“Astrologer to the Stars”
I came across this book at Book Club Reading List, and was immediately drawn to it because of the story behind the story. The author, Clint Adams, remembers that as a child
my great-aunt Pearl told me with pride, “Clinton Dean, you’re a direct descendant of John and John Quincy Adams.” Not knowing how to react to this info, nor to the sprawling family tree placed before me, I asked, “Can I eat my custard now?”
He also remembers recounting this connection to a woman he had only just met in a college acting class and being told
“No kidding. Then you must also be related to Evangeline Adams.” Busy adjusting my too-short and skimpy toga, I uttered back, “Who’s that?”
At some point he clearly found out who that was because later in life, while considering what to write about in his next novel, he recalled an idea that had been bouncing around in the back of his mind for a long time – the story of Evangeline Adams, his intriguing relation.
During the long drawn out process of writing this fictionalized version of Evangeline’s life, Clint Adams discovered that he’s not related to her (or to any of that Adams clan), but we are left with a great novel about a truly inspiring woman.
Evangeline Adams was a noted late 19th early 20th century astrologer who came to fame in New York city due to her celebrity clients, her personal wealth and great success as a businesswoman – one of the first of her kind, her victory in court after being sued for practicing fortune telling, her authorship of a well known book on astrology, and her acclaimed success at predicting the rise and fall of the stock market (though historians are skeptical of this, pointing out that her predictions were vague and her successes were publicized more than her failures).
Whoever she was in history, in the book Evangeline is charming, refined, determined, and devoted to her craft.
The reader meets a number of noted historical figures in this novel.
Among these figures are: Evangeline’s celebrity clients, whose ranks include J.P. Morgan, Charles M. Schwab, King Edward VII, H.G. Wells, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and Rudolph Valentino
And while you read it’s easy to become a believer because despite what the historians may think, the Evangeline of the novel is unerring. She predicts matters of love, business, temperament, health, and even death with unnerving accuracy for herself and her clients. With just the date, year, time and place of someone’s birth Evangeline can see into their past and future like she was reading from a biography. And she believes in her own predictions with a force that is astonishing. Early in the novel she casts the date of her death, November 10th 1932, and lives by that prediction, working to accomplish everything left to do, as she counts down to that date.
She also stumbles upon glimpses of historic events of her time, making predictions which chillingly foreshadow the Windsor Hotel Fire in New York of 1899, the crash of the Titanic in 1912 and the Stock Market Crash of 1929. She can’t always see the details of these events like she was reading a newspaper headline, but that actually makes her predictions all the more chilling.
Even more interesting than her career, are the personal relationships the novel explores. Evangeline’s two closest friends and companions in the novel are her two secretaries. The women couldn’t be more different from one another and it’s great to see Evangeline, cast in relief against each of them.
She also has celebrity friends to go with her somewhat glamorous life. Her first true celebrity client is J. Pierpont Morgan. She meets him, to much mystery and fanfare, and he immediately comes alive as the all-powerful Wall Street tycoon. They are introduced at a point in her life before evangeline has any personal wealth or fame. She is new to New York and struggling financially and both J.P. Morgan’s presence and his office are somewhat intimidating, but Evangeline keeps her composure and is blown over by the amount of money she walks away with. J.P., as she later calls him, changes her life personally and professionally. He remains a client for many years, they become personal friends, and they each provide the other with investment advice, increasing both’s net worth exponentially.
She meets Emma Sheridan Fry, an actress and playwright who later goes on to become an influential suffragette and drama educator, and the two form a friendship that turns into a lifelong love affair. This is something Evangeline cast in both their charts, but it butts up against the morals of the times and their own insecurities and takes many years to realize. The reader will fall in love with their romance, get caught up by how fraught it is, despair when it seems doomed to fail, and be happy for them when they find happiness.
I highly recommend this book! Overall I enjoyed the plot, the characters, the historical tidbits I learned, and the feeling of being transported back in time. I give it five starts.
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