Monday, January 30, 2012

The Vow

By Pamela

From time to time, we’re invited to screen movies. Last week, we met at a theater in Dallas to get a sneak peek at The Vow, a film starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. As an added bonus, Julie was asked by the local film studio representative to introduce the movie as well as talk about her book, Calling Me Home. Even though it will be a year before her book comes out, she’s already hard at work, spreading the word about the story of Isabelle and Robert--two young people in love at a time when their relationship was not only unconventional, but illegal. After the movie, Julie passed out cards with information about the book and her website, enclosed in a bag with a cookie. (We thought, who wouldn’t pass up a homemade treat? And everyone seemed to enjoy a sweet after the show.)

One thing we’ve learned here at What Women Write--even before we started our blog--is the value of camaraderie. That having close friends to help lift you up when you’re feeling down as well as share in the great moments that happen to you is invaluable. Going to the movie together is a fun excuse for a girls’ night out, and we enthusiastically recommend The Vow--a love story about a happy newlywed couple (played by McAdams and Tatum) whose lives are changed by a car accident that puts Paige (Rachel McAdams) in a coma. Waking up with severe memory loss, Paige has no memory of Leo (Channing Tatum), a confusing relationship with her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange), and an ex-fiancé (Scott Speedman) she may still have feelings for. Despite these complications, Leo endeavors to win her heart again and rebuild their marriage.

The movie opens February 10.

Directed by: Michael Sucsy (TV’s Grey Gardens)
Distributed by: Screen Gems
Rating: THE VOW has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for the following reasons: an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Write

(Subtitle: Reminders To Self, In Times of Brain Lock)

By Susan

Sometimes I need a reminder to why I do this— the late nights and early mornings alone, the thinking, the writing, the editing. I now have this list posted close to my monitor for the tough times. Enjoy!

Susan, Susan, Susan. You write because you love it. Silent hours with a scratchy pencil. Fifteen minutes in front of a clicking keyboard with music thumping in your ear buds. Stolen moments when you pull over the car to write down a perfect sentence in the "notes" app of your iPhone. You write because you love to write. You love the words.

Second reason: you write because you have something to say. About human nature and relationships and the existence, perhaps, of God. You want to tell of places and books and men that you've loved. In the telling, you feel connected. Because other people relate. They read it, and love it or hate it or agree or disagree. But it ties you, you know. It ties you to humanity.

The third reason? You write because it feels good to get the words out of your head and onto paper. Simple.

Number Four: This brain lock thing? It doesn't exist. You think you are frozen because the words are hard. (Who said just because you love something it is easy? In fact, it is usually quite the opposite.) Because sometimes you throw it all away and start over, or because you are not clearly stating your point and must work for it. This means that you need to move. Take Lucy for a run. Scrub a toilet, or eat some pudding while you walk in circles in the kitchen. Practice your sun salutation on the back patio. You'll find that the words will come back to you. I promise.

Lastly, dear Self: don't let other's opinions, your failure or even your own success, or the busy-ness of your life ever get in the way of your "one thing." That "one thing?"

It is this.

Keep doing it. No matter what.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Today, I Muse

by Elizabeth

There are all these faces, and behind each one a brain, a mind, a life. Everyone has a story, and writers seek to tell them. Call it fiction, sure, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a writer who succeeds (if it is indeed to be called success) in divorcing himself from himself in his stories. What is fiction but seeking the truth within the structure of a supposed lie?

I just read Dan Chaon's You Remind Me of Me. It jumps from time periods, back and forth, weaving apparently unrelated people's stories until they finally intersect (no spoilers here, I promise), as the reader of course knew they always would. What was fascinating to me, both as a reader and a writer, was how interested in his people Chaon managed to make me--people whom in real life I would probably never even notice or perhaps encounter. I hate to say that; as a writer, it's surely my responsibility to notice, to consider, to imagine. But in the course of my daily trajectory, I have to admit my eyes slide past many faces, maybe even most. The guy behind the counter, behind the wheel of the car behind mine, the guy behind the register ringing up my bread and milk.

But I do notice a lot, and I think, and wonder, and invent. Then I read something like Chaon's book, and I'm reminded the noticing is worth it. It can produce something of interest and value.

All these faces. Everyone has a story.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An International Walk

by Joan

Recently I learned that an acquaintance from my Oxford summer program passed away. Michael (seen here with the lovely Mary-Lucille) wrote spare but spot-on poetry, traveled the UK with gusto, showed complete interest in whoever stood across from him and carried this basket with him always. His wife said he counted his time among us as a high point in his life, and that he had warm and enduring friendships among us.

