THE PUZZLE PEOPLE REVIEWS
An Excellent Read
The Berlin Wall forms an almost literal backdrop to The Puzzle People. The story follows the lives of a handful of people whose lives have been ripped apart, sometimes brutally, by the totalitarian East German government, and the lure of freedom only yards away on the other side of the wall. And even reaching the West is no guarantee that they can forever escape the ruthless Stasi, or the demons of their own past. The story follows the “puzzle people” of present day Germany as they work to meticulously piece together shredded East German government documents to unravel evidence of past crimes. As they do, the reconstructed documents reveal the story of the real “puzzle people” from the Cold War past.
The story has many elements of a Cold War thriller. There are spies, soldiers, government agents, and more than one shoot-out. But ultimately this book is about finding peace with an often very painful past. The characters each must cope with their own scars, some successfully, others not so much. And even the collapse almost over night of East Germany does not mean that everything will just go back to “normal.”
According to the notes in the book, the author, Doug Peterson, spent a great deal of time researching the story and visiting the actual locations in Germany. The research is well-used in the story, with many of the incidents being inspired by actual events. Peterson vividly captures the oppressive, gray life on the East side of the wall. He makes the reader dread the Stasi and their ruthless methods. Peterson also devotes a lot of attention to the vital but often over-looked role of the Church in the collapse of East Germany, and the role of spirituality in the face of hopeless oppression. Overall, an excellent read. I can’t wait for Peterson’s next book!
“Chuckpayne,”Â Amazon Review
This is one of the most well researched, superbly written books I’ve read in a while! I LOVED IT! Doug writes with such dynamic imagery, depth of overlapping plot lines, historical accuracy, and intrigue that it is hard to put one of your books down. Thank you for being such an excellent historical scribe, Doug! I learned a great deal and look forward to your next book – hurry!
Jenny L. Cote, Author of the Max and Liz, and Epic Order of the Seven series
A Memorable Tale
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what I’d be getting into with “The Puzzle People,” and there were all kinds of question marks circling my head. But I sure did love it!
When The Berlin Wall came down, the year was 1989, and if you were around back then, you remembered it. Didn’t you? Now honestly, being on 13 back then? It really didn’t mean a whole lot to me, but watching the news, I could tell it meant a lot to some people.Â It really meant a lot to the East German secret police, the Stasi, because they ripped things up. They didn’t want people to know what had been going on. And by tearing things apart, destroying evidence, people aren’t going to know what’s up. Right? Think again.
Annie O’Shea loves jigsaw puzzles. She loves them to the point where she is a Puzzle Person. And she puts documents back together that were supposed to be shredded. Before everybody knows it, Annie comes up with something, and she doesn’t know who to trust. Things are corrupt, and she’s looking for answers. Finding those answers might be dangerous, especially in the wrong company.
Through the puzzle pieces Doug Peterson put together, it was quite entertaining, and will always be a memorable tale!
Wolfe Moffat, Amazon Review
THE DISAPPEARING MAN REVIEWS
Fast-Paced and Eye-Opening
I’m a fan of historical fiction, particularly when it’s based on true stories. I also have an interest in the struggles against racism, past and present. As a child I was impacted by the book, Black Like Me, and I love the gritty reality in the poems of Langston Hughes. With this in mind, I picked up The Disappearing Man, although with some hesitation. Could the author, a man connected to the VeggieTales, pull off a credible and gripping full-length novel, one set over 160 years ago and involving no animated characters?
The answer: Absolutely! Doug Peterson takes us into the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, who makes a daring escape attempt by allowing himself to be shipped north in a wooden box. Henry was an amateur magician, and with the help of a few others, he gave himself a chance to â€œdisappear.â€ This daring feat is mentioned in history books and archived diaries, but few Americans are aware of the tale. Peterson rights that wrong. Alternating chapters between the 1849 escape attempt and the earlier years of Henry Brown’s enslavement, the book picks up speed. I got hooked on the storyline in the pastâ€”the abuses, the romance, the friendships–only to find myself hooked again on the harrowing portions dealing with Henry’s imprisonment in the box. Henry’s foes are set on finding him before he reaches freedom, and each successive chapter, like a sprinter’s pounding feet, propelled the plot toward its climax.
