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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Lost Wife

       Author Alyson Richman offers a hauntingly beautiful story of love lost and then found many years later, paralleling the story of the surviving Holocaust victims, their losses and their struggle to regain some of life’s joys, while never forgetting those that they lost. A large part of the tale takes place in Czechoslovakia before and during World War II, where Lenka, an art student and Josef, a medical student meet and fall in love. They marry just as Jewish citizens are scrambling to escape from the approaching Nazi army. Josef and his family are able to obtain passage to the United States but because Lenka’s family cannot do the same, she refuses to leave with Josef, staying behind with her family. Josef promises to send for Lenka and her family as soon as he is able.

      First, Lenka’s family is shipped off to Terezin, a prison camp in Czechoslovakia. There they suffer much hardship, although Lenka is able to use her artistic skills to produce objects for the Nazis and to give some purpose to life. Eventually the family is sent to Auschwitz where only Lenka survives. Josef loses his family in a shipwreck on their way to the United States. He arrives alone in New York. Although the couple has frantically tried to communicate with one another, through the confusion of the war each mistakenly learn that the other hasn’t survived.

    After the war each remarry; Josef to a fellow refugee whose loss of family has permanently damaged her life and colored their marriage with sorrow; Lenka to an American Jewish soldier who is part of the liberating army, their marriage has more joy in it. Life continues for Josef and Lenka. Eventually both are widowed. Coincidentally, Josef and Lenka each have a grandchild who fall in love with one another and marry. It is on that wedding day that Josef and Lenka discover one another again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Authors With April Birthdays

Here are some well-known authors who were born in April.

April 1st – Anne McCaffrey, the renowned science fiction/fantasy writer who has given us the Dragonriders of Pern series, as well as several other series and individual novels. Her books feature in-depth characters and imaginatively detailed settings on other planets.

April 2nd – Hans Christian Anderson was the 19th-century fairy tale writer and folklorist who enchanted children and adults. Some of his most famous works include The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, and The Little Mermaid.

April 8th – Barbara Kingsolver is the author of critically acclaimed works of fiction (The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible,
Prodigal Summer, etc.), short stories and some non-fiction featuring such topics as social justice and biodiversity. Several of her books have been on the New York Times Best Seller List. Kingsolver has lived in and traveled the world over.

April 12th – Tom Clancy is the prolific author of fiction based on the themes of espionage, technology and military science. Two of his most famous characters, Jack Ryan and John Clark, are featured in several novels. More recently he has produced the Op-Center and NetForce series. His name also has been used in conjunction with the creation of video games and movies based on his books.

April 12th – Scott Turow is a practicing lawyer and the author of several legal thrillers; Presumed Innocent, Burden of Proof, Ordinary Heroes and others. Two of his novels have been made into films. He also wrote two non-fiction books. He has won several literary awards. He currently is president of the Authors Guild.

April 22nd – Janet Evanovich, the author of a “romantic adventure” series featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, got her start by writing romances. Now with eighteen novels in this series, Evanovich has branched out with other series novels, some written individually and some co-authored with others.

April 24th – Sue Grafton is the author of the “Alphabet Series” featuring private detective Kinsey Millhone and set in 1980’s Santa Teresa, California (a fictionalized Santa Barbara). Grafton got her start writing screenplays for television movies until she was able to develop her skill at writing novels. She has won several awards for her works.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace -- One School at a Time

Here is the story of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who in 1993 was unable to complete his ascent of the Himalayan Mountain K2. He was rescued and nursed back to health by residents of a remote mountain village in Pakistan. Emotionally moved by the selfless actions of these people, Mortenson decides to dedicate his energies to building schools for the region’s children, especially the girls who at this time had no educational opportunities whatsoever. Although the region was rife with Taliban and could be dangerous for Americans, Mortenson stood by his promise. He travelled back and forth between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan for the next few years, coordinating funds and overseeing an increasing number of projects. These included construction of schools, bridges and other structures, and the development of small businesses by residents, especially women. The text is filled with descriptions of the people Mortenson worked with, village elders and residents and students in Asia and the donors/supporters from the United States and across the world. A collection of photos complement the narrative. This is a heartwarming story, only slightly marred by recent reports that Mortenson may have exaggerated and/or modified parts of his story.

The Authors:
Greg Mortenson is currently the director of the Central Asia Institute. A resident of Montana, he spends several months of the year in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
David Oliver Relin is a contributing editor for Parade magazine and Skiing magazine. He has won more than forty national awards for his work as a writer and editor.