I also view my time there as a high point, not only because it spawned a manuscript that now lives under my bed and in my heart’s left ventricle, but because I met a truly international group of friends who, each in their own way, adds richness to my memories and my writing self.

Devon, a professor of Irish literature at West Virginia Wesleyan, slipped into the chair next to mine at the first dinner, straight from her cottage on the west coast of Ireland. I knew then that my Maeve Binchy-loving self had found a soul sister. When plans took me to within an hour of her home in WVA, we scheduled a weekend in Shepherdstown, where we roamed quaint streets and talked literature, browsed bookstores and clomped through the cemetery. She also read my then-WIP, The Bodley Girl, and offered invaluable feedback.

The graceful Mary Lucille, posing here with Michael in Exeter’s quad, recently earned a diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford and writes in the vein of Virginia Woolf without being the least bit copy-cattish. She read the British bits of Bodley and advised me on WWII-era fashion and makeup and music. On my next trip to the U.K., I will buy her a spot of tea.

Megan, then a young Duke graduate student with killer writing skills, lodged in the rooms next to mine, and occasionally we'd sneak off to Starbuck’s for real coffee and critique sessions. She was insightful and generous and now, six years later, is on everyone’s watch list for her short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, which debuts in March. (I pre-ordered from Battenkill Books, an independent bookstore in Vermont.) This is going to be big, people, just wait!

Laura is an absolute sweetheart, a brilliant writer from Mexico living in Amsterdam, publishing books and essays about multicultural issues. Last I heard, she was the Policy Advisor for the International Affairs department of the Dutch Institute for Multicultural Affairs-FORUM. Chance brought us together in New York a few years ago, and we traipsed the streets near Washington Square, stopped in every bookstore and discussed life’s great mysteries.

Naya from Athens got a kick out of my character named Athena in The Cemetery Garden and schooled me on the proper way to pronounce her name: uh-thee-nuh not uh-thee-nuh. She recently stole my dream and moved to London and, after my tea with Mary Lucille, I will storm the Tower of London with Naya.

Shirley travels the world, but I met up with her again in Austin at the Writers League of Texas conference a few years ago. She writes essays on life, which she knows a thing or two about.

Rieko writes exquisite poetry and has contributed to BBC radio programs, both on and off the air. There were times, toward the end of our program, when Rieko and I found ourselves bolting from the Great Hall, up George Street and across Hythe Bridge to avoid a too-often-served dish. It was the first (and last) time I tried green curry, but the joy we found sitting outside with a glass of wine was worth it, made all the more humorous when we looked over to see that Naya, Laura and a few others had the same idea.

There were about sixty of us in total, mentored by professors Jem Poster (brilliant poet and novelist) and Sandie Byrne (leading Austen expert), and many of us keep in touch via Facebook, like Rob and Michelle and Lito and Charles.

The cliché about meeting people in all walks of life is true and I’m thankful I took that walk. And I hope that Michael is someplace warm, with a full basket of pencils and paper.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Tough Act to Follow

By Kim

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was eight and have never wavered long from that dream. When my older daughter, then nine, discovered her own passion, I did what my parents did before me. I took her seriously and encouraged her to nurture and develop her natural talents.

My daughter at the barre. Photo by Deborah Downes
Over a year has passed since then and my aspiring ballerina is now enrolled at a school where she can get the serious training she craves. I have watched her transform into a poised and graceful young lady, confident in who she is and what she wants. She has also, unbeknownst to her, become my role model for how to pursue a dream, and she’s a tough act to follow. The lessons I’ve learned from her may seem basic common sense, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs reminding.

1) If you don’t actively chase a dream, it will forever remain a dream. It takes work to succeed. Learn to love work. Barre exercises are to a dancer what parking one’s rear end in a chair is to a writer. Both require focus and discipline. In this short video you will see a small group of dancers doing the same combination at the barre. Even an untrained eye can determine who wants to be there and who simply goes through the motions. (My daughter is directly in front of the camera – middle child along the barre at the back of the room–I wish I had her focus.)

2) Don’t be afraid of correction or feedback. It’s the only way to improve.

3) Find a teacher who will be honest about your weaknesses and guide you to overcome them, or at least not call attention to them.

4) You can’t join a company before learning how to dance en pointe. You can’t publish a novel if you never finish it.

5) If you dance, you are a dancer. If you write, you are a writer. It really is that simple.

