“My Father’s House” has recently been recognized as a finalist in the “New Generation INDIE Book Awards.”
In the year 1910, at age twenty, Karl Artur Johan Gustafsson leaves Sweden to follow his older siblings to America. Renamed “Carl Arthur Gustafson” at Ellis Island, he begins a new life in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut where he falls in love with and marries Jennie Anderson. Together they build their “house,” guiding their family through the rapidly changing events of the 20th century. In this multi-layered, multiple-generational story, their third child takes her readers on a journey through WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, changing technologies, changing roles, and the tumultuous sixties and seventies.
Click here for a list of questions for book club groups to discuss.
Click here for family trees for the Andersons and the Gustafson’s.
Click the REVIEWS tab (above) to read some of the comments coming in for My Father’s House.
Read the reviews from The Bristol Press and from the Sun Sailor!
Excerpt from The Bristol Press:
Mona Gustafson [Affinito]’s book, “My Father’s House,” provides a window into the past, chronicling her Swedish immigrant family’s life in Forestville from 1910 through the 1970s.
Gustafson [Affinito], who was born in 1929, lived in Forestville until she was 27 years old and fondly remembers the experience.
“I feel a lot of gratitude to have grown up in Forestville; I was very fortunate,” Gustafson [Affinito] said. “How many people can say that they spent so much of their life growing up in one home, sharing a backyard with their best friends and walking to school every day? I lived in that home until I got married at 27 and I visited it again with my parents when I became pregnant with my son in 1957. But, while the house is still standing and has an interesting history itself, the title ‘My Father’s House’ is more house in a Biblical sense. It is referring to my father’s family.”
Excerpt from the Sun Sailor:
Mona Gustafson [Affinito], 91, is a resident of the Waters of Excelsior. While some people spent their time bored in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was busy publishing two books.
Gustafson [Affinito] has written books on forgiveness as a psychologist and a book on the fictional life story of the biblical Job’s wife. Since COVID-19 began, she has published “My Father’s House” and “This Sucks! I Want to Live.”
Gustafson [Affinito] felt the urge to write “My Father’s House,” which is the story of her family’s life in the form of a novel. She had spent years researching the book. Her sister was worried that she wouldn’t portray their father well, but according to Gustafson [Affinito], that would be difficult to do because he was a very special man.
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I have read My Father’s House: Remembering my Swedish-American Family which has now found a new home in the library of The Bristol Historical Society. Thank you for that. I found it most interesting. You write so easily and descriptively that one feels they are there witnessing those events.
I’m very familiar with a lot of the names that you have included. Jim Critchley’s sister Celia was my first boss when she hired me as a high school page for the Bristol Public Library and ultimately as a fulltime employee. Mona O’Hara, whom you mention as the inspiration for your given name, was a library Board member for several years.
I remember Paul and Astrid Gustafson and their daughter Janet and the aroma of Astrid’s coffee. I was told how she would put eggshells in the brewing coffee.
Places and businesses that you mention bring back fond memories of how vibrant Bristol was at one time, with a great downtown. You mention the Freshman Building of the high school, which has been home to the Bristol Historical Society now for some twenty years. Your old high school on the Boulevard has been recently renovated and updated for its reopening as a magnet school.
Ironically, back in 2001, I wrote an article about Officer James McNamee (1890-1930) who was killed in the line of duty whom you mentioned as your sister’s friend.
It has been a pleasure revisiting these memories.
Thank you for your contribution,
In many ways a memoir of Bristol, Connecticut, the following was received in a series of emails from Karen Kisarewich Berquist, a Bristol native for whom My Father’s House evoked very personal memories.
“Mona, you have written a remarkable family memoir. Your book brought me back to my childhood and has led to wonderful email exchanges and phone conversations with my aunts who remain in Bristol. I feel fortunate for this opportunity to ask them questions and recall familiar people and places. I even found one of my report cards from Mrs Astrid Gustafson’s class.”
My cousin Holly, who now lives in Florida, felt the same way as reflected in her email message:
“I received the book you sent today! What a great read! I can’t seem to put it down. I just ordered a copy for each of my daughters. It’s a walk through memory lane. Some of the names of early businesses are familiar, along with the streets and neighborhoods. I do remember the Gustafson name in Bristol! A few days ago I met one of our neighbors a few streets over. I saw in the list of condo owners that she is from Bristol. I’ll have to mention this book to her too. It’s a real treat!”
Holly enjoyed the book so much that she sent a pumpkin cheesecake in return.
