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Archive for the ‘memoir’ Category

halfway-to-each-otherHalfway to Each Other

By Susan Pohlman

Genre: Memoir

Guideposts, September 2009

Preorder Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Halfway-Each-Other-Brought-Family/dp/0824947800

Susan and Tim Pohlman are living the American Dream in LA. It’s the dream life Susan always wanted, but behind the closed doors of the Pohlman home, things are far from perfect. Susan is disillusioned, unhappy, and secretly plotting her divorce. She plans to tell Tim after they wrap up a business trip to Italy.

Having a free day in Italy with no business to conduct, Tim suggests they spend it together. Although reluctant, Susan agrees. Surprisingly, the day is idyllic. When Tim confesses to hating his job and makes the crazy suggestion that they sell their home in LA and spend a year in the small town on the Italian Riviera in an effort to renew their love and marriage, Susan balks. She has a lot of painful emotions tied to her decision for divorce and can’t even imagine the reaction of their two children, fourteen-year-old Katie and eleven-year-old Matt. Yet the day had been wonderful and if there was even a small chance to save their marriage, shouldn’t she be willing to try?

Tim finds an apartment for them to view and after much soul searching and conversations with God, Susan tells Tim if the apartment is great, they’ll do it. But if the apartment is horrible, they’ll forget the whole idea. Tim agrees. Although lacking curb appeal, the place is large with a wall of windows and a balcony that looks onto the sea. Having made the agreement, Susan puts her faith in God for the first time in years and they sell the house, pack up the protesting kids and make the move.

I received this book and sighed. I laid it on the coffee table to remind me to read it, but I was reluctant. I’d read similar books over the years, both fiction and non-fiction. To be honest, I found them all a bit tiresome. Waking up to a stormy, torrential rain filled day, I picked the book up and decided to read the first few pages. I finished it later that evening. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Ms. Pohlman tells her story with a fresh, unique voice and excellent writing.

This isn’t one of those, ‘lets move to Tuscany and live the simple life’ stories, even though that’s exactly what they do for a year. And although this sounds romantic, the family must adjust to a life so far removed from their previous one, they might as well be on a distant planet. None of them speak Italian and this alone causes many a hardship.

Halfway to Each Other is a story about creating lasting bonds—bonds of love, of family, and of friendship. And it’s a story of renewal—the renewal of love between a husband and wife, a renewal of family, and a renewal of faith. This is a true story and I found it very believable. These are not perfect fictionalized characters. They’re genuine, vulnerable, and charming. I don’t know if there’s a way to describe the Italian Riviera without romanticizing it. It is after all, beautiful and romantic. The author did a wonderful job with this. But what impressed me more was the way Ms. Pohlman did not romanticize the Italian people. They’re full of flaws, unadulterated, charismatic, and captivating.

I can’t begin to explain the variety of emotions I experienced while reading Ms. Pohlman’s first book. It’s full of subtle humor and I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, this touching, heartwarming account brought me to tears. I truly enjoyed my time with the Pohlman family and I highly recommend this book to all. If there is a negative, it’s only that, far too quickly I came to that last page. I wanted more and when Susan Pohlman writes another book, whether fiction or non-fiction, I’ll be there to get my copy.

 –Willow

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sala-coverSala: More Than A Survivor

Written by Marsha Cook

As Told By Sala Lewis

Fidele Publishing, 2008

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sala-More-Survivor-Marsha-Casper/dp/1604141115/

Website: www.michiganavenuemedia.com

 

Born into the loving heart of a big, happy Polish family, Salucia (nicknamed Sala) has the kind of childhood most little girls only dream of. Short on money, but wealthy in love, her family of ten is knit together with strong values, laughter, and sacred Jewish traditions. But when Sala is just ten years old, her fairy tale childhood becomes a living nightmare and everything she has been raised to believe about faith, God and humanity is challenged.

With the Second World War raging throughout Europe and Hitler gaining in power, Sala watches as one by one, the young people of her neighborhood are taken away to Nazi work camps. When the day arrives for her beloved older sister, Dora, to go, Sala does not think her family will ever recover from the loss. Their once happy home becomes a quiet and somber place, reflecting the joyless tone of the near-deserted neighborhood. One day Sala returns from play to find her family home sealed up and her family vanished, their only crime — being Jewish. Thus begins Sala’s life in the Gestapo work camp; her tender childhood lost to years of cruelty and a process of dehumanization made bearable only by her faith in God and her miraculous reunion with Dora.

This was not an easy story to read. As a teen, my heart was broken by stories like The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank. All these years later, Sala’s story left me feeling much the same way. It was sad and troubling to read of the despicable conditions which were forced on human beings by other so-called human beings. Nevertheless, it is a story that needs to be read and remembered, a story of a time when an entire race was terrorized on the whim of a madman. A time that in Sala’s own words must be remembered so as never to be repeated.

So much more than just a story of survival, this story of raw, human courage blends glimpses into the hell of the Holocaust with heartwarming snippets of personal letters written by young Sala to herself as she struggles to make sense of the insanity her life has become. Her determination to hold on to her faith and to realize her dreams in the face of incredible odds is truly an inspiration. I was pleased that Sala’s story continued on, beyond the war, and I was given the opportunity to see her recreate her life and realize some of her childhood dreams.

Not eloquently written, the story’s beauty is in its simplicity. Written in an honest, straightforward style, this memoir reads like a very personal journal, the journal of a woman who has endured more hardship than most ever will, but who learns through that very hardship to celebrate victories and embrace life without questioning why.

More than a journal, Sala: More Than A Survivor is a journey, and one I really hope you will want to take.

