The Extended Hand

Non-Fiction - Memoir
514 Pages
Reviewed on 05/10/2019
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Author Biography

Marti Eicholz was born and reared in Indiana. She has graduate degrees in Education and Education Counseling. She was an Elementary School Teacher, Supervisor for Curriculum Development, Administrator of a Multi-Ethnic Middle School, and a University Instructor.
Now as a retired educator, she spends her time, reading, listening to music, playing bridge online, researching human behavior, and writing stories.
She says, "My writing is for me and for others like me whho want to find a newer, better, gentler version of who we can be."

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

The Extended Hand by Marti Eicholz follows a woman’s quest for meaning and happiness. In this memoir, the daughter of a preacher — a man with a great sense of control over his family — tells her story and shows readers the constraints of love, her inability to nurture herself, because, like most of us, she yearned for acceptance. In retrospect, she takes readers on a journey that has powerful psychological implications, exploring how our need to please others and to gain approval can lead to our not being able to live a life of our own. In this narrative, she shares her fears, her struggles, and the epiphany that turned her life around. From declaring bankruptcy to finding inner freedom, Marti Eicholz explores her humanity and, in her story, she unveils the mistakes that stop most people from allowing the wellsprings of life to flow from the center of their being.

This is a moving memoir that follows an interesting journey to some of the most meaningful lessons in life. The author explores how our faith can become a limitation to exploring who we truly are and reaching deep within ourselves to claim our freedom. There are significant moments in this memoir and I enjoyed the connection the author has with Robert, the man she’s come to love and who helps her discover the beauty of love. Self-discovery, the freedom to love and be loved, family and friendship, and the quest for happiness are among the themes that are written into this story. What I loved most about The Extended Hand is the author's ability to take a retrospective look at her life and identify lessons and universal truths that compel readers to look at their choices in life and respond to the question: Am I living my life or am I living a life designed for someone else? The writing is atmospheric and the relationships are beautifully explored. A story that is both an eye-opener and a revelation.

Ray Simmons

I’m glad I had the chance to read this “contemplative memoir”. I, of course, was aware of the Great Depression as a difficult period in America and around the world, one that ultimately led to World War II. However, nothing ever made it as clear to me what life was like during that time as reading The Extended Hand by Marti Eicholz. The Extended Hand took the Great Depression out of the history books, newspaper articles, and movies. It emphasizes the effect of that economic crisis on two specific American families and their neighborhoods, with an emphasis on church life. It never hit me how important the church was to Americans of this period, though I had read about Father Divine and other church leaders and movements that grew popular at this time. My grandparents and parents were alive during the Depression, but they never really talked about it much. I think it was just too painful. So, I thank Marti Eicholz for taking the time to bring this period to life for others.

I liked the writing style of The Extended Hand more than anything else. The characters were great. The plot is good. The setting is vividly depicted. But the simple, straightforward writing brings it all home, ties it all together. Marti enables us to experience that epic moment of American history as if we are living it ourselves. We feel the importance of church and community. We experience the panic of a desperate nation and we find comfort in God and faith. I think telling the story from the point of view of a preacher’s daughter is brilliant. The Extended Hand is an achievement on many levels.

Ruffina Oserio

The Extended Hand by Marti Eicholz is a gripping memoir that explores the unusual life of the author and her journey in search of herself and true love. Daughter of a pastor, Marti grew up in a family that was controlling, and she went for excellence in everything she did. However, hearing the word “no” for the first time as a child who felt as free as the wind was an experience, insignificant as it was, that later played a great role in her unconscious mind. In this memoir, the author shares her story and her inability to learn to love herself. She shares that after her first marriage ended, a marriage that lasted for ten years, she was still a virgin. She engaged in an internet business and at a time when it was still rare. But how did she move out of her emotional black hole to find self-love and to genuinely connect with herself? That is the question this book answers.

The Extended Hand is a memoir that reads, at times, like fiction. Lyrical in style and filled with insight, it is written in a strong and compassionate voice. I enjoyed the way the author describes their family dynamics, her upbringing, and how she became the woman she once was, a person so hard on herself that she invested a lot of energy in what didn’t really build her up. But the epiphany is mind-blowing and filled with lessons for readers. This is a book with a very strong and relevant message and the author captures important episodes of her life in prose that is beautiful. Reading this book is like experiencing the different seasons of the author’s life and it is interesting how she allows nature to reflect her moods and thoughts. This is a well-crafted and engaging memoir, filled with wonderful lessons for readers.

Jamie Michele

The Extended Hand by Marti Eicholz is an autobiographical memoir that goes into great detail and depth regarding the extraordinary life of the author, from birth through to adulthood. Eicholz, born Martha Ruth to her mother Martha and her father James, was raised in the spirit of a fundamentalist Christian Holiness Movement and under the cloak of James' ministry at the Pilgrim Holiness Church. Against a backdrop that begins with the Great Depression and World War II, Martha Ruth becomes the product of a strict, unbending father and an emotionally distant mother. This carries her through to adulthood and a disastrous first marriage of her own where, when freed, she discovers her own set of wings and determines to take flight.

I'm always nervous when I review a memoir because they have a tendency to be tricky. It often feels like judgment being passed on a person's life and their experiences, as opposed to the literary merits of the book itself. Thankfully, Marti Eicholz makes this easy with The Extended Hand. This is a wonderfully written memoir that reads somewhat like literary fiction. Her childhood is extraordinary, and despite being constantly beaten and battered by a restrictive system [“This organization encouraged me to imitate, to follow, and to conform. It was creating a group of non-thinking followers.”], Martha Ruth holds her own. This is an engrossing and inspirational story that is better than fiction, and I'm delighted to have been given a peek into the life of an author who is doing us all a favor by sharing it.

Asher Syed

Marti Eicholz has certainly lived a life worthy of its own book and her memoir, The Extended Hand, is a well-written representation of her experiences. The author was born Martha Ruth to her parents Martha and James while the young couple was on the road working as evangelicals for the Holiness Movement and, eventually, for their own parish. As the daughter of an evangelical fundamentalist Christian preacher, Martha's upbringing was not easy and in striving for the approval of her parents, she often reached for perfection. She then discusses her life as a married woman, mistakes that were made and problems that occurred as a culmination of life experiences, and finally, the coming together of the life she deserves.

The Extended Hand is a lovely memoir and Marti Eicholz has done a beautiful job in writing it. It's interesting that despite all of the difficulties, heartache, and turmoil, the narrative (which is in the first person) is still given with strength and conviction. It is this voice that weaves hope throughout the book even when the stories become heavy and difficult. Aside from just being a memoir, it is also a look back at a different era and an upbringing that is not easy to imagine. I applaud the author for the life she has lived and all that she has overcome and extend my sincerest thanks to her for giving her personal, private story to the world. I recommend this book to readers of autobiographies, and those who enjoy the genres of social and religious non-fiction.