Historian publishes new novel about Manatee County pioneers

Cathy Slusser recently published the second book in her trilogy of historical novels

mclear@bradenton.comJuly 13, 2014 

MANATEE -- In the mid-1800s, a father, mother and 3-year-old-daughter came to America, the what is now called Terra Ceia, fleeing religious persecution in Germany. When they got here, they found they faced discrimination because of their faith.

The Atzeroth family were Lutherans. That didn't sit too well with the Catholics in Germany, nor with the Methodists who dominated this part of Florida.

They're the central characters in a new book titled "From a Heavenly Land: Julia's Story." It was written by Cathy Slusser, the director of historical resources for the Manatee County clerk of circuit court.

The Atzeroths were a real family, but Slusser calls her book "historical fiction."

"I knew what happened, but I didn't know why it happened," she said. "That's where the fiction comes in."

The book is already for sale, online and in a couple Bradenton-area locations, and Slusser will officially unveil it Monday at an event at the Manatee Village Historical Park in East Bradenton.

The event is free and open to the public. Slusser will sign books starting at 6:15 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., she'll give a reading and talk about the book and the history that inspired it. She'll also be available for autographs again after her presentation.

The new book is the second installment in Slusser's "From a Heavenly Land" trilogy. The first book, "From a Heavenly Land: Eliza's Story," came out last year.

The action in this second book takes places before that of the first one, and centers around Julia Atzeroth, Eliza's mother.

The books are extensively researched, and even the fictional elements are grounded in truth, Slusser said.

The Atzeroths intended to settle in Pennsylvania but instead came to Florida because warmer weather was better for Julia's health. The land they settled was supposed to be deeded to them in five years if they stayed on it and built a house.

"It took them 30 years to get the deed," Slusser said. "And there are documents that indicate that was because of their religion."

Even though the new book is the second in the series, Slusser said, readers who haven't read the first book will be able to follow and enjoy it.

It sells for $15. It's available at the Manatee Village Historical Park gift shop, 404 Manatee Ave E., Bradenton; at Citrus Place, 7200 U.S. 19, Terra Ceia, and on Amazon.com.

For more information, call 941-749-7165 or go to manateeclerk.com/historical/ManateeVillage.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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