Book Review: Forty Years in a Day

Forty Years in a Day
by Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito

History is a fascinating mirror and perhaps none within more so than the people who lived through it. Adding to the layers of intrigue are oral traditions passed down within families that lend new angles of perception and understanding to previous events, not least of them being the awareness that these are one’s own people.

I’ve been fortunate recently to have made the acquaintance of several books written about authors’ relatives and ancestors, amongst them Forty Years in a Day, a family story told to one woman by her immigrant father on his 90th birthday. Having journeyed to Ellis Island, scene of so many immigrant beginnings on our shores, the pair pass through the interior of a building that “exploded with thousands of personal stories of hardship and hope.” Clare sees her father’s face in those lining the walls, these images reflecting the “disquietude of an era.”

She understands already that the comfortable life she lives now is in debt to those who came before, including her father, Vincenzo. His childhood journey from an Italian village to New York’s Hell’s Kitchen was marked with a near-death experience and instances of degradation his mother, Victoria, tried to pass off as ordinary in the hope he would forget. Whether Vincenzo recalls those earliest instances or retrieves them from his mother’s diary is not articulated, but authors Rodriguez and Vigorito lay out an understanding for Clare to absorb that is much larger than any of it, suggesting that even had Vincenzo remembered, he is beyond it. As father and daughter sit outside the island’s museum, silently taking in the crisp autumn afternoon, Clare remarks on the beauty of the day.

“My father simply replied, ‘Clare, every day you’re alive is a beautiful day.’

Throughout his life, the phrase ‘it’s a beautiful day’ had become his mantra. I had always thought of it as cordial chitchat used to fill the uncomfortable gaps of silence in conversations, but only now did I comprehend the depth of his penetrating words.”

As they sit on the bench, Vincenzo Montenaro tells his daughter Clare the story of his life and his family, more precisely that of his mother, forced to leave an abusive husband and board a ship alone with several small children. The language is straightforward and accessible, but never simple, and the authors clearly work well together, possessing a talent for relating details that elapse over a long and arduous period of time, without overburdening the reader. We get a clear sense of how awful is the journey and its inherent pains, terrors, humiliations, discomforts, even cruelties.

“Hell’s Kitchen and Sebastapol,” by Jacob Riis, c. 1890, shortly before our story begins, via Wikimedia Commons

This, in fact, is the style of the entire novel—many years encapsulated in much the same way the elder Montenaro would have done when taking only a single afternoon to describe forty years of his life. It is part of the authors’ craft that one never really knows for sure whether each individual segment is shortened by necessity or because suggestion is more powerful than a full-on witnessed account. Indeed, certain details are too wrenching to lay openly on the table, so to speak, and in fact would not do them justice. Some things, as is oft repeated, are best left to the imagination.

Vincenzo takes Clare—and us—through his mother’s story, her journey with the children to America and the years in which her life is essentially on hold because she mistakenly believes the husband she fled lives on. As time moves forward, Victoria, and her family as well as society, experiences growth and the awkward, inspirational and even ordinary moments informing and directing decisions pertaining to children, careers, dating, friendships, recreational activities, marriage, crises, illness and death, war, struggle, failures and triumph, and looking toward the future while remembering dreams of the past.

Somehow the myth pertaining to this era’s more “innocent” time has managed to stay afloat in our own society,  though Rodriguez and Vigorito attempt no such fluff. Life at this time was difficult, even nightmarish for some, though there were opportunities as well. New York City in the first half of the twentieth century was no playground: Irish mafia wars rivaled disease and poverty and though many emerged intact, very few escaped at least some contact with all three.

But, like life in any era, there existed also the magnificence of the ordinary, perhaps what Vincenzo, even in childhood, reveled in the most as he passionately embraced his appreciation for life:

Victoria knew the smell of the fresh baked bread and sauce simmering on the stove were ones the children looked forward to six days to Sunday. The minute she and [sister-in-law] Genevieve left the kitchen to ready themselves for church, Vincenzo would rip a loaf of the warm bread into pieces, dunk them into the sauce, and dole them out to his cousins and siblings. By the time Victoria returned, washcloth in hand, one of the loaves would have inconspicuously disappeared. Smiling to herself, she would casually wipe away the residue of red that rimmed their lips, pretending she was unaware of their weekly ritual.

Mission House, Hell’s Kitchen, c. 1915 Bain News Service, via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps one of the novel’s greatest strengths is the manner in which it balances understanding of one realism within history: from the beginning human beings have always loved to be told stories, and it is no accident that our own histories resonate so deeply within us. The series of stories told throughout the book, as Vincenzo and his siblings—and the enlarging cast of characters—journey though teen years and young adulthood, as they enter into middle age, these stories satisfy a need to know about life for others and at other times, told by two with the eye and instinct of keen storytellers who know exactly when to divulge, when to pause and hold onto secrets and twists. They also embody the mirror image of those who love to be told a tale by fully displaying the seeming human satisfaction in telling one. Effortlessly weaving through time and connections within the characters’ own era, neighborhood and circles, they also touch our own.

So much happens in this novel, really a memoir of sorts–beginning in first person and shifting away as Vincenzo picks up–but readers are moved forward, perhaps a reflection of Vincenzo’s own perspective and the manner in which he habitually looks forward, rarely dwelling on past events. Here, too, the authors, who are in fact cousins telling their own family’s story, bring us to witness exactly how much the patriarch values the future and those who will occupy it. Like Clare who learns so much that afternoon, readers will be “exhausted and inspired from the journey[,]” and wouldn’t have it any other way.

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This review previously appeared at Before the Second Sleep’s former location.

A copy of Forty Years in a Day was provided in order to facilitate an honest review.

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R.I.P., Dianne Vigorito. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. 

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Book Review: Daring to Drive

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening
by Manal al-Sharif

Perhaps no other prohibition or decree forced upon women has been as discussed, analyzed, examined or reviled by the entire world as the ban on female driving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly, the regulation exists to protect women, or at least this is what they are frequently told. However, navigating the demands of daily life can be challenging to say the least, when denied the freedom of mobility and, when considering other strictures enforced in women’s lives or extant in Saudi society—dearth of public transport, proscription on being in the company of unrelated males, lack of willing/able family drivers or funding for an official one—seemingly impossible.