I read the book in three sittings, and when I was done I went online to check out some of the history of this fascinating man and the somewhat different slave-system in urban Virginia. I also enjoyed the book’s inclusion of various Negro-spirituals from that time-period. Overall, it is more than just fast-paced entertainment; it is an eye-opening and educational reminder of the importance of grace, acceptance, and equality. Even as the lives of many slaves blew away like windswept leaves, those leaves spread seeds and life that continue on into today.
Eric Wilson, New York Times Bestselling Author, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer
Would Make a Terrific Movie!
What a wonderfully inspiring story! And I love that it was based on a true story. The way the novel is written, I could see the scenes playing as if I was watching a film. It would make a terrific movie! This book is full of great historical details, and has moments that will choke you up, and others that will make you laugh out loud. One of the most unique and fascinating novels I’ve read in a long time!
Deborah Raney, Novelist
Compelling and Inspiring
Doug Peterson has rescued a compelling tale from the dusty attic of American history and brought it to the contemporary library of stories that warrant attention now. Based on the true story of Virginia slave Henry “Box” Brown, this riveting and inspiring historical novel brings to life both the challenges inherent in a system that allows one man the power of life and death over others based solely on skin color and the capability of those so exploited to carve out meaningful and rewarding lives for themselves and their loved ones.
Peterson’s depiction of the physical and psychological difficulties faced by slaves rings all too disturbingly true, but his portrayal of the determination of Brown to draw on his faith and creativity to overcome these obstacles leads to a conclusion that lifts the spirit. This is a story that blends the enduring power of romantic, committed love with a fundamental devotion to freedom and opportunity and presents it in a historical context that accurately depicts the challenges of slave existence.
From the perspective of a historian with an interest in faith-based social justice, as well as an unrepentant romantic with a love for inspiring stories of dedication and commitment, I heartily recommend this book!
Dr. William Sutton, University Laboratory High School, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rich in Details
I’m not a huge historical novel reader but based on a friend’s recommendation read this book. Wow! Wasn’t sure after I read about the author but it was extremely well done. Easy to read and rich in details. Never really knew about the city lives of slaves being that different from the plantation life. How confusing it would be to have your best friend to be a free black while you were a slave. I love the way Mr. Peterson went past the “box” story to really bring this man/family alive for me. Kudos Mr. Peterson and to Karwyn for making the recommendation!
Ted, Amazon Review
Recommended for Teachers
Doug Peterson’s The Disappearing Man is a wonderful addition to the historical fiction literary genre. There is just enough history to be vastly educational. There is just enough creativity to entertainingly fill in the blanks. There is more than enough of both to provide a good read. Teachers: This would be a beneficial addition to a school curriculum.
Dave Trouten, Division Chair, Kingswood University
An Excellent Read
I was very interested in seeing how Mr. Peterson expanded this story and how he envisioned Henry’s life. He has done an excellent job of portraying slave life during the day’s of the Underground Railroad…The story of Henry’s journey by box to Philadelphia contains fact and fiction both, but it makes very good reading. I could feel Henry’s pain. This is an excellent read and a very good account of how Henry managed to escape by mail. Visit your local bookstore and pick up a copy. I know you’ll keep reading until you’ve finished it. It’s well written.
Jo Ann Hakola, The Book Faerie, Las Cruces, NM
The Book Takes Me There
I remember my favorite English professor at college saying, “Don’t tell me. Take me there.” And that is what Doug seems easily able to do. What a writer! He can put it to words. I am so grateful to have his book in my hands.”
