The Saga of Helen and Montgomery Chumbley

by Gail Chumbley

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Book Reviews

http://www.amazon.com/River-January-Gail-Chumbley-ebook/dp/B00N1ZLWZI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431894124&sr=8-1&keywords=river+of+january#customerReviews 

I just finished your book last night. I pretty much read it in a 24 hour period. For me, that means that it really kept my interest.  I kept wanting to cheer the heroine, Helen Thompson, on in her quest to become a successful stage star. What a remarkable dancer and singer she must have been. Her bravery in going on stage tours to foreign countries is astounding for one so young.  In between chapters about Helen, you seamlessly wove in the story of her future husband, Chum Chumbley, as he overcame all obstacles in his quest to become a pilot.  I liked your writing style and how you blended what was apparently a mass of research material into an interesting narrative.  Overall, I found your book remarkably well written, interesting and historically accurate. You have a winner In River Of January.
 ~Bill R., Spokane, WA
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I'm ready for the next book now, please! The worst part of a great book is not having more to read! The book is outstanding. I was captivated from the start, not only because of Chum, but your writing is superb.  You really capture the essence of the moment with your words. There are times I wanted to smack Bertha and I think there is a little Helen in all of us! What a gem.  And Chum? What a guy!   Thank you for sharing.  You are so right - their story needed to be told!  Can't wait to start spreading River books about the county and country!   ~Susan T., Troy, Ohio
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 River of January is a true, decade-long biography of the ups and downs experienced in the lives of pilot Montgomery “Chum” Chumbley and entertainer Helen Thompson.  In this historical narrative, a fascinating story unfolds as Helen and Chum each attempt to further their careers and personal ambitions, often resulting in fascinating brushes with fame and history during the dramatic changes happening in interbellum America.

If you liked Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, then, as a fan of novelistic history, you will enjoy reading River of January. Gail Chumbley’s skill as a history teacher, her experiences documenting the lives of Americans through oral histories, and extensive research all translate into a tale that transports readers back in time.  

Even today, nearly every person can relate to the stress of attempting to find a fulfilling career and desire to live an exciting life.  Through well-developed protagonists, River of January will help you feel the pride of Chum’s successes and experience the worry of Helen’s troubles.  Chumbley does a great job making the characters feel like they are family, all while helping readers experience life in the 1920s and 1930s. River of January captures Chum and Helen’s desire for success and masterfully places readers inside their minds during one of America’s most colorful and difficult periods.

Interwoven into Chumbley’s tale are Helen and Chum’s nearly unbelievable brushes with famous personalities of the time.  The amazing regularity with which the “average Joe” characters in River of January have interactions with fame and history reminds readers that such experiences are still possible in today’s America, and it contextualizes our present place in history.  Whether it was to see Waco biplanes or hear the voice of Mistinguett, Chumbley’s descriptive storytelling left me running to the internet for more information every five minutes.

If you enjoy a good tale and have a love for the past, then River of January is an excellent way to spend time in a pivotal time in modern world history.  I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. ~Thad Ross,Vice-Consul, United States Foreign Service. (The views expressed herein are those of the the employee and not necessarily those of the the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.)

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Two talented, ambitious young adults, a dancer and an aviator, both Americans, crisscross continents launching careers and following their dreams. Like the nation of their birth, Helen Thompson and Chum Chumbley are determined to succeed, undaunted by challenges and unfazed by the parade of the celebrities they encounter.

 This is historical fiction, but the characters are real and, whether by chance or fate, they really did brush elbows with the likes of Howard Hughes, Kathrine Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier and many other VIPs of the time whose names you might not recognize. 

 Looking for a way to break into showbiz, Helen finds work where and when she can … dancing in vaudeville acts and in small troupes that travel through North America, Europe and South America.  Chum becomes the pilot he always wanted to be, bowling over just about anyone or anything in his way.

 Alternating between his and her story lines, this All American love story unfolds during the heyday of the 1920s and the havoc that was the Great Depression. That their paths will cross eventually is an open secret shared with the reader. But oh what a story worth the telling and reading. ~Bill Walker, Editor (Retired)

 

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The reader first meets Helen Thompson and Montgomery “Chum” Chumbley   as children in Gail Chumbley’s River of January, a non-fiction account of the people who became her mother and father-in-law.  Neither has an idyllic childhood, but each one’s future will emerge with glamor and adventure in the ensuing pages.  The backdrop is the nineteen thirties, and Helen, as a means to support her widowed mother, takes her dancing, ballet and acrobatic skills on the Vaudeville circuit, ending up in Europe in the company of a prima ballerina.  Making lifelong friends along the way, she ends up in Rio de Janeiro (River of January) and meets the daring Montgomery Chumbley, a dashing aviator whose cross-country nighttime flight across the U.S. has won him recognition with the newly emerging airline passenger service companies competing for business in the world market.  The story is charming, well documented with actual correspondence, and, of course, romantic as one would expect from this vibrant, handsome and madly in love couple.  The author is presently at work on part two of their story. ~Jody C.