Such was the circumstance for Manal al-Sharif, who previously had worked her way out of the slums of Mecca to become a computer scientist for Saudi Aramco, dodging and climbing over, around, under and through each of the many obstacles appearing before her as she made her way through a degree program and, later, job offer that entailed her shift to a city in the Eastern Province (EP) where she didn’t even know anyone. In Daring to Drive she lays out the elements of plotting strategies, mapping out her daily routines in meticulous manner most of us could never imagine, just to make her way through movement of the day.

Saudi women summoned in defiance of the ban are charged with “driving while female,” possibly experiencing further isolation in that Saudia is the only country where such a ban exists. Consider al-Sharif’s surprise when she learns the restriction is not even based in any actual law—upon conducting her own research she finds nothing in either statutes or Koran to support it. It is rooted only in tradition.

Al-Sharif opens her memoir with a rundown of the latter portion of her encounter with police at her house the night she is ticketed for driving while female. From there she takes us to her childhood home amongst assorted relatives and neighborhood personalities with a chronic tendency toward being mean to each other. I lost count of the beatings she received from her family members, though recall with painful clarity the one following an injury her sister suffers that involved horseplay, a broom and the roof of her mouth. Al-Sharif tells this and other stories with a matter-of-factness that stings a little, not because child abuse or even lower-level corporal punishment doesn’t exist in our own country, and not just for its frequency in hers. I thought I isolated at one point that it was because the voice she presented is so accepting of it, unquestioning, even as the adult Manal telling the story. I found it disturbing, while at the same time privileged to be invited so deeply into the family psyche and all its attendant baggage and vulnerabilities. One must maintain a balance, sitting up straight and listening respectfully without falling too far into whoa, sh**.

As her years move forward we do see the child Manal’s thinking process grow from a talent for sneaking what we would call average childhood pleasures into her existence to outrageous acts borne of religious fervor to determination to claim the education her mother had plotted her entire life to steer her toward. Her experience and innate savvy enables her to navigate her way through the challenges of accepting a position in the EP on the other side of the country, which entails her arriving on her first day of work knowing she had no idea where she would sleep that night.

Soon after this I began to realize another voice had emerged, moreover that al-Sharif’s reflection of her own growing maturity and widening of her field of vision—in the landscape of her persona—is evident in her own meta-awareness. Her always-fluid prose ripples with it and at last I realized that her style itself is one of evolution, not merely the story within it. The connection it embodies is so powerful, even amongst experiences many in her audience don’t share, not only owing to common humanity and empathic structure, but also a bond that leaps to life within us as she celebrates even small victories. Particularly for Westerners currently witnessing the throes of a feminism that marginalizes dissenting women and hypocritically ignores abuse of women in other countries, it conveys a true victory, an actual achievement of honest liberalism that only the most imprisoned might reject.

Al-Sharif also surprised me in another manner. As I read, I sometimes lamented what I thought was the barrage of negativity coming from events depicted in her story. I tend to be wary of books that either whitewash oppressive societies or portray them as if there is not a redeeming characteristic to be found. I didn’t have a stake in whether Saudia lived up to the stereotypes attached to it or not—though my Middle Eastern reading tends mostly to focus on Iran, I thought this might be a great opportunity to branch out a bit, and was concerned with disappointment via monotony or agenda. Here she tells us bitter truths that act to veil much of what we later discover to be the seedlings of her subsequent strength. Actually, this characteristic exhibits itself early on; we just don’t recognize it, and at times it doesn’t recognize itself as it transitions through a society severely affected by radicalization and women contributing to their own oppression. Amidst all these we also see the joy of her drawing; a sister, who like sisters anywhere, sneaks off to see a boy; a beloved Barbie doll; her parents’ efforts to shield their children from discrimination; trips to Egypt and—that universal uniter—fabulous feasts.

It is to al-Sharif’s credit as a writer when I say my realization of further technique within her prose approached me silently, like the new day dawning, within which a watcher might be scrupulously keeping track, though unable to determine when or where the first ray hits. Such is her theme of awakening, reflected in the memoir’s title, the tale of her growing awareness itself, and the manner in which her words open up, blooming with the nourishment of the light, after which readers realize the seeds of activism sprung up, and those who leap to her support as her role flowers to life.

Women find their own agency when, like men, they are free to do and to fail. Yes, of course, some failures entail tragedies not easily brushed aside, but most of the time they consist of lessons learned, small steps in a process of flowering the spirit that cannot occur without balance in a life of growth that takes us up to the sun, but also importantly, particularly in a harsh desert land, oftentimes with the rain. This, too, brings its own nourishment in those failures, and it is fitting that al-Sharif’s own mother, who successfully fought so hard for her children to escape poverty and achieve a full education, spoke of rain and small steps: “The rain begins with a single drop.”

The agency is there; one must sometimes first find the balance of nourishment to achieve it.

Daring to Drive is a fairly fast read, though not to be confused with rapidly-consumed books of lesser integrity. Within these pages al-Sharif packs much more than her own tale; it is almost as if she tells the story of mankind coming into itself as we awaken to a new world of possibility and fresh opportunity to go faster than we had been—literally and figuratively—knowing some of the obstacles others before had faced. As readers turn the pages, the world outside their peripheral vision falls away, dinners burn, the evening tiptoes quietly by, the metro stops closest to work are forgotten. Though al-Sharif refers to herself as an “accidental activist,” if this is the kind of work she produces, it would be to our benefit if she keeps at it on purpose.

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At this writing it has been announced that Saudi women will,

by royal order, be entitled to drive by June 24, 2018.

Book Review: Future Confronted

Future Confronted by Louise Rule

An indieBRAG Medallion recipient

It has on many occasions through time been spoken of: the unnaturalness of outliving one’s own child. Unfortunately, many people have had to endure this terrible order of events and each has their own way to grieve. It takes great fortitude to re-count events, for in so doing, one re-lives them and their affiliate pains, not only in the telling but also the reverberating ache that strikes the heart long after the listener has gone away.

In summoning the courage to tell her story—her son’s story—Louise Rule has gifted upon us a piece of herself, of her strength and love for people and life that teaches us without lecturing, enables us in our quest to see the world and its inhabitants as the precious creatures they are.

