instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Random Musings

Book Review: A Very Fine House

I've just finished reading a Very Fine House, reliving the years I spent in such a house with my daughter. If you've loved and anguished over a beloved child's struggle with abuse and addiction, you've lived in such a house. This house was built with love, then rocked to its foundation and shaken so mightily it's a wonder a foundation was left on which to rebuild. This is Stoefen's gift to readers, the reality that what seems lost can be recovered. Stoefen enjoyed an unusually close relationship with her daughter Annie, who shared everything with her mother until the day she stopped sharing. The signs were subtle at first, small emotional and psychological issues that gradually transformed a beautiful child into an insecure and uncertain young woman. While many of us saw this happen to our own children at a much younger age, Annie's descent into full-blown meth addiction until she'd reached college age. Like most of us, we struggled mightily to rescue our children from the darkness we saw engulfing them -- desperate fight we are bound to lose if we think it is up to us to save them. Beaten down by the rapid disintegration of her daughter's life, Stoefen was forced to let go until Annie turned to her for help. While I'm filled with admiration for Stoefen's wonderful narrative, for the expensive treatment program she managed to obtain for Annie in lieu of jail time, and for her supportive love of Annie as she fought to pull her life back together, it's Annie who made it happen. This young woman's struggle to emerge ached through my heart and fills me with joy. Read More 
Be the first to comment

The perfect Valentine's Day Gift

Free tomorrow, February 12 through Valentine's Day, the kindle edition of The Scent of God. click here: http://tinyurl.com/lch4kao. "An exalted and terrifying examination of what it means to love with your whole heart." --Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, State of Wonder, This is the story of a Happy Marriage
Be the first to comment

Scent of God on Sale at $1.99 for 7 days

The Scent of God (kindle) will be available for $ 1.99 (list $7.99) — part of a 7-day countdown sale during which the price will remain $1.99. Don’t forget that books make great gifts. This sale will enable you to get that last minute Christmas gifts for your loved ones and friends at a greatly reduced price. Have blessed holiday and peaceful New Year. Travel safely, avoid too much eggnog, savor your favorite foods and delight in shared friendship. Thanks for your support of this book and ongoing encouragement.  Read More 
Be the first to comment

Beryl talks about her upcoming book.

FROM THE AUTHOR Do you find the term “tagging” confusing? I do. Most often you've probably been “tagged” in a photo or a post, yet you fail to find yourself either in the photo or in the post. Thanks to my dear friend Christin Lore Weber, I've now experienced a form of “tagging” that does make sense. It’s called The Next Big Thing in which writers “lift up their Next Big Thing for the entire world to see . . . most often right in the midst of writing it.” So, thanks to Christin for tagging me. Please check out Christin’s Next Big Thing . Christin is a brilliant blogger and scintillating author whose work you will not want to miss. In the next couple of days, I’ll post links to the Next Big Thing bloggers I've “tagged,” for this project. Beryl’s responses to the Next Big Thing interview: What is your working title of your book? The title, besides the cover, is often the writer’s most important tool for drawing the interest of the reader. My current project has born several titles. The most recent comes from the creative mind of the woman who bestowed the title -- The Scent of God -- on my first book. She drew the title The Glass Chrysalis from a chapter in my current work which refers to Butterflies and the emergence of their offspring. Where did the idea for the book come from? After my memoir The Scent of God was released, I was inundated with queries asking why I had stopped the book when I did. They asked for a sequel. Even more pressing was my desire to tell the story which burns in my heart and demands release. I've been working on the sequel ever since. “When can we buy it?” readers constantly ask. I have no answer. I’m still working on it. What genre does your book fall under? I don’t believe there is a defined genre for this work. I would call it a literary memoir in fictional form – in other words, a true story told as fiction. I assumed this format recently because I felt trapped within my own voice and vision. I needed to step outside myself in order to find the truth beneath the story. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? This is the story of a mother’s search to understand and forgive the choices she made that might have contributed to her daughter’s violent death; a mother’s effort to free her child as she could not do during life. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? While my first book received national acclaim, it did not become the best-seller the publisher expected and has still not earned back the substantial advance royalty it was awarded. The current publishing environment is a difficult one for new and mid-level authors. As a result, many have turned to self-publishing as a friendlier and more financially lucrative option. I might eventually choose this route, though I will probably run this work by my agent first. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I've been through so many drafts that I've lost count. As I only decided to take the book into fictional format within the past month, you could say I've just begun the first draft. This draft, however, feels more rewarding and exciting, so I think I’m on the right track. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine. The Lost Child: A Mother’s Story by Julie Meyerson. My Daughter’s Addiction: A Thief in the Family – Hardwired for Heroinby Marie Minnich. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I actually began writing this book many years ago in daily journals which became my most trusted confidants during the years of anguish and fear that followed my first husband’s death (where The Scent of God ended) and that leads to my daughter’s death and its aftermath. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Those who read The Scent of God will be the first to seize on this book. Parents of children suffering from depression and mental torment and those whose children are addicted to alcohol and drugs will find their stories in this work. The damage inflicted by those who disguise abuse as love, and the anguish and confusion that result from the sudden violent death of a child or loved one, add other engrossing dimensions to pique interest. It will conclude with the letters I wrote to my daughter after her death. Read More 
Be the first to comment