6) If you don’t love it, do something else. If you do love it, don’t be satisfied doing anything else.

7) Dance (or write) because you can’t help yourself. Remember why you love what you do and don’t forget to have fun, as my children are in this video. (My kids are the shorter one in black and the little one in the blue and white dress .)

Do you struggle to live by any of these rules? We’d love to hear about it, especially if you have found a way to overcome them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Pulpwood Queen Reigns

By Julie

As mentioned in my last post, January has been a whirlwind month, and it's not over until it's over!

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending Kathy Patrick's Pulpwood Queens 12th Annual Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas. I went as a "civilian" this year as my book isn't out yet, but hope I'll get to attend as a panelist or speaker in future years. This event is indescribable, but I'll do my best.

The theme this year was The Greatest Show on Earth. There were costumes--authors dressed as clowns to serve dinner to attendees Thursday, authors and attendees dressed in all manner of attire for the Pretty in Pink Prom Party Friday evening, authors and attendees dressed as their favorite circus performers Saturday evening. I personally attempted the Pink Punk Prom look, but mostly looked like a six-year-old dressed up for a tea party--Here I am with Margaret Dilloway and Karen Harrington, and the very lovely photo credit goes to Sarah Deutsch! I went as a fortune teller Saturday night, with a little more success, in my humble opinion. (There I am below with Margaret, again, and Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters, sporting our tattoos applied by Eleanor!)

But it wasn't all about the costumes. During the day, I occupied a table with a few others who hadn't come with book clubs. For fun, we named ourselves the "Bridget Jones Bookclub--All singletons welcome!" We even made a sign. We were enthralled by keynote speakers, including John Berendt, Robert Hicks, Robert Leleux, Wade Rouse, Bill Torgerson, and Jenny Wingfield, and entertained as Tina Sloan, former star of The Guiding Light, performed part of her show, Changing Shoes, and Elaine Clark explained how to use your voice to make money. I know I've left someone out. We listened to other authors talk about their books and answer questions from Kathy Patrick, Robert Leleux, and the audience.

One of the best parts was getting to know several authors in person I only knew online before (Eleanor Brown, Kathryn Casey, Meg Waite Clayton, Karen Harrington, my Weed Lit Agency "sister," Sarah Jio, Caroline Leavitt, Rebecca Rasmussen, to name a few), meeting authors new to me (Jill S. Alexander, River Jordan, Nicole Seitz, Marybeth Whalen ... and the list goes on!), and also spending time with Margaret Dilloway again, an author I met last fall in Oregon. Her hubby came along and was our gracious chauffeur, dropping Margaret and me at the door, picking us up, and putting a total of something like 12 miles on my car all weekend in the tiny town of Jefferson, Texas!

That's a lot of names to drop. But it just goes to show that this event really packs a punch. So many authors at one circus ... errrr, conference! What a blast. I was also able to meet potential readers of Calling Me Home, and was delighted to be asked by several of the authors to visit their blogs when the book releases.

Whether you're a member of the Pulpwood Queens book clubs or not, if you're a reader, you should consider adding this fun and crazy event to your annual schedule!

Now I'm home again, deep in edits for Calling Me Home again, and gearing up for more excitement, because it just never ends these days.

I've been asked to host a Girls' Night Out screening in Dallas next week at the Studio Movie Grill for a movie starring Rachel McAdams, The Vow. I'll introduce the movie and get to talk up Calling Me Home a bit in the process! I kind of feel like a celebrity …

But my daughters are mostly excited about seeing CHANNING TATUM on screen, as I'm sure most of the ladies in attendance will be, too! (Come on, admit it, he's pretty cute!)

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. And ... it's time to get back to those edits!

Don't forget, you can go to my website to sign up for my mailing list to stay updated on book news and also to register for the necklace giveaway! I received my necklace just in time for the Pulpwood Queens weekend, and LOVE it! I can't wait to order the second one for my giveaway, and am still so thrilled I came across Sam Gibson and her beautiful jewelry!

Next time I'm up at the blog, I'll be hosting the lovely Sere Prince Halverson as she talks about her newly released, much anticipated novel, The Underside of Joy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In Praise of Book Clubs

By Pamela

I've yet to meet a writer who wasn't also a voracious reader. It's akin to saying you compose songs but never listen to music or sing. One can't be proclaimed without the other.

Me (bottom left) with my Illinois book club friends, circa 2002.
So when my neighbor, Tracy, asked if I might be interested in joining a book club that was just starting out, I said sure! Before I moved to Texas from Illinois, I was in a book club that met for five years. We started out with about six women and grew to around a dozen or so, varying in attendance each month, as most groups do. I've been gone for over six years now but still stay in touch with most of them and always will.