Rule’s son Rob was just 20 when he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and less than two months later he was no more. Just like that, one might think, right before the swoosh of horror that passes through the consciousness coming to grips with the understanding that most people take much more time than that to absorb the very reality of such an illness. Just like that.

That sort of swiftness is related to the flash of time Rule writes of in her poem, “Just a Moment,” that serves to introduce Rob’s memoir. She references that first awakening of each day before full consciousness, wherewithal, has set in—preceding the full knowledge, for her, of the reality that is.

This Moment lulls me into trusting

Everything is fine. The Moment

Passes, reality remains

I remember…

It is fitting that Rule opens the book with two memories: one of herself as a child staring up through an apple tree to the sky above, leading closer to the present as it transitions to an ash tree and a downpour, as if the heavens themselves are weeping at the loss to the world, whose tree we are under. Symbolic of healing, a state Rule pursues though cautioning on the difference between this and the impossibility of “getting over it,” the tree has now embraced Rob’s remains, his ashes, holding him in a way his mother no longer can.

Like life, even a life punctuated with occasional negative events, this memoir has its bright moments, most often shared with loved ones. Rule recounts these, too, proceeding by first talking about life after Rob’s death—fitting, given the sometimes-overwhelming task of continuing to live not just after her child has died, but also following a harrowing ten-week period in which speed and unplanned become key notions of existence, when even the compensation of adrenalin threatens shutdown and yet somehow keep going is the order of the day, and then, suddenly, without warning—stop. The adjustment is harrowing and can be debilitating.

Reflected in the title, this circumstance can lead to the breakdown of an entire family, and Rule relates how her clan could not simply go gently, as they say, nor move on: circumstances necessitated a confrontation with what was coming and a reconciliation with what was. She artfully manages the roles of each section in the book by steering them in their duties: a nonlinear storyline—the only way, really, it could have been done—told to an imaginary companion whose presence develops into a full personality, one who understands the singular import of allowing the bereaved to do all the talking. In so doing, she anchors Rule as the author finds her way to a voice uniquely hers, yet fitting for all.

Rule is also clearly suited to the English degree she achieved—having commenced before her son’s illness and finished up after his death. Lyrical and flowing, while simultaneously conversational, her prose maps out these and other events free of emotion for its own sake, but with a writing quality and management skills that at times can lead us to envision the scenes in ways that reflect the moments. In one passage, for example, when the family first learn the seriousness of Rob’s diagnosis, it is as if we are viewing the passage through a prism and sensing the confusion via the distortion.

Nobody spoke; a heavy silence. We were all studying the registrar’s face, eventually; he looked at each of us in turn, then began talking again. I must admit to the fact that I can’t remember what he said after that. His mouth was moving, yes. I could hear a mumbling, yes, but I couldn’t seem to understand him. I tried…I did, I tried, but it had all become surreal, like watching T.V. with the sound down; it was happening to somebody else, not us…not us. Everything was running in slow motion. I became aware that everyone was standing up and moving toward the door…The door clicked, I turned around and stared at the door. We stood rooted, a tragic tableau in the corridor.

Within the pages of Future Confronted Rule takes us through the journey Rob and his family face as they make their way through a labyrinth, navigating in a learn-as-you-go fashion of how to do death when, in reality, despite modern advances in technology and a world of endless interpersonal seminars on taking life by the horns, most of us are still learning how to live.

Rule understands this, and makes no attempt to pass off anything formulaic—or even anything except what she knows and claims only for herself. She shares with us events from Rob’s (and her others sons’) childhood, linking, always linking her transitions and leading us to something we know we have to hear, not because it is hers, but because of her courage and generosity, that becomes ours.

The Russians say that no one ever truly dies as long as there is someone to remember them, and the author brings this to bear on the words of Cicero as she quotes:

The life of the dead is placed

In the memory of the living

Breathtaking and perhaps even frightening in the enormous responsibility this carries, Rule utilizes her skill and draws on her faith to achieve this memory keeper duty. In so doing, she allows us to see Rob a little bit more deeply, allowing us to share her task.

This review previously appeared at Before the Second Sleep’s former location

Book Review: Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog

Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog

by Rossandra White

Winner of Feathered Quill’s Silver Award for Memoir

IndieFab Finalist in Foreward Reviews’ 2014 Book of the Year Award

Beverly Hills Book Award Finalist 

Someone once told me that releasing a first book is akin to hanging one’s soul on a meat hook in a display window for all to see (something like that), and I had to admit that was a pretty good assessment. So when I first received Rossandra White’s debut work, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, I remember thinking it was rather brave of an indie author to release a memoir as her first book.

But White carries her own in this fantastic tale that opens to the morning rhythm of a battered relationship, related in a wry tone that immediately grabs the reader with its spirit, honesty and affection. She likes when she has her semi-estranged husband’s company in the morning and the dogs Sweetpea and Jake’s loveable antics are on display, though the couple’s opposing perspectives continue to drive them apart.

Then, just like that, she comes home from work that evening to a note that reads: “Gone to Mexico. Adios.” But it’s happened before. She isn’t shocked. What gets her is the non-conversations they have as she tries to understand.

 “Okay, so are you finally going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why do you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?”

 And so the author brings us on a trip down memory lane via stories set in Laguna Beach and her native South Africa, acquainting us to her past experiences with so many of those who have been important parts of her life, including her husband. She tells it like it is, accepting blame as well as assigning. Her style is spare, words economical, yet they are powerfully packed with emotion and layers of element that beckon us to follow her, then wollop with detail that springs up seemingly from nowhere.

Within minutes the three of us were walking down our rustic dead-end street toward Laguna Canyon Road and the beach, the dogs trailing their leashes. I had to pass Larry’s green van, dubbed the “Love Cage,” parked in the vacant lot next door, a forlorn sight without the battered VW beside it. That van was where we first made love. It was our motel on wheels for a trip up to Northern California ten years earlier to reunite with his two youngest adult daughters, missing for seventeen years after his ex-wife kidnapped them.

Of course, this suddenness reflects many of White’s own experiences, which she deftly analyzes, looking for clues pointing toward the reasoning behind different events, and succinctly illuminating what she finds. In this manner she transports us through episodes, including with her mentally and physically handicapped brother, Garth, back in South Africa and her beloved pets, one of whom, Sweetpea, is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The book’s compact size is a testament to White’s skill in storytelling, which for some other authors takes a much larger space to do. And it isn’t only economy, but also how she navigates two parallel threads that run linearly until they meet, also representing a time when she herself made the necessary choices regarding addressing the issues once and for all, including her own role within them.