Writing my way to healing

Our lives often remind me of small boats riding the currents of life. When things go well, we skim safely along the surface without encountering danger. We make choices to try to maintain control over the direction in which we are sailing. Some of these choices are good ones. Some not so good. Unlike the choices that result in tragedies at sea, the choices we make seldom doom us to total shipwreck. Nevertheless, the choices we make often have an uncanny ability to surprise and wound us. Our home overlooks Lake Superior. It has a great view of the lake with it ever changing moods: reflective, agitated, violent, soothing. Our lake view also contains a monster rock that hides around 50 feet offshore. I've nicknamed it Nessie, after the Loch Ness monster, because it appeared suddenly one day as I sat watching the lake. I heard a gurgle, saw a wet black back emerge to shimmer briefly in the sunlight then watched it disappear again under the waves. The water level in the lake was then several inches higher than it is now. Nessie no longer hides under the lake’s surface. She can’t. The water levels are too low. She’s been exposed because of drought. While most of us prefer our journeys smooth, life does not cater to that desire. Circumstances can so stress and disturb us that our spirits enter a drought of sorts, revealing the rocks we'd inadvertently encountered. It was during such a period of drought that I overheard my son say that he thought he was damned. Why? Because his mother had been a nun and his father a priest. I was stunned. Yes. Life had been hard since their father died when they were toddlers, but why had they drawn such a conclusion? While they'd know about life "after daddy," they knew nothing about "before daddy." I wanted them to know about the love that brought Vittorio and me together, the love with which we’d greeted each of their arrivals. It was a complex story, one impossible to tell in a few sittings. And so I began to write what I thought was a love story and discovered that beneath my surface competence, I harbored the same doubts my children did. Was Vittorio's painful death from pancreatic cancer and the suffering that followed in its wake punishment for the choices we'd made? As a teenager, I’d experienced God in such an overwhelming, unforgettable way – a love so consuming and unconditional – that I pursued it into a monastery thinking I’d be lifted to the heights of sanctity within that hallowed atmosphere. I was so wrong. Rather than saint in the making, I discovered the same compulsive/obsessive behavior that I’d condemned in my father. He was an alcoholic. I became an anorexic. I discovered that I could get as ragingly angry as my mother. That rather than disappearing into the cloister, I wanted to be noticed, to be special. What a shock that was. And when I was sent home to Puerto Rico to help my invalid father, rather than the devout and retiring nun everyone thought I was (including myself), I discovered I was sensual. That freedom intoxicated me. And that yes, I could fall in love. It’s interesting how we learn to live with and to cope with ambiguity without really understanding or examining what is happening. When I was in Puerto Rico falling in love with Padre Vittorio I became two selves at war with one another. One wanted to stay faithful to my vows. The other wanted to be loved. To survive I called a truce. I would view our love as God’s gift. We would love one another utilizing all the proper channels. We sought dispensation from our vows, waited until the church accepted our request, then married. When our little girl almost died at birth and when Vittorio simultaneously began his death journey through pancreatic cancer, I buried the doubts that maybe we’d deceived ourselves. That maybe our love was not God’s gift. And I’d kept those doubts buried until writing revealed them. In writing a memoir, I'd had to dive under the surface waves of my story, and, in doing so, I discovered that the rocks I found there had transformed from hidden dangers to islands of refuge and rescue. I discovered that far from punishing us, God had been with us throughout our journey. I encountered the goodness radiating from within my parent’s tormented lives, touched Vittorio’s anguish as he struggled to live for his children, and passed from my own loss to enter the children’s grief. The deeper I went, the more tears I shed, but eventually those tears cleared the murky waters in which I swam. I discovered that by reconnecting with my past, I can move more honestly and bravely into the future, no matter what that future holds. The late Thomas Merton, famed author and beloved spiritual guide, wrote that "When we live superficially, we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions … we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives." Thanks to writing, I continue the journey to an ever deeper awareness of who I really am. Writing opened a channel leading to my inner truth and I bless the gift it has shared with me.  Read More 
1 Comments
Post a comment

