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Looking for Lydia; Looking for God: From 2014 to the Civil War, the Journey of Thirteen Women

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Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in Norfolk, a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended, and the story of the mysteries that don't get solved and the questions tha Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in Norfolk, a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended, and the story of the mysteries that don't get solved and the questions that don't get answered. It is the study of the Bible that began in the Lydia H. Roper Home, in Norfolk, Virginia, and it has grown outward from there in the most unexpected ways. It is rooted on every page in the concrete details of the Roper Home and in the lives of the family that built and chartered it. It is, finally, a story about growing older for everyone, everywhere. Looking for Lydia is packed with detail. It sifts through layers of the Bible; the post-Civil War South; the lives of the women at the Lydia Roper Home; the lives of the women in the Roper family; the founding of a southern lumber empire by a carpetbagger from Pennsylvania; and, finally, the search for the elusive Lydia Roper. As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women, in their ninth and tenth decades, as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves.


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Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in Norfolk, a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended, and the story of the mysteries that don't get solved and the questions tha Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in Norfolk, a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended, and the story of the mysteries that don't get solved and the questions that don't get answered. It is the study of the Bible that began in the Lydia H. Roper Home, in Norfolk, Virginia, and it has grown outward from there in the most unexpected ways. It is rooted on every page in the concrete details of the Roper Home and in the lives of the family that built and chartered it. It is, finally, a story about growing older for everyone, everywhere. Looking for Lydia is packed with detail. It sifts through layers of the Bible; the post-Civil War South; the lives of the women at the Lydia Roper Home; the lives of the women in the Roper family; the founding of a southern lumber empire by a carpetbagger from Pennsylvania; and, finally, the search for the elusive Lydia Roper. As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women, in their ninth and tenth decades, as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves.

46 review for Looking for Lydia; Looking for God: From 2014 to the Civil War, the Journey of Thirteen Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiegenstein

    Looking for Lydia, Looking for God is part-memoir, part-religious meditation, part-biography. The story is this. The author, Dean Robertson (despite the unorthodox first name, Dean is female) had occasion to stay for some months at the Lydia Roper Home, a home for elderly women in Norfolk, Virginia, while recovering from a fall. During her time at the home, Robertson led a Bible study group with some of the women who lived there, starting with four and gradually growing to around a dozen. She als Looking for Lydia, Looking for God is part-memoir, part-religious meditation, part-biography. The story is this. The author, Dean Robertson (despite the unorthodox first name, Dean is female) had occasion to stay for some months at the Lydia Roper Home, a home for elderly women in Norfolk, Virginia, while recovering from a fall. During her time at the home, Robertson led a Bible study group with some of the women who lived there, starting with four and gradually growing to around a dozen. She also became curious about Lydia Hand Bowen Roper, the home’s namesake and inspiration. Some might say “curious about” is an inadequate phrase, preferring “obsessed with.” In Looking for Lydia, Looking for God, Robertson draws together three threads: her personal journey from ailment to recovery, from withdrawn-ness to engagement; the stories of her Bible study group, the women who made it up and their encounters with Biblical texts; and the teasing-out of the sparse details of the life of Lydia Roper, whose husband, a wealthy lumberman, endowed the home shortly before his death in 1921. The result is an odd, charming, occasionally frustrating, immensely enjoyable book. The women of the Bible Study group are a varied group, some inquisitive, some uncommunicative. Robertson portrays them vividly. For a sort-of memoir, the book is less forthcoming about Robertson herself. We learn that she is a retired academic who grew up in north Georgia, and not a whole lot else. This reticence is unusual for a memoir, and I found myself wishing for more internal revelation. Lydia Roper also remains stubbornly inaccessible to Robertson’s efforts at inquiry; she left little written record, and her family’s memories are vague. Robertson describes her frustration at her efforts to uncover more about the elusive Lydia: At this point, the result is uncertainty, and all I can find is that sometime in 1920 or 1921, Captain John Roper either “built,” “established,” “donated,” or “founded” the Lydia Roper Home. The Home either was, or was not, intended as a haven for Confederate widows. Two sources say yes; a local historian who grew up in the area says, “The Confederate widows twist likely came about as a result of rationalizing having a Damn Yankee establish a very useful and needed charitable home in an extremely Confederate area. Even one hundred years after The War, partisan feelings about Northerners were still quite strong.” A family member says the original charter more likely read something like, “ … for impoverished white women in the city of Norfolk.” Well. Anybody who’s engaged in research into an obscure historical figure or event can relate to that “Well.” What holds these three threads together? To me, it’s the searching and the losing. The women of the Bible study group work their way through Old Testament and New, responding to the stories in conventional and unconventional ways, searching for meaning, consolation, and explanations, all the while growing older and more frail. They lose their faculties, their health. Dean Robertson keeps looking for Lydia, even as Lydia continually recedes on the horizon. Memories fail; stories prove untrustworthy; yet the effort rewards itself. The writing is literary and highly crafted, but not overly so; the characters of the women shine through. The book contains a lot of discussion of the various characters in the Bible, particularly women. I’m just about the least qualified person in the country to talk about that element of the book; Bible study has never interested me. So I’ll leave it to others to judge the originality and soundness of the exegesis. I’m more interested in the human stories of the elderly women who gather in the second floor parlor of the Lydia Roper Home. And these stories – warm, touching, and often sad – are well worth the reading. Looking for Lydia, Looking for God is a lovely book, especially for the spiritually-minded.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark Slauter