I must admit, my book reading has been a bit off lately. Whether it's due to the fact that I 'read' at the computer so much during the day or that I tend to be a little fickle in my reading preferences, I'm not sure. Maybe a bit of both. I'm excited about the reading prospects this new group will bring.

My new book club met this past Wednesday and for our first selection we read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I felt a little smug about his title being our first: Not only do I have an autographed copy of the book but I also heard Jamie speak when he was in town.

As the discussion got under way, I contributed little to the conversation and instead enjoyed hearing the women around me speak so passionately about the story. They talked about the characters they loved, the ones they didn't really relate to and others they felt made the tale come alive.

Then I imagined what might be debated if they had read my manuscript. Which characters would they find intriguing/irritating/forgettable? What issues would they discuss and possibly disagree on? Would they love or hate the ending? Would they wonder what happened to my characters after the story ended? Would they even care?

What I concluded, after pondering these questions, was: I have to up the stakes. I need to create more passion in this story--make the reader really care about how these characters relate to one another, make the people in the story come alive on the page and dwell in the mind of the reader. The reader needs to become invested in the outcome of the book enough to keep reading--even wish the story didn't end.

Time to get busy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Use It or Lose It

by Elizabeth

Confession time. But first, a clarification. Jealousy is a word that gets tossed around a lot, writers being jealous of others. I don't think that's really so true, though. Envy, sure. Jealousy? Not so much.

When emails were flying during Julie's getting an agent and then selling her book, I spent some time evaluating how I felt. Was I happy for her? Absolutely. Think she and her book deserved it? Without question. Was I jealous? Nope, not a bit--meaning, I did not wish her success on me instead of her. But envious? Well...

Scholars have apparently now divided envy into two distinct camps. The first traditional envy, the deadly one, is invidiousness--basically, the hateful, harmful, closer to jealous form of envy that movies and fiction often recount. The second form is benign envy, which has the benefit of being a positive motivational force.

For the most part, I have to say I wasn't envious. Sure, what Julie was going through was exactly what I'd hoped for in the past, what I hope for in the future. But at the moment she was getting representation and a book deal and foreign sales, was I truly envious? Did I wish it on myself, for myself? I can still say not really. Not because it's something I no longer want, but because I knew I hadn't yet done the work that would get me what she was getting. Not yet, not this time.

I've completed two manuscripts, submitted to agents, sent off a good number of fulls, and as I like to brag, I've been rejected by some of the best in the business. Often personally, always kindly. I still think both complete projects have merit, and maybe I never hit the right agent on the right day--who knows? At our last dinner together, we spent some time wondering about those manuscripts several of us were sending out into the world two or three or four years ago; publishing is a different animal now, and if those babies were trying to fly in this market, would they take wing? There's no telling, but I do wonder.

But I don't envy.

Well, I didn't. But now, I do, some. Not so much Julie's success, but now, her place. I envy the fact that she finished up her latest and was able to send it out. Not that she found it a home, but that she'd already done the work I've yet to complete and was therefore able to reach this first heady plateau.

The past few months I pulled out an old project, polished the dust off, and got to work adding to it. At our retreat, I worked on structure, which led to revelations about the story itself, which meant a deeper telling but also a lot more work. So far this year, more time has been spent inside my brain than with a pen, and that has engendered some of the envy I now find I harbor.

I wish I was done with this draft already. I envy those I know who have already completed the first draft and are into edits, the part of the show that I find easier to work through. Weirdly, I've learned I enjoy editing more than writing, though writing has its own unique satisfaction (and it also has to be gotten through to get to the fun-for-me part; and hey, I love dinner, not just dessert).

So envy, as a motivational force, to finish this draft and get on to the next step. The envy is there now, that's something I can't hide from myself, and am admitting here. Like it or not, to be cliche. And for another, this: I can use that envy for motivation to get the draft done, or I should lose it. The former sounds better, doesn't it?

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year, New Books!

by Joan

When you’ve been blogging for almost five years, coming up with fresh topics is challenging. But one thing that never gets old is discovering new books. And since my birthday and the holidays are both in December, I have started the New Year with a cache of new reads. Some came as pleasant surprises, others in boxes I handed to my husband to wrap and still others ordered on my account as a gift to myself.

Here are a few titles that will keep me busy over the next several months!

