As the holiday season draws near, the focus turns to the importance of family and community. And that’s just what author, veteran and Bryan County native Carletha M. Oliver does as she uses her childhood and family memories as the historical basis to her soon-to-be-released novel, “Exceptional.”
“This book is an intimate look at my family, my brother’s life, but it is really about the lessons we were taught,” Oliver said, noting the importance of family and community. “We were taught to embrace family and community, we couldn’t have gotten through those days without both.”
The underlying story of her brother’s unexpected death — an accident she describes in detail in the book — serves as the basis of the novel, but it is full of personal anecdotes and memories celebrating family and the power of community.
With an aging mother and her family spreading out across the United States, Oliver, who now lives in Maryland, took action to record and memorialize the stories and experiences of her parents, siblings and other family members.
“This book has been in the making for the past 18 years,” she said.
But it was only in 2012 that she began to interview her family and gather the stories that serve as the basis for her novel.
“I wanted to write about my brother’s death and my family’s experience in this community but knew there would be areas that I needed to fill in, needed to expand upon for the sake of the story. So I chose to write a family novel instead of an auto-biography,” Oliver said.
The stories her family passed along were vibrant and many focused on the powerful community here in Bryan County.
“I didn’t know how the community rallied with my family in the face of tragedy,” she said. “They came when the accident first happened and kept coming even past his death. The medical bills were so high, but the community generously contributed and paid them all of.”
The story shares the permanence of community and serves as a reminder of how short life can be. It connects in many areas, linking the importance of family, the power of faith and the relationship between a mother and child, a father and child and between siblings.
“Bryan County is the place of my childhood, the place of my family,” she said.
Oliver fondly remembers growing up in Bryan County and the powerful mark it left on her family. Even though it has since grown and neighbors have moved to other areas in the region, she still thinks of it as the place of her family, her church, the roots of her childhood.
“It is the place I will always think of when I think of home, the people of Georgia, and Bryan County especially, know no strangers. Every time I leave, I once again start to look forward to the day I can return.”
Her favorite part of this community is “the community itself,” she said. The people that rallied around her immediate family included her church, neighbors and friends that quickly became just as much part of her family as the relatives themselves.
Her memories of her childhood are a powerful reminder of the love and support her family received during an unforgettable time.
Oliver’s book is currently available on Amazon for download for Kindle and eBook and is available to order via her website, www.refreshingenterprise.com, and Amazon for pre-order. Books will be available Dec. 1.