with your book and I am enjoying it so much. Mary’s personality jumps off the page! Shaun later emailed to say: I read another chapter of your book yesterday. I haven't had very much time for reading. I'm enjoying it so much though. I love the way you manage to keep your reader interested with everyday type of goings-on so that it feels natural. And you write so realistically about the time in which the book is set, you can feel the research that's gone into the book as you read so that it comes across as very real. I can’t wait for these holidays coming up so that I can give it the attention it deserves. Shaun emailed again to say: I'm still reading your book and loving it! You've actually managed to make me sympathise with Eli! I can’t remember who, but a famous author somewhere once said that the most gifted writers are those who can create a villain and then force their reader to bond with, or feel an affiliation with, that villain.

Final email: I just finished Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes and now I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself, without having your book to turn to in my spare time. I feel like I’ve lost a friend!

It really is a phenomenal story. You write with such genuine feeling and honesty. There’s something subtle about the narrative as well. You describe the terrible deeds committed by Obediah and the pain that the Bucko clan has suffered, and yet I didn’t realise the full horror of it until I saw a small and helpless ten-year-old Eli being forced to throw his younger brother’s body off a cliff. The realisation was so powerful and so well-done that I instantly felt so sorry for the novel’s villain, I wanted to take back everything I’d thought about him while reading about his previous crimes.

Mary’s death was incredibly moving. It must have drained you emotionally when you were writing it! “Like everything else in life, death was not easy. It was hard-won as were all worthwhile things, she had found” – is one of the nicest lines I’ve read in any story. I’ve enjoyed Falling Leaves so much that even my favourite writer (Wilbur Smith) has no appeal at the moment because I need a little while to digest Mary’s story. It’s been a long time, perhaps never, in my so-called adult life, that a book has made me properly cry.

When Zackary considers a life without Mary its heart-wrenching, because, as the reader, I knew how he felt, throughout the book she becomes like a real person that even now I remain in awe of her, as though she were a friend I had recently lost.

A truly fantastic book! I wanted to let you know right away.

SANDI KOENIG, South Africa, emailed to say she has nearly finished the book and has loved every minute of it!

CELIA VERGARI, South Africa, said she only reads at night and she loved the book so much, found it so compelling, that she couldn’t wait to go to bed every night just to read it. Then she found herself reading it into the early hours of the morning. She did not want it to end. She was fascinated by the character of Eli. She said it is one the best books she has ever read, and she absolutely loved it. She can’t wait to read the next book of the series.

PEET OELOFSE, South Africa, said he is an avid reader, and has read many, many books, but he’s never read anything like this book. He said he could not put it down, and would often read till late into the night. He found Eli an intriguing character, which, despite his evil deeds, redeems himself. He could help empathizing with him.

KRISTA JO MERGET, New York, USA, emailed: whenever I get a chance to pick up your book, I have such a hard time putting it down. From the first few pages, it had me. God grant me a day alone with Brenda's book! A later email: Meanwhile, I'm still stealing as much time as I can to read your book. Mary and Zack just reunited.... I knew it!!! I knew she really loved him…

COLIN CASON, South Africa: This is a fantastic book! Fantastic! Fantastic! It’s a book I’ll read five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten times! I’m not kidding – I’ve got a whole range of books written by my previous favourite author and I’ve read them all about ten times each. I lived with the characters, it was so real. There’s a whole long line of people to whom I’ve raved about the book, and who want to read it! Now, I just have to know – when’s the next one coming out, because I can’t wait?

TAMMY McLAREN, Colin Cason’s mother: I’m halfway through the book and it’s magnificent! When the character, Mary, stands on the top of the mountain and looks down on the valley below, I can see what she is seeing. I’m absolutely loving it! It’s beautiful!
Months later, Tammy’s daughter, who lives in Johannesburg said her mother had sent her the book and she absolutely loved it! She said it was so well-written and she loved the characters, that she’d lent it to so many people, who also loved it. She said the author has got plenty of fans in Johannesburg! And they all want to know WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT?