Margaret Leroy’s Soldier’s Wife - I’m really enjoying this novel, set in Guernsey during World War II. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, you will enjoy this as well.

Jenna Blum’s Those Who Save Us – Two copies of this Holocaust novel showed up! I put it on my list and then forgot and ordered it on Audible. I’m enjoying listening to the dual timelines on audio very much.

Erika Robuck’s Receive Me Falling – I put this on my list in anticipation of Erika’s Hemingway’s Girl, coming in September 2012 from NAL/Penguin. Erika guest blogged here in July about why she writes about the past.

Sally Gunning’s The Widow’s War – Elizabeth suggested I would love Sally Gunning’s writing. I peeked at the first page and, wow, is she ever right.

Kyung-Sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom – my cousin emailed me this message on NYE: “Whatever you are reading or working on now, STOP. One way or another, get the book Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. Read it in one day, holy sh--.” Is that a recommendation or what?! Of course I ordered it and it’s next in line!

Susanna Kearsley’s Winter Sea – Kim recommended this and we have rarely disagreed on a book!

Kelly O’Connor McNees’ Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott – My bookaholic sister recommended this one and we also share the same tastes.

Peter Ackroyd’s Thames – My college student son used to share my office and likely saw my Ackroyd collection, containing both non-fiction (London: The Biography never leaves my desk) and fiction, like Hawksmoor and The Clerkenwell Tales, which inspired me to write my current manuscript.

David Starkey’s Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII – Another title from my son, who knows my infatuation with British History, especially the bizarre Henry VIII.

What books did you get?

Friday, January 6, 2012

January! January! Slow down already!

By Julie

My actual, official, from the editor's desk revisions on Calling Me Home are due 2/1. I'm madly working at finishing them. The last thing I'd want to do--especially on a first book!--is turn them in late. They WILL be finished. But this has been a little tricky due to them making landfall in the midst of the holidays.

I figured January would be a nice, leisurely month. I'd finish everything I didn't get to in December easily and without much panicking. (Mwah ha haaaa ...)

Then I remembered I'm going to the Pulpwood Queen's Annual Girlfriends' Weekend in Jefferson, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the month. I'm going as a civilian this year, having no physical book to promote just yet, and not even much of a twinkle in my eye for what it's going to look like or exactly when it's going to launch from St. Martin's Press. I signed up well before I got the book contract, having won a fundraiser auction for the weekend pass in support of a little girl who was burned in a July 4th fireworks accident. I had no idea at that point what January was going to look like!

I'm super excited about attending this conference. I know it will not only be crazy fun (and I mean crazy in the literal sense, not just in the superlative sense of the word--these Pulpwood Queens aren't shy about flying their crazy flags!), but a great opportunity to connect with book club leaders and members and so many authors I know online, but have never met in person.

But I'm also busy getting ready. Packing the regular stuff. Making travel plans with an author I'm chauffeuring from the airport. And yes, gathering costumes. Seriously! Circus-themed for one evening, Big Ball of Hair Pretty in Pink Prom themed for another. If I were a published author on the program, I'd need a clown costume, too! Phew!

Then, I got a wild hair at the last minute and decided to make business cards to hand out to any book clubbers or other authors I happen to talk to about Calling Me Home, in hopes they *might*, maybe, perhaps, possibly remember me in a year or so when the big book launch event comes to pass.

Then I got a wilder hair. I found, in this Etsy shop, the most gorgeous necklace, so perfectly
representing the story and themes of Calling Me Home, I ordered it at three o'clock in the morning Monday. This Monday. From the UK. I'm crossing my fingers it will arrive before the conference. See it down there on the right? See it!?!?! (Photo credit: Sam Gibson!)

I exchanged emails with the artist, Sam Gibson at Mrs. Gibson, and she was thrilled that out of all the jewelry in the world, I found hers to represent my story perfectly! I think it's a bit of Timing with a Capital T, as my longtime favorite musician, David Wilcox, likes to say. I'll wear the necklace any time I might have an opportunity to talk about the book. It's a pretty unique necklace, and I think people will ask about it, so I might as well make the most of it!

Then I got an even wilder hair. I don't have cover art for CMH, will likely not have it any time soon. So ... what to do on the business card? Some cheesy little stock graphic? Some photo with some significance for the story, but is here today, gone tomorrow?

OR ... do I ask Sam if I can use her absolutely gorgeous photo (art in itself!) of the absolutely gorgeous necklace on my cards in exchange for giving her work a little plug on the card and here and there. She graciously agreed! My editor and agent thought it was a fine idea for the interim between now and when I get official art, and it made a really pretty card I can't wait to see when UPS drops it on my porch early next week!