 

The reader first meets Helen Thompson and Montgomery “Chum” Chumbley as children in Gail Chumbley’s River of January, a non-fiction account of the people who became her mother and father-in-law. Neither has an idyllic childhood, but each one’s future will emerge with glamour and adventure in the ensuing pages. The backdrop is the nineteen thirties, and Helen, as a means to support her widowed mother, takes her dancing, ballet and acrobatic skills on the vaudeville circuit, ending up in Europe in the company of a prima ballerina. Making lifelong friends along the way, she ends up in Rio de Janeiro (River of January) and meets the daring Montgomery Chumbley, a dashing aviator whose cross-country nighttime flight across the U.S. has won him recognition with the newly emerging airline passenger service companies competing for business in the world market. The story is charming, well documented with actual correspondence, and, of course, romantic as one would expect from this vibrant, handsome and madly in love couple. The author is presently at work on part two of their story.~Lila C.

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This enchanting and factual family history takes the reader from New York City through Europe, Asia and South America in the years between 1927-1936. The author artfully reveals the adventures of her husband’s parents.
Helen Thompson was a 16-year old glamorous showgirl, pushed by her stage mother to perform and send money home to support her. Helen performed on three continents joining a variety of acts and rubbed elbows with Humphrey Bogart, Maurice Chevalier and Sophie Tucker.
Mont “Chum” Chumbley was a farm boy from Virginia and had a desire so strong to fly airplanes that nothing stood in his way. He was a pioneer in aviation and won the 1933 Darkness Derby, a night race from Los Angeles to New York. He flew a Waco aircraft biplane and actress Helen Hayes presented Chum with the 1st place trophy. Chum hung out at the Waco aircraft offices at Roosevelt Field in New York. It is at that airfield where Chum met Amelia Earhart, and later, Howard Hughes.
Each chapter is generously sprinkled with revealing letters between Helen and her mother. Teenage Helen traveled alone with other stage actors on transatlantic ships to perform in Europe and South America, dutifully sending a large portion of her paychecks home to support her mother. Reading these letters was my favorite part of the book.
Chum (a Waco aircraft representative) and Helen (a young vivacious showgirl) met in 1936 in Rio de Janeiro, thus the book’s title “River of January.” The two became inseparable and within six months planned to marry.
Part Two of River of January will reveal the twists and turns of Chum and Helen’s extraordinary married life. I can’t wait to read it.

Sally N.

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This is Part 1 of a 2-part artfully told true story of a romance which developed between the author's in-laws. Normally, it's adventure novels or spy thrillers that have that "I don't want to put this book down" feel, but Gail succeeds in creating that same I have to read the next page and the next chapter anticipation with this romantic and heart-felt bio. This is personal history told in an entertaining and attention-grabbing fashion. For me, the beauty of Part 1 is the extensive back story of both protagonists before they ever meet. It leaves you longing for their anticipated and eventual union, and also makes that eventual union feel so sweet, rewarding, and right. The wonderful amount of detail in this story make it apparent that the author had access to a considerable amount of primary source material including the personal letters of the protagonists. We get to see Mont and Helen Chumbley, as they progress through their young adulthood, through their other love interests, their family relationships, and as they build their careers, somehow all preparing them for each other in an unlikely meeting in a far away foreign country.

 

Gail Chumbley brings a historian's intelligence and a sharp eye for detail to this old fashioned love and adventure story. Chumbley details the real-life exploits of Helen and Chum, her husband's parents, who lived a life of romance and excitement that most of us could only dream about. You'll enjoy the detail of locations from 1920's and 1930's New York and Rio, the aviation exploits of Chum and the glamour of Helen's career as an entertainer. Employing the style of a novel, but based on real people and real events, "River of January" is a fun and spirited read. If you like a good adventure story as lived by two appealing characters, you will enjoy this book. Marc J.

 on September 22, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition RIVER OF JANUARY by Gail Chumbley is a very enjoyable and memorable book. It is based closely on documented family history which portrays the lives of the author’s husband’s family during the romantic yet challenging 1920’s and ‘30’s. The story recreates the lives of the principal characters, one pursuing a career in aviation and the other in show business, as they travel the world pursuing opportunities and success… and find true love along the way.

The author masterfully blends character development, story line, history and drama to keep the reader totally engaged and unable to close the book for the night. I was absolutely enthralled by RIVER OF JANUARY and know you will be too.

It’s being hinted that there is a sequel in the works. I certainly hope so and will be the first in line to buy a copy. I can’t wait to find out what happens next, particularly with World War II as the backdrop. J. Stamm

 

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