Favorite New Spiritual Memoirs

I'm a besotted book-lover. I have heaps of books piled on tables throughout the house waiting to be read or in the process of being read. Many of these books have been recommended to me by friends whose reading preferences I respect. When these books are spiritual, it makes sense to recommend them ona blog dedicated to spiritual living? These are not exactly reviews. They are meant simply to share what I've loved. They are a get-to-the-point-and-do-it-quickly type of review that will perhaps inspire you to check them out and maybe buy a copy. My two newest spiritual favorites are both memoirs and both were written by Jesuits. When a Jesuit writes, you can usually count on the work being erudite. Some Jesuit authors are also darn good story-tellers.The authors of the next two books are erudite and they know how to engage the reader. I have numerous books on the lives of the Saints. I've recommended some of them here, in the past.While all of these books introduce us to saints and their lives, I've not found one that combines both the lives of the saints with a personal experience of these saints. Father James Martin's My Life with the Saints >is a perfect blend: a personal spiritual memoir combined with the lives of the saints. This book is a delightful journey with a self-effacing, articulate, and often funny Jesuit as he meets and “befriends” saints both modern and ancient. Martin is a gifted story-teller and guide to those seeking to know the great friends of God. This book has instilled in me a new curiosity about my own and other's relationship with the saints. I question whether I've ever considered them friends. I wonder if reverence for their lives and the inspiration they offer qualify as friendship. I wonder what is your experience? Are you friends with particular saints? (you can link to publisher site by clicking the book cover) I received Tattoos on the Heart from one of my best friends: a nun who spent the money I'd given her to buy books, to buy me a book! Actually, she bought several copies to share; she loved it that much. (click title link above to access publishers website) Tattoos on the Heart is a spiritual memoir of Father Gregory Boyle's work with the “homies” in Los Angeles. As we follow him into the heart of the LA ghettos, we travel with a priest who has dedicated his life to restoring hope and a sense of self-worth to hopeless lives. He introduces us to gang members who want more than anything to "to get a job." It is having a job that instills a sense of dignity to their lives. But even more than that, these young people need to be loved and it is love, unconditional love, that Father Greg offers. For the past twenty-years, Father Greg has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles ( the "gang capital of the world.") The lives of these young people, as told by a wise and courageous priest, propel this book with such urgency that you will find it hard to put it down. Some of the stories Father Greg tells will make you laugh. Others will break your heart. To my mind, they are certain to enlighten and uplift you.  Read More 
1 Comments
Post a comment