But can you believe I found an even wilder hair peeking out of my scalp? I bet you can.

I asked Sam, the jewelry maker, if she was able to make a duplicate necklace. She said, "No problem!" So ... I'm going to order a second and use it as a giveaway. When folks ever-so-kindly sign up for my mailing list for news, they'll be entered in a drawing for the necklace, to be conducted when I get my official cover. I thought it was a pretty nifty idea. We'll see how it works!

EDIT! DUH! I forgot to mention that the first name drawn will also receive a signed first edition of the book when it comes out--IF you are a U.S. resident. If a U.K. resident, a first edition of the U.K. version (possibly signed). If you are not a resident of the U.S. or U.K., you may still enter, but the drawing will be for the necklace only, provided I can ship it at a reasonable rate (at my discretion. Thanks for understanding!). I will likely also draw second and third names for books.

Needless to say, it's been a busy couple of weeks already, and it ain't over until the Circus lady sings. I'm on tenterhooks (but not painful ones!), thinking of all the work still ahead, and all the fun still ahead, and quite honestly, looking forward to the relative peace and calm of February first!

If you'd like to be entered for the chance to get one of these lovely necklaces, please follow the instructions below. I PROMISE NOT TO PESTER YOU with a million emails every five minutes. Just strategically issued ones when I have REALLY exciting news (like BIG BIG news), when you can pre-order Calling Me Home, and shortly before launch just to remind you it'll be out soon!

Signing up for the email list is the first, required entry. If you then also send me a friend request on Facebook, "like" my author page, or follow me on Twitter, you'll get an additional entry for each of those. If you're already doing those, it counts! And ... for a bonus, you can also give me your snail mail address. Not sure if or how I will use those, but it will be VERY sparing. Maybe a postcard shortly before book launch.

Here's the 411:
Thank you so much. I promise to be very respectful of your trusting me with your information and time.

Hope everyone is having a very happy New Year so far! In the meantime, I'm excited ... and my hair is getting a little wilder every single day I pursue this published author adventure! I'll report back from the Pulpwood Queen's conference when I get a chance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Review of The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

By Kim


In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit--and the strength of memory.

About the author:

Alyson Richman is the author of The Mask Carver's Son, Swedish Tango, The Last Van Gogh, and The Lost Wife. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children.

My review:

I want to start by telling you a story. I know this may seem an odd way to open a book review, but there’s reason for it.

My seventh grade language arts teacher was horrified to learn that our school district’s history curriculum would barely touch on the Holocaust. She felt the only way to prevent such atrocities from happening again was to educate the younger generations. We read Elie Wiesel’s Night in class and learned to spell gestapo and crematorium. We watched unflinching documentaries and movies about concentration camps. My amazing teacher also found several Holocaust survivors and spent at least a month’s worth of weekends shuttling groups of her students all over Maine so we could interview them. The woman I met was an Auschwitz survivor named Marta, a towering workhorse of a woman with a kind, homely face. What struck me most was that even as she described beatings, rapes, starvation, and constant fear of execution, she prefaced everything by saying how lucky she was. She was lucky to be ugly. Pretty girls were sent to the front to “service” the S.S. soldiers and were shot if impregnated. (Her sister met this fate.) She was lucky to be big because she was strong and could do heavy labor. (Her frail mother was gassed). The lack of emotion as she spoke left a lasting impression on me.

Since then I’ve seen every WWII movie and read every book on the Holocaust that I can find. I learned about The Lost Wife from my friend, historical novelist Stephanie Cowell, who has never led me wrong in her book recommendations. At the end of the prologue my jaw dropped and I knew there was no way I could put the book down until I learned what had happened to Lenka and Josef. By thirty pages in, I knew it would be on my 2012 Best Reads list. I devoured this novel during every stolen moment alone, which took some creativity with two energetic kids home for Christmas break. The love story made me ache. The atrocities of Terezin and Auschwitz were described in an understated and horrifically beautiful way. I could hear Marta’s voice behind Lenka’s, and it was like I discovered hell right along with them.

If you are drawn to WWII era books, The Lost Wife is a must-read. If you are a sucker for unconventional romances, The Lost Wife is a must-read. If you want a book with characters who will haunt your dreams and make you Google “Terezin” at 3 AM…head to the nearest bookstore or download this book right away.

Have you read The Lost Wife? I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can leave comments here or (since some people have difficulty leaving comments on Blogger) on What Women Write’s Facebook page.
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