TESSA BARNARD, South Africa: phoned to say that she had finished reading the book and just had to phone the author to let her know how much she loved it. She said she just could not put it down, to the extent that her husband commented that it must be some book, because he’d never seen her like that with any other book she had read. She always had her nose in it. She said it was an excellent story about pioneer life, and she loved the characters.

SHARON HARTOG, Durban, South Africa sms’ed to say: I’ve just finished your book I bought from the Book Fair in Pinetown. Wot an amazing book! Can’t wait for the sequels. It is definitely a film in the making. She later said it is the book is one the best she’s ever read, and has been telling everybody about it.

CLAUDETTE JACKSON, Durban, South Africa, said: This is a book that gets you into trouble, because you can’t do anything but read it. You can’t work, you can’t cook, you can’t sleep! It is a wonderful book. So different!

BEVERLEY BIGGAR, Durban, South Africa, said: I could not put this book down! It’s spellbinding. The descriptions are magnificent. In other books, I skip description and carry on with the story, but with this one I read every word, and felt as if I was right there. As for the twists in the end!!

BERNICE AVERY, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, emailed to say: I started reading your novel at breakfast this morning and it’s definitely “hooked” me! She later emailed: Brenda, I can't put your book down. When will the next instalment hit the shelves because I don't think I'll get any writing done if it's soon as I'll be too busy reading your book! And again: Wouldn't it be something to see it on the big screen one day? (I'm onto the section beginning what I think will be Eli's transformation.)

NGONI ZENDA, Zimbabwean, borrowed the book from his friend, Luke Karamba, who told him to read it because it was so good, and he knew that he was such an avid reader. Ngoni said he read it nonstop and that it is a masterpiece. He said he could not put it down, and he felt he was right back in those times. He said it was very sad when Mary died. She was such a strong person and she did so much for the mountain people. The transformation of Eli, the main antagonist, from barbarian to a civilized person, he found intriguing, and he absolutely loved the bullwhip scene when he humiliated the pompous young man at Skyland. He said the snake scene with little Jed in the church was riveting, and that the preacher Reverend Hubbly was not fit to lead a flock, since he tried to instil fear into the congregation. He felt so sad for the mountain people when they were forced to get out of their mountain homes to make way for the National Park. He spoke for a further half-an-hour on all the characters and the different scenes, recalling so many that he loved.

LUKE KARAMBA, Zimbabwean, said he could not put it down, and kept getting annoyed at his wife, because she would borrow it to read, and he couldn’t find it. They both read and absolutely loved it. He gave it to Ngoni (above) because he knew he was widely read and Luke thought it was such a good book, he wanted him to read it, to see what he thought of it.

EDNA McDONALD, Australia, wrote to say: It’s great news about your book being published overseas. I am not surprised. It is wonderful. Enjoyed it so much.

SHIRLEY BROWN, South Africa, told the author that she absolutely loved it and thought it was stunning. She said she loved the scene with the eagles which was a profound spiritual experience for her.
She later wrote: ‘Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes’ was not a book I could easily put down. There was something on every page which kept me wanting to keep turning it over. It was almost a relief when I had finished the book so that I could resume my daily life. Mary Harley is wonderfully strong, warm, loving, and a truly formidable character. Someone so real she burst out of the pages. The eagles and their greatness and sheer magnificence were a truly spiritual experience for me. Zachary at first is an exciting man, and then so disappoints us. It was a journey on its own to see how he changed. The area around the main Buchanan homestead stands out in my mind. The whole story was beautifully descriptive with wonderful relationships and a diverse range of characters, from the raggedy children, to the abused wives and the bastard of a father. A truly “run away and hide” with your book read.

ANN GARDNER, United Kingdom, emailed to say:
I have now finished reading your book and what a book. It took me a few pages to get into it but once I did I couldn't put it down! A lot of the time I had tears running down my face. And that twist at the end just before she died....what can I say? A total surprise. You should be very proud of yourself. All in all a very good read which kept you with it till the very end. I do like a book with depth.

NEETHA SINGH, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, said on the phone:
She doesn’t usually read novels, but she absolutely loved the book, and the characters, especially Zachary Thomas, Mary, the spunky mountain child, Emma, and even felt sympathy for the main antagonist, Eli, towards the end. She felt the descriptions of the mountain and the mountain people were excellent and evocative, and they made her feel as if she was right there. She said Mary was such a strong woman, that she is an inspiration to all women even today. The story gripped her right from the start. It had so many layers, and was so different and had such depths.