    For Robertson, Lydia is the last piece of her quilt. Who is this society matriarch who felt the need to establish a home for women? What was her life like? What is her story? With the explosion of genealogy and online access, one expects to find information without much effort. However, Lydia is elusive, even to her own family. Ultimately, the reader will come to know these women, be brought into their inner circle, and struggle with Robertson to find Lydia. In Looking for Lydia; Looking for God, For Robertson, Lydia is the last piece of her quilt. Who is this society matriarch who felt the need to establish a home for women? What was her life like? What is her story? With the explosion of genealogy and online access, one expects to find information without much effort. However, Lydia is elusive, even to her own family. Ultimately, the reader will come to know these women, be brought into their inner circle, and struggle with Robertson to find Lydia. In Looking for Lydia; Looking for God, you will find a story worth telling and written well. It will engage you fully. Truth be told, thinking I might assist Robertson’s inquisitiveness I spent about forty minutes online searching for Lydia after finishing the book. It was late so I stopped. As I now sit here writing this review, I feel the pull of Lydia.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Fahey

    Looking for Lydia; Looking for God by Dean Robertson is a well written story of the author's return to the Lydia Roper House in Norfolk Virginia. She had previously been there after a fall and become intrigued about the life of Lydia Roper, the wife of a wealthy man who had endowed the home before his death in 1921. This is a gentle narrative, interweaving Dean's search for the details of Lydia's life as she takes on the obligation of leading a Bible study group for a small group of very elderly Looking for Lydia; Looking for God by Dean Robertson is a well written story of the author's return to the Lydia Roper House in Norfolk Virginia. She had previously been there after a fall and become intrigued about the life of Lydia Roper, the wife of a wealthy man who had endowed the home before his death in 1921. This is a gentle narrative, interweaving Dean's search for the details of Lydia's life as she takes on the obligation of leading a Bible study group for a small group of very elderly ladies resident there, poor and afflicted with the problems of ageing, yet eager to talk their own stories with Dean as she draws on her experience as a retired teacher to discuss women written about in the Bible. All the time Dean is looking for information about the life of Lydia, frustrating at times, the passage of years leaving only fragments and references for Dean to stitch together. It is an oddly compelling story that remained on my mind for many days after. It's one of the few books that I've put up on my bookshelf that I know I will read again after a season has passed. For there is a time and a reason to read such a book. It evokes the atmosphere of a Southern way of life, a barely remembered gentility, a reminder of the Gospels of Jesus that can bring renewal for those who will take the time to enter Dean Robertson's world. It's a remarkable book, a good book

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie Andraski

    When Dean Robertson was injured, she couldn’t live on her own, so she had to take up residence at the Lydia Roper Home in Norfolk, Virginia. This is not a fate anyone relishes. Robertson decided to leave her room and teach a Bible study since she had taught Bible as Literature for years. She also found herself wondering who Lydia Roper was. What was her story? Looking for Lydia, Looking for God tells how Robertson searched for both. We follow along on her research and find insights about the B When Dean Robertson was injured, she couldn’t live on her own, so she had to take up residence at the Lydia Roper Home in Norfolk, Virginia. This is not a fate anyone relishes. Robertson decided to leave her room and teach a Bible study since she had taught Bible as Literature for years. She also found herself wondering who Lydia Roper was. What was her story? Looking for Lydia, Looking for God tells how Robertson searched for both. We follow along on her research and find insights about the Bible and God. We see how the other residents respond to the text and each other with fresh eyes. This is a good book to relax with as you wind down from a busy day. This memoir reassured me with stories about how rich and fulfilling life can be in a rehabilitation center, and how it is possible to find community in this most unexpected place. Looking for Lydia, Looking for God is a good, insightful read. It’s also beautiful to hold in one’s hand, with pictures illustrating who Lydia Roper and her family.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pendred Noyce