White’s honesty is searing, but the compassion inherent within—from the author but also others, including her husband—and her writing style brings readers into the story as we journey through the years from childhood and miles of South Africa to California. We are so connected with her telling that we shudder or rejoice at her triumphs, embarrassments, fears and achievements, even smaller ones that reflect her coming into her own.

The contradiction reflected in White’s title—the holding fast while still letting go—is a state of affairs the author lives with and we see through most of the work: conversations that say nothing, living apart in the same house, attention weighted with neglect. This plays out in other ways as well, such as her own dedication across thousands of miles, and as she begins to recognize a great deal more self-sufficiency in those she is tasked with caring for, the bearers of whom provide her, in their own unique ways, with a sort of comfort in return.

It is telling to say that the day I received the book in the mail I read five chapters on the way home. The compelling narrative finds in readers a little bit of who each of us are as we seek out our own paths. White subtly deconstructs the past, her journey laden with frankness and humor as her language wraps around us, settling in comfortably in its ability to mirror our own experiences, at the same time being very much her own story. Punctuated with photos giving glimpses into her childhood, as well as matching stories throughout the book, Loveyoubye is a story of growth and forgiveness, an examination of the meaning of love and how to care for one’s self as well as others. Poignant, heart-rending, sweet and funny, White’s dexterous vision and storytelling strength brings together and reconciles opposing worlds, a union that comes with a cost, but one she brilliantly reveals without regret.

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About the author…

Rossandra White, a fourth generation South African, spent the first twenty-three years of her life in Zambia, where she had a baboon for a pet and learned to tell a log from a crocodile. She is the author of the memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, published by She Writes Press, and two, as yet, unpublished novels, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, set in Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively.

whiteShe lives in Laguna Beach with her two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, where she writes and blogs about the wild old days of her childhood in Africa as well as the wild new days of her life in America.

Readers can keep up with the author at her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Loveyoubye may be purchased at AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo.

Added notation: Monkey’s Wedding, set in 1950s Zimbabwe, is now available at Kindle and IngramSpark.

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Author image courtesy Rossandra White

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The author provided a copy of Loveyoubye in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book Review: The Elephants’ Child

The Elephants’ Child

(Volume I in The Faraway Lands)

by M.L. Eaton

One of the first things I noticed about M.L. Eaton’s The Elephants’ Child when I initially received it, was its modest volume. This didn’t take away from what I expected it might be, but the contrast between its size and the story power packed inside becomes a delightful discovery.

elephantSet in post-Partition India, The Elephants’ Child is mostly six-year-old Melanie’s story, though told in omniscient third person with brief forays into others’ perceptions. This works well because readers are able to get a grip on what is happening in the “adult world” while remaining anchored in Melanie’s. At times Eaton chooses to blend the two beautifully, capturing a resulting understanding of where the young girl acquires some of her own thought patterns, but with her own will intact.

“Now Lakshmi was there, insisting on holding her hands to make sure she was safe: which was mostly nice but often a bit of a nuisance because Melanie wanted to run and play hide and seek in the gardens and not walk properly like a little lady.”

Melanie and her family shift from Karachi to Bombay (present-day Mumbai) when her father assumes a new position in a civil engineering project. The little girl has had to say goodbye more times than she cares to remember, including initially from her native England, and has a difficult time adjusting. Moreover, she tries to reconcile grown-up behavior—“Adults were such peculiar things: they pretended nearly all the time”—with their words, an endeavor she finds utterly confounding. A poised and intelligent girl, however, she draws her own conclusions, including when to trust they were indeed telling the truth, evoking her very early childhood when her father introduced her to the peculiar elephants and promised they were real.

With a natural affinity for animals, Melanie develops particular fondness for the huge, grey creatures at the Hanging Gardens, where her new ayah takes her. Over some time her patience and the elephant mother’s trust develop and the bond between creatures and human solidifies. Melanie experiences an awakening, with an attending greater happiness, as well as a unity in spirit with the elephants.

ganeshaThis coincides with the illness and scheduled surgery of Elizabeth, Melanie’s mother, and the young girl’s fears for her mother play out in dreams of elephants and their deaths. She herself experiences a setback and her ayah, Lakshmi, immerses her more deeply into the culture by teaching her about the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, who removes obstacles, including those within. She instructs her in the mantra, Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha, an appeal to the god, though later worries what the memsahib will think of this.

Through the book Eaton weaves a theme of unity, her skill often apparent given the seeming opposites she is joining together: humans and animals, sadness and joy, a child in an adult world, the meeting of mono- and polytheistic cultures. It is even more telling of her talent that she accomplishes the feat without any person or creature having to compromise who they are.

Another technique that stands out to great effect is Eaton’s ability to utilize descriptive language in a way that awakens readers’ senses as she lays out any given scene. Perhaps the best example is one that introduces Melanie herself to her new home via the Gateway to India:

“Ahead of them stretched a magnificent panorama. The sapphire sea filled the wide deep bay of the natural harbour, framed by the lush green of the mountains on the mainland. The harbour itself was studded with islands, like precious stones of emerald and jasper in a sea of liquid lapis lazuli, a shimmering deep blue flecked with gold and dotted with white diamonds—the sails of innumerable small craft skipping across the sea’s sparkling surface.”

"The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"--the Hanging Gardens' depiction of the shoe as discussed by Melanie (click image)
“The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”–the Hanging Gardens’ depiction of the shoe as discussed by Melanie (click image)

In just over 100 pages, Eaton composes a small treasure of words, woven into a portrait taking us back to a time when, indeed, all was not perfectly wed, but where the willing could find some unity in their surroundings and take with them remembered pieces of a land that, because it in part grew them, becomes part of their soul. This is the case for Melanie, despite her struggles as laid out so poignantly by the author.