MRS LESLEY ROBINSON, Howick, South Africa, said on the phone:
Oh, Brenda, it’s absolutely beautiful. Just amazing, and I’m loving it. I’m more than halfway through and I just can’t put it down. I’ve told all my friends about it, and said they just have to read this amazing book. I loved your sister’s book “A Man Cannot Cry’ and read it at least 5 times. You can’t compare the two books, as such, as they are so different, but both of them make you feel as if you are right there. I can just picture Eli with his scarred face. And Zack. I can’t wait to go to bed to night, and my daughter makes sure that I have a drink and your book is put on my pillow, because she knows how much I am loving reading it. I sometimes read till all hours even though I have to get up early for work.
Lesley later phoned to say: Your book is just beautiful! This just has to be made into a movie. It would make an epic film. I read about a local guy who has made some movies with big American stars in it and I felt tempted to send it to him, but something has to happen with it. I loved all the mountain dialogue in it. It is so authentic, it was like reading history.

CAROL MacCULLUM, Pietermaritzburg said she loved the book and that it was brilliant. She loved the descriptions and the characters were so true to life.

SEWRAJ GHURPARSADH, Pietermaritzburg, phoned to say that he had finished reading the book and that he just had to phone to let me know that it was excellent, a remarkable piece of work. He said it was so descriptive and real, he felt he was right there. He loved the characters, Zachary Thomas, and the antagonist, Eli, and said that the main character, Mary, was in a class of her own. He said the parts at the end with Eli moved him so deeply he had to put the book aside for a while, before starting reading again. He said he is an avid reader, reading about 20 books a month.

SALLY BOSCH, Durban, phoned to say that she got the author’s book and that she is responsible for making her late for work this morning because she couldn’t stop reading my book. She says it’s fantastic, and she can’t keep her nose out of it.
She later emailed to say: I have finished reading your remarkable book. Wow! What a brilliant work of art! Stunning! You kept me enthralled throughout!

AN OLD LADY whose name the author wasn’t able to get, rushed past the author and said ‘That book is fabulous!’

JENNY CAIRNS, Hillcrest, South Africa, ordered the book from the author and phoned to say she was loving it so much and that the book was set out so beautifully. Thereafter, she bought another three copies of it, for a friend’s birthday and one for each of two book clubs that she runs, one for older women, and one for younger woman, to give them an appreciation of good writing. She spoke to the author and said that out of 100, she gives the book 100. She said it is fantastic and she couldn’t put it down. She said she cannot understand why it hasn’t been a huge bestseller in this country, because it puts books like the “Spuds” series (huge best seller in South Africa) in the shade. (It was explained that the book was not publicised.) She said she is going to write a review on the book for Fair Lady magazine. She later phoned to say that all the other people in the book clubs love it, and all they all want to know is when the SECOND book is coming out!

JOE NAICKER, Durban, South Africa, phoned to say that he had nearly finished the book and that it was brilliant. He loved the characters, and the writing was so descriptive, it felt like he was there. He kept saying, ‘It is beautiful, beautiful!’ He later phoned to say that he had finished the book and it was stunningly BRILLIANT! That it was so warm and tender and the characters seemed so real, and how much he could identify with them. It was very moving. And that a disclosure right at the end comes as a shock. He was so enthralled all the way through and it moved him so much that he had to phone and thank the author for the thrill reading it gave him.
He later emailed the following: I just finished reading “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes”, my goodness I just couldn’t put the damn thing down. I am completely enthralled by the style and presentation. Your attention to detail is absolutely stupendous. The characters are real and warm, except of course for a few bad guys viz. Obediah and Eli amongst others. I am sure that you shed many a tear as you grafted this epic, as did I, feeling the pain and anguish, joy and laughter of the “Blue Ridge Mountain” folk. The Buchanan stronghold on “Claw Mountain” with the crowning glory of “Eagles Claw” is magnificent. You write with such warmth and candour about the things of nature and humanity that I am almost persuaded that Mary Harley is the epitome of Brenda George? I was a bit sad that Zachary Thomas did not meet his end on “Eagles Claw” to be laid besides his beloved Mary, but the evil Eli engineers his demise thereby remaining on “Claw Mountain”. And, my goodness, what a climax to this superb tale when we discover that the evil Caleb is …. Well done. Brenda, on an exceptional story.

