DURAND — A chance encounter on a train between a young woman who pours her heart out about love gone wrong and an elderly woman with a story that might help is the premise of Durand author Elizabeth Wehman’s latest novel, “Just a Train Ride.”
Wehman said the book, her third, is loosely based on her parents’ romance during World War II and their subsequent marriage, even in the face of haunting scars her father suffered in battle.
“The point is her faithfulness: ‘It doesn’t matter how you come home, I’ll be faithful,’” she said Thursday. “We have lost that treasure of commitment.”
Bringing back the “core values of life that have somehow disappeared” is the common purpose of all three of Wehman’s novels — the other two being “Under the Window Sill” and “Promise at Daybreak.”
“My messages are the most important part,” she said. “If people also enjoy the stories, that’s a bonus.”
More and more people seem to be hearing the messages and enjoying the books, judging by Wehman’s growing number of fans. Like other independent authors, she does her own promoting and store placement, hoping the word will spread.
It’s working. She had 100 pre-orders for “Just a Train Ride.” The day after the novel came out on Sept. 1, she sold 70 copies during a craft sale at Holiday Shores. Local readers approach her and thank her for her work, which is now reaching people in other parts of the country.
“I think I’m starting to build an audience, and that’s pretty exciting,” Wehman said. “It’s the complete fulfillment of my dream, to have people know me. I’m shocked and very thankful.”
“Just a Train Ride” was inspired by Wehman coming across the love letters of her parents, the late Fred and Jeanette Habermehl. The letters gave Wehman insight into their relationship, which began about a year before Fred Habermehl marched off to fight in World War II.
Stationed in New Guinea, he had a mental breakdown on the battlefield and ended up in a hospital in Indiana, where doctors resorted to shock treatments to help him with what Wehman believes was post-traumatic stress disorder.
The treatments had long-term negative effects, including temporary infertility. And her father never could forgive himself for having to leave the fighting to others, Wehman said.
Callie, the older woman in “Just a Train Ride,” relates a similar story to the younger woman, Blaine, during the train ride from Chicago to Lapeer. Callie’s health is ailing, and she’s traveling north to see her adult grandson, possibly for the last time.
Will the tale of her struggles in life and love help Blaine? Have their lives merged for a reason? The fact Wehman’s next book will be a sequel focusing on Blaine’s life after the train ride hints the answer is yes.
“Just a Train Ride” and her other titles can be purchased on her website, elizabethwehman.com, in the gift shop at Durand Union Station, at Changes hair salon in Durand and the Shiawassee Arts Center.
A book signing is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Durand Memorial branch of the Shiawassee District Library.
Over the past three weeks, Wehman appeared at the Durand Union Station, Durand Farmers Market and the ArtWalk in Owosso to promote the book.
Wehman, a former newspaper reporter and editor, also shares her expertise with fellow members of the club she recently started, Shiawassee Area Writers. She was asked to speak at the upcoming Breathe Writers Conference in Grand Rapids.
“I’ve been everywhere,” Wehman said. “It’s been busy.”
She’d like to be even busier. Wehman is available to talk to women’s books clubs, church groups and other organizations about her books and the art of writing. For details, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But her primary passion will remain writing novels, she said.
“I can see myself doing this until I can’t do it anymore,” Wehman said. “I just love it.”