It is also the sort of book that beckons for a re-read and, I suspect, will reveal an additional something every time. Each discovery of the memoir contained within will glisten in readers’ own memories as they reach for the stories, not unlike digging into Mary Poppins’s small but deeply-packed bag of rich treasures brought out to enchant and unify purpose, being and wonder. Presented with simplicity, but certainly not simple, no matter readers’ ages, genre preferences or unfamiliarity with the content, it is a precious and timeless keepsake for any bookshelf.

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Marion L. Eaton writes of herself…

m-r-portraits-30.07.06-006-e1420983460966I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. But Life intervened and I only managed to complete my first novel when I was over sixty.

My first career (as a lawyer) began in the nineteen seventies when there were very few women in the legal profession of England and Wales, and the dice tended to be loaded against them! My first small office on Romney Marsh eventually extended until, after a number of changes, amalgamations and growth it evolved into one of the top 100 legal firms in England and Wales.

My second career (in complementary health) began in 1994 when I qualified as a professional aromatherapist and also became a Usui Reiki Master Teacher. Over the years I have taught Reiki to hundreds of students. With my husband, also a lawyer, I ran a complementary health clinic in the Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex for several years.

All forms of holistic health interest me but it is energy healing, in all its various facets and forms, which I find most fascinating and from which I can never quite retire.

You can learn more about M.L. Eaton at her website or Amazon author page. The Elephants’ Child and her other works, some of which include When the Clocks Stopped (B.R.A.G. Medallion Winner), Norfolk Twilight and The Lion Mountains, can be purchased at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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Stay tuned for my review of When the Tide Turned!

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A review copy was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell

Today, October 4, 2015, marks 109 years since the birth of Mr. Norman Campbell, who passed away in 2012.

The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell

by Norman Campbell/compiled by Diana Jackson

25% of proceeds from the sales of this book are donated to the local Kingston on Thames branch of Age Concern and Cancer, UK, Mr. Campbell’s chosen charity

I have a gcampbell book coverreat love for the ordinary, perhaps largely because so often it translates across history or events as extraordinary, rendering otherwise lesser details worthy of great note. Objects become artifacts, experiences awe, and so often people in later eras feel some link to those of times past; connections bond them despite the enormous differences of their environments that they may nevertheless both relate to so closely.

So it occurs within The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell, in which we the readers are given a firsthand glimpse into life in the earliest years of the 20th century, on through to the end of that era and into the 21st. Narrated by Campbell in a conversational style, the commentary seems to be directed at readers, and parenthetical laughter occasionally pops up, as it would when people are sitting together remembering.

young norman
Young Norman

Campbell starts with his parents’ marriage, followed by his birth in 1909, then continues on in linear fashion, through two world wars, his adventures to and in Australia, the advent of radio and television, his passion for music and perhaps surprisingly, his interest in surfing the Internet.

His words, so like the spoken words they actually are as recorded by Diana Jackson, revive for us memories of memories, perhaps stories heard from relatives about an era in which ordinary goals are reached by exhausting and extraordinary means. They then transition us with great succinctness to the present. Campbell does this with the fluidity of a born historian who in just a few sweeping words provides a glimpse of something that was and how it became something else.

Under the stairs was the coal cellar in those days. You could still find coal dust down there today but I’ve put a bit of carpet over it now. The coal man used to come in here with the coal on his back and that’s where he used to shoot the coal. All the dust would fly up in the hall. Schewww! You can imagine.

Most people have taken this cupboard out to give more room and maybe have a telephone or something under the stairs. I have filled in the banisters though, and put in a false ceiling because it was far too high up to paper.

Illustrated throughout, the pictures take on a new dimension of fascinating when we recall a passage from the acknowledgements:

This book, Norman’s memoirs, is also illustrated by photos and pictures from his multitude of albums and scrap books, squirreled away over more than a century.

For most people scrap books initiated 100 years prior, even if they ran for only a few seasons and indeed are exhilarating to take in, typically come from an older relative or, in some exciting instances, are discovered in attics or lofts. That these were held in reserve and collected for so long (100 years!) and by the same person, is nothing short of stunning.

sunlight soap labelExamination of the pictures reveals our own past, in people, places or items recognizable or not, and one finds their breath at times drawn in to realize the forebears of some of what we know today. This isn’t just about seeing a quaint-looking label on, say, laundry soap, though that is charming as well, but also to reflect about the conditions under which these products came to be or operated. Sunlight soap, for example, was created in 1884 using palm oils as opposed to the heretofore utilized tallow seen in depictions of early sculleries in which the maid’s hand would dip into a jar, emerging with a palm full of goop used for washing up. Sunlight was manufactured into a bar for the sake of convenience and the product came with a £1,000 guarantee.

Interestingly, such advert artifacts appear only at the start of the autobiography in close proximity to family photos. In fact, the Sunlight ad is the first image not of a family member, and subsequent clippings—one for linoleum, the next from an outraged citizen offering to pay £100 to anyone who can prove true the rumor about his consumption of horse meat—given Campbell’s age (toddler) at the time they are dated, points to a collection, perhaps of his mother, that inspired his own continuity of the habit.

spencer and annie campbell
Spencer and Annie Campbell

Did Annie Campbell have a sense of history that she perhaps passed on to her son, encouraging him by word or deed to preserve his present for the future? While it may seem an extravagant or extraneous question, its exploration makes other inquiries, of the Campbells as well as ourselves. How many of us today clip and retain product adverts? Do many people now see these even as worthy of retention? While the labels were mass produced in Annie Campbell’s day, now they are produced in mind-boggling numbers, awareness of which perhaps makes them truly unspecial in the eyes of many today. Annie Campbell, perhaps aware of the import of the product’s ingredient transition and maybe with a keen sense of the changes occurring in her world, might have kept them for others. “She was a bit of a clairvoyant. She used to dream of the future,” Campbell says, “and tell fortunes with the cards and tea leaves[.]” Perhaps she looked to the future and wondered what we might make of the people of her time, and wished to provide some answers. If so, she must have known there are clues sprinkled throughout her artifacts.

In addition to this glimpse into perspective, we see notation for images in a font resembling handwriting, much like people did when they pasted photos into the black pages of the old-time albums. When we see, then, the placement of some images at angles, rather than always straight and flush with the same sides of the pages, it brings the realization that the entire autobiography is itself the album. Campbell has not only invited us into his world, but also his time, and over the course of his lifetime has gone to great lengths to ensure we get an extended view. The chapters being headed by the years and a title facilitate the album presentation as it allows readers to peruse from beginning to end or to flip through, much the same way we flip through an album, skipping, going backwards for a second look, comparing the people within at the end to how they appeared—or what they did—at the start.