My Father’s House has been a gift to each of us. Your memoir is much more than one family’s story. Anyone interested in the history of Bristol, the values and social mores of the decades, and the experiences of immigrants and women in a time of great change will find gems in your recollections. Certainly, your book kindled nostalgia; perhaps more importantly, it gave me insights to life in Bristol that I was too young to understand at the time I was a child. And finally, it opened family conversations that I will long treasure.
My Father’s House has been a gift to each of us”
READING ALOUD WITH A FRIEND
I enjoyed reading this book aloud with my friend whose vision is limited by Macular degeneration. It evoked many memories of my own upbringing as I recognized similar personalities in my family, bringing back happy and sad events and circumstances. Doesn’t every family have them!
I appreciated Mona’s on-going descriptions of what was taking place in world events starting with WW !, immigration, the Great Depression (I heard a lot about that from my own grandparents and parents!), re-building the Nation, Pearl Harbor, WW II, The Korean Conflict, crystal sets, radio, air flights, etc During the reading of this book I found myself looking back at so many past memories of my life and being grateful for the wonderful, loving family into which I was born.
I wondered whether the author’s selection of psychology as her life career reflected her upbringing and family’s trials and tribulations? It was so sad and frustrating to see Jennie’s decline even as we witnessed her husband’s sustained adoration and love of his wife during these difficult times.
This was not a particularly uplifting book but an honest and comprehensive description of a loving, ambitious and talented immigrant who conquered the many challenges presented him in order to become the successful, respected and loved man that he was. His love for God, his community and his family is evident.
Congratulations to Mona for publication of this story that has obviously been a “work in progress” for many years. It is a wonderful and complete tale of “My Father’s House.”
As for the author’s style, I enjoyed reading the minute details and highly descriptive passages. Some readers, however, might not appreciate this style.
I have just finished reading “My Father’s House” and wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it! Many old memories came to mind especially regarding my grandfather and grandmother. I too remember Grandpa in his coffin in the formal living room. Dad picked me up to say goodbye and I patted his hand. I was 3 and I still can see in my mind all the flowers, gladioli and the chairs lined up. Also, remembering all your Aunts and their husbands, the Ladies Aid at Bethesda, Sarah E. Reynolds and so much more! You have done an outstanding tribute to your family, and I am glad I was able to help in a small way. Loved your photos too. Uncle Carl and Aunt Jennie were a special couple.
Comments from local readers:
– I thought it was some of your best descriptive prose.
-I could so easily feel, visualize and feel drawn into the scenes and I could picture my own Norwegian grandparents, aunts and uncles in that same place.
-I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters after I’d finished reading the book.
-It felt so familiar to me, and I’m not even Scandinavian.
-The way Mona writes, it’s as if I’m right there.
-I felt like I was in my own home
I SEE THIS AS A BLOCK BUSTER MOVIE
At the end of the book, I thought that if Metro Golden Meyer hooked this, it would be a block buster. The characters are lovingly and distinctly portrayed with all their strengths and foibles, and their development through times of war, depression and into the seventies. I grew fond of Father Carl – born in 1880 and emigrating from Sweden 1910.
For this Norwegian reviewer it was overwhelming to try to remember all the names of the characters – but still I found myself reading in bed at 04 am, wondering about how Jennie and the family would cope with her “sensibilities” – I will not tell the readers how that went. Among the clear descriptions of life in these times,It was such a clear and loving tale of how too much consideration can devastate a persons life. “Let’s not borrow trouble” was the fathers adage, it seems the family adapted it too – as we humans do, with grave consequences.
Mona’s professorate in Psychology and her interventions created a strong and dramatic change in the family – the last chapters were a great eye-opener of what happens when the cat in the sac gets out – and the fresh new air pours in.
4 stars – reflecting the bit overwhelming number of names and relationships.
I feel well fed after reading it.
I found “My Father’s House, by Mona Gustafson to be an honest and, sometimes profound, look at the complexities of family ancestors, and the following generations as they come to America from their native Sweden.
Their story was a catalyst for me in my observation of my family as they immigrated from Ireland, Scotland and Germany holding fast to cultural traditions, faith and a strong value system. How they all emerge as individuals in a new and changing world is quite a reward to the reader from this gifted author.
Judy Gunther December 2020
My Father’s House Is beyond Brilliant, Fantastic. Being that I was born and raised in Bristol and I still live here. Seeing pictures of Forestville Center before I was born is neat; also I travel the very same roads which Mona’s family did. It makes me feel honored to know the history as to what took place back then. I recommend My Father’s House and the highest rating in a book review.