The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

plumtreeWorld War II-era fiction is popular right now but what makes this debut different portrays an ordinary German family. The incidents were inspired by the author’s own family. Wiseman’s mother’s family lived in Germany during the war. 

The story is centered around Christine and her desire to protect her family and her boyfriend who is Jewish.

The Plum Tree is about longing, loyalty, and incredible bravery of the people who fought injustice. 

For a time, resistance was simply leaving hard-boiled eggs in places where the Jewish prisoners could find them. 

Eventually, Christine hides Isaac in the family attic. Once he is discovered, though, both are sent to Dachau.

She receives one of the better jobs and works for one of the better captors. Even so, her stay in Dachau nearly kills her. 

Wiseman explains in an afterward which historical details were altered to fit the story.

Blackout by Sarah Hepola

blackout

Blackout by Sarah Hepola

 

Reading memoirs is cathartic. They offer tiny glimpses into someone else’s life. Sometimes they make a reader breathe a sign of relief.

Hepola, who was a writer before and after becoming sober, also found stories cathartic. She would often read about addicts with relief that she “wasn’t that bad.”

Eventually, however, it did become “that bad.” One particularly bad episode in Paris, when Hepola was starting out as a journalist, left her mortified for years. She woke up in a stranger’s room with no idea how she had gotten there.

Hepola, who had her first blackout at twelve, continued to drink in high school. Attending University of Texas at Austin, Hepola was caught in a downward spiral.

She describes the unnerving feeling of whole chunks of her life disappearing as if they were “scooped…by a melon baller.”

Hepola drank to ease her anxieties about her weight and her social status in school:

I needed alcohol to drink away the things that plagued me. Not just my doubts about sex – my self-consciousness, my loneliness, my insecurities, my fears.

Later, she drank because she thought it helped her writing. After college she wrote for the entertainment section of an Austin, Texas newspaper.

After re-evaluating her life, Sarah embarks upon a painful journey of sobriety.

We’ve heard this story told many times, in many different forms, but never told so well.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget was a New York Times bestseller.

Similar stories about addiction:

Jacobsen, Lea. Bar Flower.
Laing, Olivia. The Trip to Echo Spring.
Vargas, Elizabeth. Between Breaths: a Memoir of Panic and Addiction.

More memoirs:
Parravani, Christa. Her: A Memoir.
Cahalan, Susan. My Brain on Fire.
Mcbride, Regina. Ghost Songs: A Memoir.

Hugo: A Look Back

Hugo was released six years and since then its lost none of its charm.

Hugo is a well-shot and well-acted movie that also happens to have a beautiful message.

I first became aware of the book which I always meant to read. The book is a marvelously illustrated and written by Brian Selznick.

Wonderful moments abound in this film, like Hugo hanging on to the arms of enormous clock. The scene looks like something out of the silent film Safety Last. The film honors silent films and silent film makers so this scene is so fitting.

One of the best aspects of the movie, however, is the theme.

Standing near the clear dial of the clock, which is an enormous window, Hugo realizes that the world is like an enormous machine.

If someone has lost their purpose, they are broken, just like the automaton Hugo’s father found. Yet, that doesn’t mean they can’t be “fixed” or redeemed.

“Are you a fixer?” Isabelle asks Hugo. Humbly, he says, “I think so.”

The villain of the movie has a prosthetic leg, which he needs because of a war injury.

The war has left him embittered; plus, he has had a terrible childhood. Consequently, he delights in locking up and terrorizing orphaned children.

Even this character though is “fixed,” in the end, as he returns with a working leg, presumably fixed by Hugo and Papa Georges.

Reading to wellness

Here’s a wonderful article about bibliotherapy.

And So She Thinks

For avid readers, the idea of bibliotherapy is not new at all. Many people feel better after curling up with a good book. There’s a feeling that they are good for the heart and soul, and it’s not unusual to find a feeling of friendship within the page, looking to them for guidance and perspective, asking questions such as ‘What Would Jane Do?’

Using words to soothe the emotions and alter thoughts is the root of bibliography – the use of literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems. The concept dates back to 300 BC when ancient civilizations placed inscriptions over library entrances that stated that within the building was healing for the soul. Aristotle considered literature to have healing benefits and reading fiction to be a way of treating illness and in Titus Andronicus William Shakespeare encourages the audience to ‘Come, and take choice of…

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Celine by Peter Heller

Celine by Peter Heller

celine

In Celine, Heller introduces readers to an aristocratic PI with emphysema. The titular character is also an excellent shot with a mind as quick as trap.

Even though she’s on the Social Register, Celine prefers reuniting birth families pro Bono. She doesn’t care for any other kind of detective work, though she once worked for the F.B.I.

One of the most admirable characters in a long time is this one–gutsy and privileged Celine who sincerely cares for the underdog.

Celine is given a strange case–a woman who was abandoned twice by her own father. The woman is in her 40s now and would like to find her father so he can meet his grandchild.

The man, a National Geographic Explorer photographer, may have faked his own death. He also may be on the run from the CIA for his involvement in political matters in South America.

Celine has her own secrets. The second mystery that unfolds is who Celine really is and what she’s hiding from her “Watson,” her husband, Peter, and her son, Hank.

Based on the dedication page, it appears that Celine and Peter are versions of the author’s own parents.

Peter Heller has also written The Dog Stars and The Painter.

http://www.peterheller.net/

For writers (as well)

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

 

Steve Jobs