ELAINE BEADON spoke briefly to the author and said: Loved it! Well worth the read. Of the characters, Mary stood out the most. She was wonderful. The story was gripping.

LOIS WATT-PRINGLE spoke very briefly to the author, and said: I absolutely loved it! I’ve recommended it to a lot of other people.

ESTELLE HINCKLEY told the author: Absolutely loving it! FANTASTIC! I’ve read many books but this is the best!

LINDA WYNGAARD told the author that there is genius in this book. It’s an exciting book, and uplifting. That the author’s love of nature is apparent – the love of nature comes through in the writing.

SHIRLEY FREEBORN told the author that she is really, really enjoying the book. She can’t put it down and she even sits in the bath to read, and till 1 o’clock in the morning. She says that she has the author to thank for introducing her to reading – she’d never read a book from cover to cover before, always getting bored after a few pages/chapters. She said this book has now given her an appetite for reading. Now she can’t wait to read the next one, indeed, the rest of the 5-book series. She said just HAS to buy all five.

CYRIL JAMES told the author that he’d finished reading her book, and that he was so moved at times that he ‘teared and teared and teared’. He said it is a wonderful book, and he asked how she had managed to write such a book.
He later emailed: I have just finished reading your novel twice “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes” in which I found the characters to be so real. In almost fifty years of reading many books I have never come across one that was so brilliantly written. It was very interesting to read about Mary who sacrificed many years of her unselfish life so others could live better under those harsh conditions. While reading teardrops came from my eyes.
He later told the author that he read the book twice because he couldn’t help it! He said it is one of the best books that he has read in his life!

MAUREEN WEBBSTOCK, South Africa, told the author: ‘Your book is out of this world! It’s breathtaking. I couldn’t put it down! I just couldn’t stop reading it! The characters are just wonderful.’ She kept saying ‘This book … this book . . . is really something special!’

RITA DIXON, South Africa, is still reading the novel, but she said: ‘Your book is wonderful. I can’t put it down. Your descriptions are so beautiful. And your characters ….’ She later said she’d finished the book and that it was so beautiful, and she absolutely loved it. And the characters were incredible. She said Jed is a beautiful character.’

LYNN CHAMBERS, South Africa, came rushing up to the author and said: ‘I bought your book two weeks ago, and I’m loving it! I’m loving it! I’m just not getting enough time to read it!’ (She’ll give further comments when finished.)

DAPHNE LOMBARD, South Africa: ‘I enjoyed your book immensely. Couldn’t put it down. Excellent!’

MILLY RUSSELL, South Africa, said ‘Loved it! It was excellent. It was a lovely, lovely story with very interesting characters. The descriptions and the scenery were beautiful. I was right there in the story.

JAIMIE BLACK, South Africa, emailed to say: ‘I‘m writing to you regarding your book “Falling Leaves and Mountain Ashes”. Throughout the week it took me to read the book I could barely put it down, I felt as though I was living with Mary and Zack on Claw mountain and that I could feel all of the emotions that they felt. I think that the story was very interesting and it definitely increased my knowledge of how mountain people lived in the past and of all the difficulties and challenges they had to face…I thought that the book was very descriptive and well written and I look forward to reading more of your stories. Thank you for a lovely story.’

BARBARA OSBOURNE, Kokstad, told the author’s niece that she read the book in two days because she just couldn’t put it down. She loved it.

There are many, many more in a similar vein that have not been recorded.

RICHIE DICKSON, Shongweni, South Africa, told the author he’d read her book and that it’s magnificent and marvellous!

JENNY POLLARD, South Africa, told the author that she loved the book! In fact, she could read it again! She enjoyed it very much and the characters were very good.