Surrey Comet, 1953

Compiled by Diana Jackson following Campbell’s death, the inclusion of an occasional address to Jackson herself does not take away from this album being meant for others to share in, and in fact shows a greater depth to Campbell’s invitation for us to participate in his life’s experiences, for indeed he must have realized the connection between readers and himself simply by knowing even portions of what he knew, such as television: Most have seen it, and he reaches out to add to our awareness of the space it occupies in our lives. When television is developed in 1953, and Campbell witnesses on one the wedding of Princess Elizabeth (current Queen Elizabeth II) he sees himself as a pioneer, and later contemplates a purchase.

I thought about it and since I was spending so much in the Kinema and so much in the Elite and so much in the Empire, I thought that all of it could go to pay for the television instead and then we didn’t have to go out.

We’d have all our entertainment indoors; magic. But that was the worst thing that could ever happen. All our social life went. I’ve never been out to the pictures since. The other thing is that everyone is scruffy these days. No one ever dresses up anymore. And then many of the picture houses were turned into Bingo halls when television took over.

As it turns out, Campbell’s wary observations were very keen indeed, for like the labels that are nowadays cast off as ordinary and of little importance for the eyes of the future, activities that once were central functions in people’s lives also transitioned into the ordinary. The processes that got people to those events–saving money, planning for, dressing up—were eliminated as something that once was magical sunk into the insignificant.

In this sense Campbell’s compilation might also serve as a cautionary tale as well as a memorabilia that enables us to cherish our own forebears. In displaying to us the charm of the ordinary, he also discreetly advises us—in his way of saying much with so few words—of the danger of the reverse, of becoming nonchalant in the face of the remarkable. It is here we see that he, too, might have been “a bit of a clairvoyant,” drawing from his mother more than he—at least on the surface—lets on, and presents to us this brilliant autobiography that could be read on a number of levels.

This amazing man continues his story, with clarity and dignity even explaining the pattern of his days with carers, not just for physical assistance but also to help him bear the loneliness around him. At 102 years of age, those from his generation are gone, he is widowed and, living in the home he grew up in, is surrounded by their memories. He finds joy in the Internet and reaches out to his extended family who live, literally, all over the globe. His story is written in a simple manner, but it is by no means simplistic and, as mentioned earlier, he presents it to us with many layers to peel back and discover that beneath it all is great complexity, which is, as Campbell himself might say, “as simple as that!”

To the end, Campbell displays that bright spark, a telling humor that makes us want to dig deeper to understand what else it is he knows, what is he trying to tell us, or even just share with us. Diana Jackson:

I saw Norman in hospital three days before he passed away and he said[,] ‘I’ve got it Diana! The name of my book. The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell!’

‘You can’t call it that,’ I spluttered. ‘You’re still with us.’

Indeed he is.

same house

Norman at 102 years of age He passed away just two months later
Norman at 102 years of age
He passed away just two months later

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(All images from The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell.)

Thank you to Mr. Norman Campbell, for sharing your remarkable life with us!

For more from Diana Jackson, see her blog, where you can also read more about Mr. Norman Campbell.

To purchase this fantastic book, please go to Amazon or Amazon UK.

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This post previously appeared in 2014 at the blog’s alternative location

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Author Interview: Yancy Caruthers (Northwest of Eden)

Northwest of Eden by Yancy Caruthers

Click here to read my review for Northwest of Eden

Every so often we stumble onto a book that seems to have been destined to cross our paths; one such for me was Yancy Caruthers’ Northwest of Eden. I’m exceedingly grateful to the friend who gifted it, for along with it she passed to me the gift of witnessing compassion, laughter and glimpses into a world I didn’t know much about, but should.

Northwest of EdenI knew before I was halfway through I would be reviewing this magnificent work. Less than 200 pages, it is accessible and gripping, but ought not to be mistaken for a breezy beach read. Filled with insight and questions, the sights, smells, events, colors (or sometimes desert lack thereof) will provoke laughter and tears as it, in the words of a recent reader, “takes you deep into Iraq.” An Amazon top reviewer called it “M.A.S.H for a new century,” and Soldier of Fortune magazine printed a five-page excerpt in November 2014.

Northwest of Eden is now on my forever shelf, and it will be a definite re-read. I also look forward to more by this author.

To read my review for Northwest of Eden, click here

We are so fortunate here at Before the Second Sleep to have been paid a visit by Yancy Caruthers, who so kindly answered a few questions.

The “About” section of Northwest of Eden states, “[Yancy Caruthers] soon found himself back in the desert writing this story.” Would you say you’re an “accidental author,” as that sentence seems to imply, or have you always planned to write?

This memoir took seven years to complete. Did others in your environment know you were writing it? What made you want to write this particular book?

Caruthers
Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

Let me answer both of these questions at once. During my first deployment, I kept a journal for my children. It was full of everyday, meaningless things, along with terrifying accounts of what was happening. I sealed it in an envelope where it remains today, unread. When I returned to Iraq again as part of a hospital unit, I knew I wanted to write for a public audience. I knew there would be intense experiences, but I didn’t know what they would be or when. For example, I knew there would be a time when a Soldier or Marine under our care would die. I didn’t know when, but I knew it would happen, and I wanted to capture that moment so that others could understand the experience. By writing about my life as it happened, I noticed something strange was happening: instead of just existing, I focused more on my own reactions as well as the reactions of others. I paid more attention to my own Soldiers. I think it unintentionally made me a better leader.

Apart from the obvious immediate influences on your writing, what else informs how and what you put to paper (or the screen)?

I’ve learned a lot from my best friend, Sam, who I also my cover artist. Sam is a writer as well, and he’s been at it a lot longer than I have. We’ve been best friends since second grade, so if a passage reads badly, he’ll tell me what he thinks I need to do to make it better.

Northwest of Eden references violence committed and some rather heartbreaking passages—these events occur in a war zone, after all—yet there also are moments of great humor and wit. Were you at all concerned this might put some people off?