Janet Hauser, Flight Attendant
A Page Turner
We talk to a number of authors on the program and some of the books I skim through to get an idea of the book before I talk to the author. But this one I started to look at the first page and it turned into a page turner…It’s a fascinating tale. It’s more than just a story about Box Brown and his escape, but it gives you such an inside look at life in the pre-Civil-War South. I don’t have the influence that Oprah has with her book list, but Iâ€™ll say I recommend it highly. It’s one of the best reads I’ve had in quite some time.
Alan Jarand, RFD Radio Network
Artfully, Compassionately Told
It is a story artfully and compassionately told, revealing the harsh realities of slavery as well as the courage of those who chose to risk everything for freedom.
Patty Long, Chairwoman, One Book, One Community committee, Canton, Ohio
A Great Work About an Amazing Man
Loving novels, I can’t say that non-fiction is my first choice. That is, unless it is a good story, and then the story had better be written well. I had my suspicions about The Disappearing Man, by Doug Peterson. Do you dare take a VeggieTales man who’s a Larry-Boy expert seriously? Let’s just put it this way…like God told Henry Brown, “Go and get a box, and put yourself in it.” Consider this book YOUR box as you see through the eyes of friends who cared more than simply about living life.
In the time of the Underground Railroad, slavery could be brutal. Henry Brown was one of those slaves, and he’d felt the crack of a whip a time or two. But when it came down to it, he wanted to be with his family. And to be with his family, he went to extremes with the help of friends. He allowed himself to be put in a box and mailed from Richmond to Philadelphia. And being a man who loved certain tricks, this could also be considered the ultimate disappearing act! When all was said and done, Henry Brown would no longer be a slave.
This really did read like a great novel. It was really written well, and it wasn’t over or under done in any way! That’s what I find amazing. Some authors get the experience of writing non-fiction, and ruin it for the reader by running with it for way too long. That isn’t the case here. The case here is great work told about an amazing man in Henry Brown. READ IT!!!
Wolfe Moffat, Amazon Review
I Couldn’t Put it Down
The story is an eyeopener of how hard it was to be a slave in America many years ago. It tells us the life of Henry Brown, who always thought the best of people. The Author captured the heart of the 1800s and this particular history. It was very well done.
The book is a page turner and I just couldn’t put it down until I was finished with it.
Angel Help, Amazon Review
Keep Writing More
Wow! This book is well written and a history in itself. I think the author did an excellent job getting his point across and telling a story that keeps the reader interested all way in the wee morinings of the hour. I think Mr. Peterson should keep writing more on this genre. Mr. Peterson is the author to look out for when it comes to historical fiction. If this author writes more on this genre and keep at this pace, he’s moving on my best author’s list. Outstanding job!
“Token,”Â Amazon Review
Many of us with children may know Doug Peterson’s work, though perhaps not by name. He is the author of many books and a best selling video in the VeggieTales series. While my daughter has been a fan of his work for a few years now, I recently became a fan with his novel The Disappearing Man.
Henry Brown was born into slavery. In 1849, after his wife and children are sold away from him, Henry decides to mail himself to Philadelphia, making him a free man. The Disappearing Man tells of his harrowing ordeal nailed in a wooden box on his train ride to freedom in the North, and the people, both slave and free that helped make it happen.
Based on a true story, the novel goes back and forth by chapter, giving Henry’s life story, as well as the story of his travel as cargo on a train to the North, and freedom. The trip was both physically and mentally challenging, but Henry is determined to be free and endures. When it is discovered he has escaped, the hunt is led by the son of his former master, who was his friend when they were children.
Once in Philadelphia and a free man, Henry becomes known as ‘Box’ due to his trip. Separated from his wife and children for over a year, they are eventually reunited after abolitionists buy them from their owners, when he meets his fourth child for the first time.
At just under 300 pages, this novel doesn’t take long to read but the story will stay with you a long time. Its well written, easy to read, the characters are well developed, and dialogue flows well. There are some twists and turns to the story, and I think the book will appeal to everyone, not just fans of historical nonfiction.