CAROL CLAUSEN, Hillcrest, South Africa, told the author, that she bought the book on the Saturday and read it in one sitting. She said she just couldn’t stop reading it, and cannot praise it enough. She said it is beautiful. Absolutely fantastic. And the characters are absolutely fantastic. At first she hated Eli, but then when she understood what had happened to him he gained her sympathy. She said the schools should take it to learn how to writegood character studies.

SANDY DIXON, Merrivale, South Africa, emailed: ‘I LOVE your book! It’s really good and I even cried in a few places. You really are a very good writer and I’m proud to know you.’

LIZ BRUCE, South Africa, said that she loved it, that it was excellent, and that Brenda is such a good writer she found herself reading until three o’clock in the morning.

ESTER LEE, Durban, South Africa, said she thought the book (cover) looked stunning and she had been having very positive feedback from the ‘lucky’ ones who had read the book. She looked forward to holding it and reading it. She has since read the novel and found it EXCELLENT, with fantastic characters and story, and the most beautiful cover.

VANESSA TALBOT, South Africa, said she thought it was excellent.

RONEL WOOD, phoned to tell the author she had read her book up to page 183 and just had to phone and tell her that’s she is an AMAZING writer. She’d bought the book about a year ago, and when it was seen on the bookshelf by her friends, MONICA and ROGER ASHE, they insisted she read it NOW, saying it is a fantastic book! She says she cannot put it down, but finds herself wanting to go slow because she doesn’t want it to end. She said the setting is so beautiful and real and the characters jump out the pages at you. She said she and her two friends discuss all the episodes and characters, and ROGER said that ‘It gets even better’ to which she replied, ‘I don’t see HOW it can get any better!’ ROGER then said, ‘Read on then you’ll know what I mean.’

MERILYN HOWES told the author that she loved her loved, and can’t wait for the next one!

PIA REDDING told the author she was halfway through the book and couldn’t put it down. She said it is just awesome!

NADINE OLLEY told the author that the book is absolutely gorgeous. Really beautiful!

ROB HILL told the author that something good came out of the heartache of the mountain people…(the Shenandoah Park). He discussed the book at length with the author, and said he found it so interesting, especially the historical aspects, and well-researched.

A lady named LEONIE told the author that the book is brilliant. She said the characters are so strong, and in the end, she even liked (the antagonist) Eli.

KATHY DOBBIN, Pietermaritzburg, said it was absolutely amazing. The characters were so alive, she lived them.

DI SCLANDERS said: A gem of a book. I simply could not put it down. Beautifully written. She loved the story and the characters were brilliantly portrayed. She felt she was right there.

ELIZABETH SOUNES & ANN McGARVEY said they loved it. The description was magnificent and the characters so real.

ANDREA said she was very impressed. She enjoyed it because the characters and setting was very good. She read it in a few days, because she couldn’t put it down.

MILLIE RUSSELL said: Loved it! It was excellent! It was a lovely, lovely story. Very interesting characters. The descriptions of the scenery were magnificent, and I felt as if I was right there in the story.

MICHELLE GRAN said: Loved it! Absolutely amazing. So real. Mary, the main character was so determined. A real eye-opener. Really, really inspiring.

GRESCHEN GREEN said: Absolutely loved it! It was so real. A masterpiece!

ELAINE BECHARD said: Absolutely loved it!

SCHREINER Rosemary, Jim, and Kate: Rosemary emailed: My husband Jim, my daughter Kate and I were at the farmers market in Shongweni about 6 weeks ago. We met you there – where you were promoting your book. My husband bought the book for me. Jim and Kate have both read the book and I am halfway through it. Brenda, we are blown away!! It is an amazing piece of work and Jim’s comment was that it was in the league of James A Mitchener. Wow!!! We can’t wait to read the sequels. What an amazing author you are – the book is riveting and just the research must have taken such a long time. We feel very blessed to have met you.

DEBORAH EDWARDS, told the author: I am ¾ of the way through and really enjoying it. It is too beautiful for words.

SHARON PETZER, told the author: Just a beautiful beautiful story. The characters are so real. I didn’t want it to end.

AUDREY COMINS told the author: It was beautiful!

MARINA THESNER told the author: I have read it twice. Excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

JENNIFER COX told the author: I really enjoyed it. Brilliant writing. Really lovely story. Beautiful ending.