HH-60 Black Hawk, Photo by SSG Dayan Neely, Courtesy Yancy Caruthers (Click for full article)
HH-60 Black Hawk, Photo by SSG Dayan Neely, Courtesy Yancy Caruthers (Click image for full article)

Not at all. That was a reflection of how it was. Humor, sometimes of the darkest kind, is one way that people cope with that kind of stress and heartache. If there isn’t a mechanism, then people go cold and stop caring about their jobs. When lives are at stake, that’s the last thing anyone wants. My team and I were a bunch of clowns in the off-time, but we cared about what we did – we laughed hard, but we trained hard, worked hard, and cried hard when it didn’t go right. It made us human.

What is the most important thing you believe readers need to know about your book and genre?

Truth. For good, bad, or ugly, that’s the way it was. It’s different for combat troops, drivers, or pilots, but my story is mine. War is horrible and stupid and unnecessary in every sense of those words, but the people around me were the way I made it through. Maybe I’m not quite intact, but I made it. That’s the thing to keep in mind about reading a war story. It requires an open mind. Each story is what it is.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future? Would you like to try your hand at another genre?

Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers
Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

I’ve told my story, and I’m trying now to tell the stories of others, which has been different and fun and a little sobering. My current work in progress is called “Medic!” and it is a series of six true stories about military medics in each of the living wars. I’m finished with Desert Storm (Part 4) and Iraq (Part 5) is coming out soon, but finding older vets willing to talk about WW2, Korea, and Vietnam is a lot harder. The subject of Part 6 will be the hardest to find – I am looking for someone who served in Afghanistan who was a small child on 9-11 and not old enough to remember what it meant.

Do you listen to music as you write? What kind of music do you like?

I’m a big 80s music fan, but I prefer quiet time to write. Background noise is okay if I’m on a roll. I draft about 1,000 words/hour at full throttle, but average only about 3,000/week of final product.

Type or longhand?

I type, unless I hit a wall. Then I’ve been known to print out a few pages of hardcopy and sit in bed, writing all over it in longhand. The two actions seem to be a different part of my brain, and when one is stuck, the other sometimes works.

E-books or paperback?

Both. The future might be in e-books, but I love to talk to people, so I do lots of public events and book signings. As a result, e-books are only about 40% of my sales. I’m trying to figure out what works for me in promoting my online presence, but most venues have so far turned out to be snake oil.

Any writing quirks?

I’m very easily distracted, because I think in 3-D and I’m always thinking about unimportant stuff. Facebook is the bane of my writing existence.

Any projects currently on deck?

As I work on “Medic!” I’m getting in front of several veterans’ groups. I’m hoping to do a big publicity push on Veterans’ Day this year. One of my area communities does a big festival and I am working to be a part of that.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Just that writing isn’t always fun, but the process should be. It’s about telling a story. The likelihood of writing a great book, posting it online, and selling a million copies without ever opening the shades is just not realistic. I love getting out, talking to people, and speaking in front of groups. Anyone who wants to write seriously should be doing the same. It isn’t always comfortable.

Yancy Caruthers, thank you so much for joining us here today, and I wish you great success with Northwest of Eden as well as all your future endeavors. It’s been a pleasure.

About the Author:

Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers
Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

Yancy Caruthers is an Iraq war veteran, registered nurse, retired Army Reserve officer, and former U.S. diplomat. He is the author of Northwest of Eden, a memoir of his second deployment as the second-in-command of an Army emergency room in the heart of Anbar province. He lives with his family in southwest Missouri.

Yancy is currently working on “Medic!,” a series of true stories about combat medics in each of the living wars. They will be released separately as e-books and eventually combined under one cover, assuming the author doesn’t get distracted.

You can learn more about the author and his works at his website, at Facebook or follow him at Twitter. Northwest of Eden is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Note: This post has been updated to include purchasing and review links.

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I would also like to extend a deep thank you to Yancy Caruthers for his unflagging patience with my questions on- and off screen, and for his service and continued dedication to others.

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Book Review: Northwest of Eden

Northwest of Eden by Yancy Caruthers

Tomorrow: Interview with author Yancy Caruthers

Northwest of EdenThe cover images for Northwest of Eden drew in my eye as connections formed: outline of Iraq, Red Cross and Red Crescent symbols and helicopter, all indicating military emergency medicine. But what about that chair? I was sufficiently intrigued by it and the main theme to open the book and from the beginning was entranced.

Author Yancy Caruthers writes in this memoir of his time in northern Iraq, serving as second-in-command of an Army emergency department, flight nurse and leader of the station’s air transport team. Anbar, al-Asad airbase’s location, is also the home of Fallujah, at the province’s eastern edge on the Euphrates and location of the 2004 ambush and gruesome murder of four civilian contractors. Ramadi, too, sits within Anbar’s provincial lines and saw internecine tribal fighting, breakdown of law and order and street battles, and grew to be the center of Iraqi insurgency, followed by the 2007 surge, when Caruthers begins his second deployment.

Opening near the end of a 27 + hour flight to Kuwait, during which he and a comrade commit ordinary acts under a duress borne of desperation, the book takes us with the reservist to Camp Buehring, a staging post, before moving on to Combat Support Hospital (CSH) al-Asad, where he will spend the next year. For many readers it may be unsurprising to find the “nuclear sun” and its oppressive heat referenced frequently as he and others attempt to transition into an environment so unreal most people simply cannot seem to grasp it.

Kuwait’s climate was the closest thing to Hell the planet had to offer, so even several hours after dark, the outside air was still hotter than my inside air. It reminded me of burning leaves in the back yard—sometimes the pile would burn hot enough that I would have to turn away. Here, there was no place to turn to.

I had tried to explain the heat to people back home, and inevitably someone would ask, “But it’s a dry heat, isn’t it?”

I would reply, “So is your oven, go ahead and turn it on low and stick your head in it…for a year.”

Desert outside Camp Buehring
Desert outside Camp Buehring about which a colleague laments, “You can’t see anything for miles.” Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

Upon arrival at al-Asad:

I stepped off the bus next to the housing area, and blinked against the dust. The air was thick with it, flavored only by the stinging hint of the smell of burning shit.

As the reality settles in and Caruthers simultaneously bides his time and gets to know his new unit, he shows us around with well-crafted dialogue and narrative that informs us of the amenities at Asad (known to Marines as “Camp Cupcake”), navigates the procedure for utilizing electricity without causing a fire and introduces some key figures who will be part of the year to come.

