Readers can experience the history and life of one of Nevada County’s prominent families, the Amarals, with the release of a three-part series, “What a Wonderful Life,” by LaVonne Amaral.
“I wanted my children to know the things we did,” Amaral said. “The first part is our life together, and the second part is about our traveling.”
The book covers an in-depth family history and the many places the Amarals traveled and experienced growing up in the Midwest and living in Nevada County.
“It’s a story largely about the history of our community from a fun and new perspective,” said Amaral’s daughter, Julia. “It’s very folksy and written in her voice about her life.”
The books describe childhood, marriage, retirement, travel and a history of Nevada County that anyone can easily identify with, Amaral said.
“Anyone reading this can put themselves in somewhere,” Amaral said. “I was very careful with names, but when I thought it was interesting, I put it in.”
The story is also accessible because of the reflection of family history and travel and perseverance of values, which nearly anyone can identify with, said Mark Bancroft, who helped edit the books.
“Her (story) is kind of unique because it’s so extensive, and she’s been around and traveled all over the world, so it’s interesting,” Bancroft said.
“And even though she lived this incredible life, the values are the same as far as family, integrity, honesty, and that doesn’t change from one story to another as far as how to live a decent life and be decent to others.”
Amaral began writing the book March 24, 1994, and completed the first draft Nov. 26, 2006, on the 64th anniversary of her marriage to Frank Amaral.
“I think it’s wonderful that my mother chose to do it and spent more than 12 years working on it,” Julia said. “She did such an in-depth job of telling her story.”
The book begins with the first volume, which covers the history of Amaral and Frank’s families as far back as their great-great-grandparents and includes various documents and photographs throughout.
Stories are included about the birth of children, working hard on the farm and little personal tidbits that reveal family history from life on her grandparents’ bog in Minnesota to the move to California, as well as the many business endeavors
Amaral also included her journey through art school and the creation of her artwork throughout her life.
She documented the many trips around the world the couple took, which included Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Amaral’s favorite trip, the North Pole, which she said was “a vast ocean of ice.”
Through the years, Frank Amaral took part in farming, timber, restaurants, oil exploration, land development and the acquisition of a fleet of jet airplanes.
“It’s amazing that my father was in the lumber business, went into Marysville and Grass Valley later on and did business at the Miners Foundry when it was a foundry and that they knew all these people through all those years who are dead and gone, but still there is a legacy for the community,” Julia said.
Though the Amarals met great success, they also were generous and gave thousands in donations to various community organizations, as documented in the books.
“They’ve donated to Music in the Mountains, some for (The) Center for the Arts, the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation and Hospice,” Julia said. “And they have done a great deal of anonymous giving.”
The idea for a book about family history is something families should consider passing down the family line, Julia said.
“It’s a nice thought for other people to consider doing this for their families,” Julia said. “It’d be nice if someone in each family took it upon themselves to tell the family story.”
The book can be purchased Tuesday from Harmony Books at 231 Broad St. in Nevada City, The Book Seller at 107 Mill St. and on Amazon.com. The black-and-white version is $36, the color $132.
“This is a long story for which I make no apology,” the cover of the book says.
“Frank and I lived long and interesting lives. Scan or speed-read if you must, but take enough time to enjoy the journey.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
“Frank and I lived long and interesting lives. Scan or speed-read if you must, but take enough time to enjoy the journey.”\n
— LaVonne Amaral