–Honeybee

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mosaic-amygrantMosaic: Pieces Of My Life So Far

By: Amy Grant

Water Brook Press, 2007

ISBN: 978 1 4000 7360 3

Buy Link for paperback (Flying Dolphin Press, Oct. 7, 2008): http://www.amazon.com/Mosaic-Pieces-My-Life-Far/dp/0767929675

 

I have followed Amy Grant since my college days. I owned cassette tapes of most of her early recordings and even saw her in concert once. Her songs have always spoken to me. She is down home, earthy and real. I kind of lost track of her for several years, but I knew she had gotten divorced from Gary Chapman and remarried to country star Vince Gill. I must confess I wanted to read this book partly to get the details on her breakup, her children’s adjustment and the remarriage. The more I read the book the more I realized she wasn’t going to reveal much of that and then as I read her words I thought, Good for you Amy, you don’t owe me an explanation on your personal life or private pain. Who are we (fans) to think we have the right to know these things? Sorry Amy!

This book is not a novel nor is it an autobiography, but I feel it may be of interest to many readers and therefore worthy of a review on this site. It is, as the title says, pieces of her life. Instead of going into great personal detail of any one event Amy talks about memories of various people she has encountered in her life. Some are family members or people she has known her whole life and others are one time chance meetings with strangers that impacted her in some way. The book is not chronological but simply a mosaic fit together Amy style. Between chapters readers will find the lyrics of more than 30 songs as well as some poems and quotes. The center of the book features 16 pages of color photographs. There are also small black and white photos at the start of each chapter.

The book title is perfect for this journal style writing and the cover photo of Amy pictured in a casual skirt, barefoot and smiling captures the mood of the book. It is interesting the way Amy wove song lyrics, poems, thoughts and photos into this project.  Fans will be pleased to see that the book gives insight into the inspiration behind many of Amy’s popular songs. The format flows smoothly from memory to memory. She mentions memories from her childhood, vacations, her career, her own children, her husband, friends and fans. I read the book in bits and snatches reflecting on her descriptions and her faith. It’s not a book that demands to be read all at once, but rather a book you could enjoy over several days. Readers may bookmark some sections to come back to for a reread.

In Mosaic Amy humbly shares stories about her life, places she has been and people she has had the privilege to meet. She shares her thoughts on an encounter with a homeless man, a friend’s battle with cancer and a visit with an elderly fan. She shares family memories of birthdays, vacations, weddings and funerals.  Fame and music allowed Amy the opportunity to meet many famous people including, Reverend Billy Graham, Presidents Bush and Clinton, Tony Bennett, Kevin Costner, Michael Jordan, the Andretti family, and more. The book captures Amy’s special memories, Amy’s powerful music, and Amy’s deep faith.

Amy admits that there have been rough times in her life but in writing the book she doesn’t ask for sympathy or make excuses. She is human and admits to human struggles in her life. Her honest admission of her feelings of failure and even depression made her all the more human to me. I think all readers who have struggles in this life (which I think is all of us) will easily relate to this book. Family, faith and music are extremely important to Amy Grant and this book weaves them together in an uplifting fashion. Sharing pieces of your life means the happy and the sad, the fame and the failures. For Amy, these emotions have often been captured in her lyrics and now they are also shared in this book.

All in all I found this to be a moving book that gives a glimpse into the person behind the fame. Reading it might cause readers to look at their own life and think what they would include in their mosaic? As I read her writings, I paused to recall some of my good, my bad, my joys and my sorrows – so far. Self reflection is a good thing; disclosing it for others to read is courageous. Whether or not you call yourself an Amy Grant fan I suggest giving Mosaic a try. I enjoyed it so much I might even check her schedule and see about getting some tickets next time she comes to a city near me.

Pearl

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Dancing With The Stars

By Norman Borine

Fideli Publishing, Inc. 2008

Genre: Memoir

Buy Link: http://dancingwiththestarsbook.com

 

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to live your life doing the thing you love the most and being well paid for it. Norman Borine was fortunate enough to do just that. He lived his dream. In Dancing With The Stars, Mr. Borine details his years as one of the elite, MGM contract dancers in the 1940’s. Working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, he went from earning $100 a week to $1000 a week.

I’m one of those people who love old movies and especially those from Hollywood’s Golden Era. This was a time in film history that has never been repeated and probably never will be. Many an evening, I’ve been entertained by the big, Hollywood musicals of the forties and Norman Borine didn’t escape my notice. In my opinion he was one of the best dancers from that time period, and not just among the contract dancers, but the superstars as well.

I found Mr. Borine’s writing style fresh, emotional, and highly entertaining. Written in first person, I felt as though I was visiting with an old friend or reading a vastly interesting fiction novel. I was giving mental high fives whenever his career took a fortuitous turn and almost cried when weeks of work would end up on the cutting room floor. I was angered when one BIG break came and then was taken away by the hand of superstar. Through it all, the ups and downs, Mr. Borine seemed to take it all with a grain of salt. Even though, frustrated and disappointed at times, he never lost his cheerful optimism and remained grateful for the opportunities life granted. Always a fan of the dancer, after reading his own words, that admiration now extends to the man. 

If you’re a fan of this time period or any of the many stars Mr. Borine worked with, (Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Cyd Charisse, Fred Astair, James Dean, Frank Sinatra, to name only a few), you’ll love getting a behind the scenes look at the making of these films. You’ll also have a rare opportunity to get better acquainted with some of these stars from the prospective of someone who worked with and was considered a friend by many of them. Included in the book are many photos from the author’s personal collection, and are perfect compliments to the story.

As a tribute to Norman Borine, the author’s nephew, Bill Borine, published Dancing With The Stars posthumously. Norman Borine passed away in 2005. Family and friends sadly miss the man, but fortunately for his fans, his work lives on for all to enjoy.

 Willow

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