Although we already received a taste of military humor—the interior of a cargo jet used to transport troops, a “canister,” is said to be “what the inside of a can of whoop-ass looks like”—there is lots more to come. Caruthers had by this time already captured me, though I worried a little we might begin to see people who grow so hard on the outside as a protective measure that they become almost unlikeable. It wasn’t until later I realized I had at this point already deeply bonded with the book: this story and its individuals were so important to me it mattered; I cared if they became people even they wouldn’t want to be.

As it turns out, not only does this not occur—and one can’t help but credit his leadership skills for this—but also Caruthers has a way of relating events as if we were sitting across a small table from him: his words convey the tone in his voice, the sensation of hesitation in the moments he describes, and the anticipatory way in which the outcome hangs in front of us, veiled, so that putting the book down isn’t an option, for we simply must find out what happens next. And when he returns to a previous topic of discussion, we lean in closer at that small table, crying out, Yes, that’s right! because the previous threads had drawn us in tightly, but we are thrilled to be given another glimpse at how they tie together.

Humor is a large part of this procedure, though Caruthers expresses it in a natural, unforced manner, and readers will indeed laugh a great deal. Lots of what he writes is funny either because it just is, or it may reveal insight into human nature when dealing with a variety of circumstances. My previous fear about angry people taking over the narrative disappeared quickly, and I settled further into a book I could not bear to pause.

Even the author reveals himself at times to have been surprised by events in which people sought relief. One passage tells of a subordinate who asks for advice; Caruthers believes he might be having issues with leadership or at home, though the problem was actually much bigger.

“[Sir,] I need to get back at Koen, but…[i]f I strike out on my own without the proper guidance, I might accidentally kill him.”

 “And you suspect that I am both diabolical enough not only to possess this knowledge that you seek, but also to give it to you to use for your own nefarious purposes?”

 “That pretty much sums it up.”

 “I can help you, Padawan. Do you have any Oreos?”

 As time goes on we see pranks more and more involved and recognition of when someone was in on one or anticipation of oneself being the next victim. There is a sort of sadness to the whole thing, yes, because they are carried out by people bored silly during the down times of emergency feast or famine, and also reveal the need to escape the reality of their current environment. But, too, they represent the determination to retain a hold on a side to life that makes us whole. The refusal to succumb to soul-crushing desolation shows us a strength of character that makes us care about them more than we already do.

Map w T-E
Arrow points to al-Asad; SSE are Ramadi and Fallujah, on the Euphrates River (Click to enlarge)

None of this, of course, is to say that Caruthers doesn’t ever become angry—I’d be worried if he didn’t. Toxic leadership, higher ups whose arrogance gives rise to territorial decisions, a condescending preacher with an obtuse manner, the prolonged deaths of people who never had a chance, celebrities overconfident of their own understanding of war—these are some of the circumstances he and his colleagues have to work through and humor becomes a tool as necessary as any of the equipment on the Blackhawk.

The author has nothing to prove—at least not to readers. He doesn’t hesitate to let us in on some of his moments of doubt, physical pain or heartache, even while he has a strong resolve and the spine to stand up. Through all of this he openly speaks of his ongoing competition with a damaged chair, dogging him through his deployment with a continuity much like that of the broken leadership ailing their unit, and responding to it similarly: in a variety of ways.

He also paints pictures with words. In a theatre of war this may come as a surprise to some, but many elements of life still apply, and to see beauty amongst war machines and deathly horror embeds a portion of who one is into the place where they are: “The sun had dropped behind the mortar walls, but a gap in between allowed the deep orange sunset to breathe though and silhouette the Cobra attack helicopter on the adjacent pad.”

CSH AL ASAD
Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

As we see throughout, Caruthers also is always honest with readers and doesn’t pose as anything he is not. Never surrendering his compassion, his words and experiences remind us that strength doesn’t always mean that once a soldier’s tour is over, he or she goes home intact—or even alive. But if they do make it through, it will be having picked up a knowledge that always comes with a price. For better or worse change arrives and he addresses this late in the book with a curt statement that made me laugh aloud.

In the end, nothing is easy to define at al-Asad, so contradictory is it all, not least of which remains the awareness that massive bloodshed has occurred and countless lives lost in areas not far from the speculated location of the Garden of Eden. The fertile crescent embracing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the easternmost portion of which leads to the Persian Gulf near modern-day Kuwait, is said to be the site where

out of the ground the Lord God made every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

—Genesis, 2:9

Caruthers tells his story without attempting to diffuse these contradictions—it is what it is. Evil has soaked into the ground God fertilized, the tree of life is surrounded by death and destruction, upon a bountiful land dwells poverty so destitute it stunts the growth of children, and knowledge requires awareness of the terrible as well as the good. Neither are we as readers spared this paradox: the tears flowing from our eyes will convey merriment as well as pain.

Northwest of Eden gathers the recollections of a man who spent one year under conditions most of us could hardly imagine, let alone participate in. Many of us believe we know as much as we need to about the war, and don’t hesitate to make commentary upon it. The reality is that no one knows it like the men and women who served in it, and Yancy Caruthers shares with us what he saw and experienced: the additional conflicting nature of trying to aid and comfort military and civilian alike when others went to so much effort to kill them.

It is an enlightening book and recommended for anyone interested in the war, military medicine and relationships. But more than that, it will have a universal appeal because it is about humanity, and what we do with ours.

caruthers about pic
Photo courtesy Yancy Caruthers

About the Author:

Yancy Caruthers is an Iraq war veteran, registered nurse, retired Army Reserve officer, and former U.S. diplomat. He is the author of Northwest of Eden, a memoir of his second deployment as the second-in-command of an Army emergency room in the heart of Anbar province. He lives with his family in southwest Missouri.

Yancy is currently working on “Medic!,” a series of true stories about combat medics in each of the living wars. They will be released separately as e-books and eventually combined under one cover, assuming the author doesn’t get distracted.

You can learn more about the author and his works at his website, at Facebook or follow him at Twitter. Northwest of Eden is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Click here to read my interview with author Yancy Caruthers.

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Note: This post has been updated to include photo credits, purchasing and interview links.

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