A Distant Whistle

A historical novel by Kay Meredith

What more could any young man want?

In her poignant but often humorous historical novel, A Distant Whistle, author Kay Meredith plumbs the depths of the universal truths and timeless emotions of family passions, struggles, courage, and love. While set in the hills of Appalachia, along the Ohio River during the early 1900s, the breadth of the lessons learned are universal.

Escaping a poverty stricken, volatile home life is Nev’s driving motivation. Can the seductively haunting whistles of the steamboats that ply the Ohio River lure him away with promises of adventure and independence? He dreams of becoming an engineer on one of these magnificent vessels and carving out his own destiny.

Guilt, however, becomes Nev’s frequent travelling companion. By abandoning his family to pursue his own quest, has he sacrificed his younger siblings to suffer the wrath of their mother? Torn between fear for their welfare and love of his new life, his emotional struggles weigh heavily on his heart. Where does his allegiance truly lie?

Like a river itself, Nev’s journey winds through not only his personal conflicts, but the catastrophic events of the early 1900s that will leave no life unscathed; the 1913 Flood which leaves an “inland sea” that decimates the entire infrastructure along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers; WWI that obliterates the dream of security offered by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the Spanish Flu Pandemic that descends bringing a global pestilence killing tens of millions of people.

For the first time in history people cannot escape the ramifications of worldwide events over which they have no control.

Is it possible that amid the chaotic aftermath of the internal and external struggles confronting Nev and his family, they can discover compassion, reconciliation, and forgiveness for one another? In this riveting exploration of personal relationships, we find parallels in our own lives and insights from which we may all learn.

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Kay’s Connection to “A Distant Whistle”

Kay’s connection to “A Distant Whistle” is very close to her heart. This book is based on the early part of her father’s life. Most of the experiences Nev has in pursuit of his dream are actual occurrences from her dad’s years on the river: his love of steamboats, leaving home at fourteen to begin his career, floods, fires, ice flows, boxing, trips to New Orleans, boat races, and many more.

He was the youngest man to be a steamboat engineer on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, achieving the highest scores, at that point in time.

Like Nev, he was flat footed, and unable to serve in the active duty armed forces during WWII. As devastating as that was to him, he served our country in an equally critical way. As a steamboat engineer, he was responsible for shipping the personnel and materiel so desperately needed by the troops overseas.

Kay chose to set the story earlier than her father’s actual years on the river, in order to provide a historical perspective to three of the most important happenings in both American and world history: The Great 1913 Flood: WWI: and the Spanish flu pandemic. These events altered forever how the world, and the people in it, would relate to one another.

From Kay’s point of view, “A Distant Whistle”, is a tribute to her father and a vehicle to share the fascinating history of the early 1900s.

a distant whistle kay meredith

Kay Meredith | Author of Historical Novels