    This is a meditative memoir of the weekly discussion course on the Bible as literature the author taught in the Lydia Roper home for retired women, beginning when she herself was a resident there for 8 months in 2012. The author gives us a meandering guide to the group's journey among the women of the Old Testament and then the Gospels, intertwined with observations of the home's elderly residents and researches into the Civil War widow who founded the home. The book offers lots of questions and This is a meditative memoir of the weekly discussion course on the Bible as literature the author taught in the Lydia Roper home for retired women, beginning when she herself was a resident there for 8 months in 2012. The author gives us a meandering guide to the group's journey among the women of the Old Testament and then the Gospels, intertwined with observations of the home's elderly residents and researches into the Civil War widow who founded the home. The book offers lots of questions and few answers, but I enjoyed the conversations about the characters and meanings of Bible stories (not something I usually read) and the author's obvious affection and respect for her pupils. The book is sometimes repetitive and sometimes wandering in the way you might wander, musing, through a garden.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Hoffman

    This story resonates with me because of the bible study factor, dealing with elderly, and genealogy history research. This is a different kind of reading because there are aspects of the bible study, mixed with the lives of people in the study, mystery of finding out something of the past Lydia Roper for whom the group home was named, and retired teachers personal journey. Dean Robertson is a retired teacher whose life was turned upside down by the stroke. Through stories, I we see a view of wom This story resonates with me because of the bible study factor, dealing with elderly, and genealogy history research. This is a different kind of reading because there are aspects of the bible study, mixed with the lives of people in the study, mystery of finding out something of the past Lydia Roper for whom the group home was named, and retired teachers personal journey. Dean Robertson is a retired teacher whose life was turned upside down by the stroke. Through stories, I we see a view of women continuing to live under adversity of old age, not remembering their past, but still moving forward.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Ashton

    Robertson has written a multi-layer story, which on all levels is an old=fashioned quest. On one level, Robertson seeks the story behind Lydia Roper, who founded a home for elderly women without means. When she finds herself undergoing rehabilitation in the house, she become enchanted with the elderly women, most of whom are north of 85, and leads Bible study classes. Through these classes, Robertson uncovers the personal stories of these women and captures them in this book. Bible study weighs h Robertson has written a multi-layer story, which on all levels is an old=fashioned quest. On one level, Robertson seeks the story behind Lydia Roper, who founded a home for elderly women without means. When she finds herself undergoing rehabilitation in the house, she become enchanted with the elderly women, most of whom are north of 85, and leads Bible study classes. Through these classes, Robertson uncovers the personal stories of these women and captures them in this book. Bible study weighs heavily in the narrative, because that is trigger for personal revelations. This is a good read, made so through the wonderful strength and perseverance of Robertson herself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Dorsey

    Robertson hosts an excursion through late 19th to early 20th century Virginia history when women lived in the shadows of their husbands and did not have a voice. At the same time, familiar Bible stories are revisited and explored afresh through the eyes and voices of thirteen female septuagenarians and octogenarians who are living in the 21st century. “Looking for Lydia: Looking for God” is a remarkable experience of discovery, friendship, and insight. The women are powerful forces with amazing Robertson hosts an excursion through late 19th to early 20th century Virginia history when women lived in the shadows of their husbands and did not have a voice. At the same time, familiar Bible stories are revisited and explored afresh through the eyes and voices of thirteen female septuagenarians and octogenarians who are living in the 21st century. “Looking for Lydia: Looking for God” is a remarkable experience of discovery, friendship, and insight. The women are powerful forces with amazing stories that intertwine at the Lydia Roper home. It is a fantastic adventure!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    A beautifully written memoir that is so much more. I love the relationships between the women and fully enjoyed their stories as well as the bible study aspect of their friendships. What makes it compelling to me is the history of the house as well as the women. It goes right along with many people today trying to connect with family, history, and others at a most basic level. This gives this book a universal appeal. A good read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Varn

    Loved the Dean Robertson's honest and thought provoking questions that we can all apply to our on journey in finding ourselves. To never stop looking. Loved the Dean Robertson's honest and thought provoking questions that we can all apply to our on journey in finding ourselves. To never stop looking.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Reynolds

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Davis

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary Arno

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dwbottoni

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Saravia

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Lerman

  18. 4 out of 5

    McPhaul M.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  20. 4 out of 5

    Todd Rumsey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Obrien

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Schwarzer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Bradley

  25. 5 out of 5

    Felina

  26. 4 out of 5

    Coleen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  29. 4 out of 5

    Toni Mcintire

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Ranf

  31. 4 out of 5

    Ted

  32. 4 out of 5

    Anne Marie

  33. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

  34. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  35. 5 out of 5

    Dmitri

  36. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

  37. 5 out of 5

    Joy Yerkie

  38. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  39. 4 out of 5

    Sweetpea

  40. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

  41. 4 out of 5

    Leland Lee

  42. 4 out of 5

    Carla

  43. 4 out of 5

    Debbi DuBose

  44. 4 out of 5

    Stacia Chappell

  45. 4 out of 5

    Megann Zeigler

  46. 4 out of 5

    Teressa

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