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New Book Features Monterey

Monterey and Highland County provide the backdrop for a portion of a newly published book, “A Curious Autobiography”. The book is the work of author H.R. Jakes, and recounts the life of his mother, Elaine Jakes, including the time she spent living and working in Highland.

“The book is an autobiography of my mother, but it’s a fictional account of her life, because I actually wrote most of the autobiography. I used her notes, her notebooks, and conversations with her, while she was in her declining months of her life, to kind of write down her life. Her life was a very strange and interesting life, and that’s why I thought it would be worth reason about. Her life, like everybody’s life, was a journey, and it was filled with significance and thoughtfulness, and I thought it was a story worth telling.

“And part of it involves Monterey, Virginia. At one point, she co-owned a farm there with a person named Louise Rexrode. Louise still owns that farm, it’s called Cross Arrow Farm, and Louise and my mother worked on that farm from the time I was about 12, so that would have been like 1971 or 1972. My mother kept going to the farm for about a decade, maybe a little bit more, and I was in my teens then, and worked on that farm with Louise’s brother Sam, who kind of took care of the farm with Louise and my mom.”

Mr. Jakes talked about other portions of her life story.

“The farm, as I call it in the book, which is Monterey, that is a very important part of her life, where she is sort of getting in touch with nature, and it’s a spiritual journey. And so it starts out with her as a child in Pennsylvania, in a town called Kingston, Pennsylvania. Her father was a coal miner there. Then her time that she spends in Philadelphia, where she lives for a while, and then in suburban Philadelphia. She actually goes as far as Wales in this pursuit of figuring out her identity – she’s of Welsh descent. So there’s some good international moments there, you’re kind of feeling like, “hey, I’m not just in America anymore.”

“It’s largely a funny book – the thing to understand is that, it’s not just sort of a boring story of someone’s life, but it’s actually filled with really hilarious vignettes. Like, for example, she owned a monkey for a while, and I don’t know if you’ve ever had a monkey, but if you have a monkey in your house, you can just imagine what kind of chaos can follow.

“The stories in it are mostly true – I want to say mostly – I wrote the book from her,point of view, so the whole thing is technically fiction, because you can’t write an autobiography if you’re not actually writing it, so since I wrote it, it has to be fiction. But the fiction is holding together in large part – many many true stories, and the whole part about Monterey is quite accurate.”

The book has been out for six weeks, and can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in hardback, paperback and Kindle digital format.

Story By

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Scott Smith

Scott is the News Director for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan, and also is a member of the boards of the Highland-Bath Farm Bureau , Highland Chamber of Commerce and Highland Sheep and Wool Association. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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