Sunday Book Review – The Peaceful Village by Paulette Mahurin, #WWII #historicalfiction

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m sharing a book by one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Paulette Mahurin. This is her newest release I was thrilled to be able to obtain a copy from Netgalley – The Peaceful Village. Based on a heartwrenchingly true story about one of the biggest WWII massacres on French Soil that occurred because of a lie.

Blurb:

During the German occupation of France, nestled in the lush, verdant countryside in the Haute-Vienne department of central France was the peaceful village of Oradour-sur-Glane. It was a community where villagers woke to the medley of nature’s songs: roosters crowing, birds chirping, cats purring, and cows shuffling out to pasture. The people who lived there loved the tranquil nature of their beautiful home, a tranquility that existed year-round. Even with the German occupation and Oradour-sur-Glane being incorporated as part of Vichy France, Oradour – the village with cafés, shops, and a commuter tram to Limoges – remained relatively untouched by the stress of the occupation.
While Oradour enjoyed the lack of German presence, twenty-two kilometers to the northwest in Limoges, the Germans were reacting with increasing cruelty to organized attacks on their soldiers by the armed resistance organization Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). Headed by Georges Guingouin, the Limoges FTP was considered the most effective of the French Resistance groups. Guingouin’s missions fueled the German military to kill and incarcerate in concentration camps anyone perceived as supporters or sympathizers of the Resistance.

Up until the middle of 1944, the German anti-partisan actions in France never rose to the level of brutality or number of civilian casualties that had occurred in eastern Europe. A little before the Allies landed in Normandy, that changed, when German officers stationed on the Eastern Front were transferred to France. It was then that FTP’s increasing efforts to disrupt German communications and supply lines was met with disproportionate counter attacks, involving civilians. Guingouin’s response was to target German officers. When Guingouin set his sights on two particular German officers, all hell broke loose.

Based on actual events as told by survivors, The Peaceful Village is the story of the unfolding of the events that led up to one of the biggest World War II massacres on French soil. But it is not simply a story of Nazi brutality and the futility of war, it is a story of love. The love of family. The love of neighbor. The love of country. Compassion and courage burn from the pages as the villagers’ stories come alive. Written by the international bestselling author of The Seven Year Dress, Paulette Mahurin, this book is an homage to the villagers who lived and loved in Oradour-sur-Glane.

My 5 Star Review:

Marguerite lives on her carrot farm with her husband and other family in the beautiful, peaceful village of Oradour, France. During WWII, this quiet and peaceful village had not yet been threatened or occupied as much as other parts of France and Europe by the nazis, despite the Vichy accepting German rule, until a German capture that had gone wrong had brought forth the brutal nazi regime (no, I will NEVER capitalize the word ‘nazi’) to this peaceful ‘untouched’ by war, town, just before the allies landed in Normandy.

As Marguerite was approaching menopause, the gruel of farming without enough hands was getting to her physically and mentally. She went to church one Sunday and discovered the clergy could use some well needed office help and approached her understanding husband asking for time away from working the farm and by taking up the offer to work for the church office. When she discovered a horrifying piece of paper in a book, as she was tidying the rectory, she approached Father Chapelle, asking if anyone else shared the office, ultimately, showing him what she’d found in a book as she was organizing a bookshelf. Their eye contact established a mutual understanding that they were both on the side against the nazis, when the Father let her know that he was part of the resistance helping place Jewish families where he could. Marguerite’s sympathetic and good nature led her to helping out the church by delivering secret messages, food and clothing where she could.

All was calm, but Marguerite had a foreboding feeling in her stomach, and it wasn’t long before the SS butchers rounded up the whole village in retaliation for the resistance killing one of their higher up murderous high rank nazi leaders. It was first the resistance who made a fatal mistake by letting another of their captured nazis escape, who made it back to headquarters and lied about what happened to him in this innocent village.

Mahurin tells a gripping story in such detail, it’s as though we are there witnessing the action. She paints a picture of this blissful town full of compassionate, loving, neighborly people going on with their business as though the rest of France had nothing to do with them in their sacred untouched perimeters, and just as the serenity turns to hell on earth, she equally writes of the pain, brutality, butchering of innocent mankind because of one SS trying to cover his ass by lying about his attack saying it had taken place in Oradour – when it did not! This lie became the war that wiped out an entire peaceful village in one day.

Based on true events as told by survivors, one of biggest WWII massacres that ever took place on French soil. The expensive price of human life paid for letting one of those heinous, murderous nazis escape capture. The author never disappoints in her gripping true tales of some of the true horrors that innocent people endured under the brutal tyranny of Hitler and his nazi evil regime.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Why Didn’t They Leave by Eva Hnizdo – WWII #FamilySaga

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Eva Hnizdo’s historical fiction book, taken from memoir – Why Didn’t They Leave? . This book was right up my reading alley. The book begins in the late 1930s Czechoslovakia just as WWII is heating up. A family saga that takes us into the life of three generations of women – Franzi, her daughter Magda, and spans through the decades of change into the early 2000’s as told by Magda’s daughter, Zuzana. This is a story of life-altering change, fear, humanity, and how each generation of women coped with war and its devastating effects on body, mind, and spirit, and an understanding for Zuzana born of another generation, struggling to learn why her relationship was strained with her mother from resentments to a final understanding.

Blurb:

You can’t ask for asylum in another country just because your mother drives you nuts, so when 19-year-old Zuzana flees from communist Czechoslovakia to England in 1972, she says she just wants freedom. Her relationship with her mother, Magda – a Holocaust survivor who lost most of her family in the concentration camps – is toxic and Zuzana finds happiness in London with a loving husband and beautiful son.

But when her mother dies, Zuzana is crushed by guilt and feels an overwhelming urge to discover more about her family’s tragic history. So, she embarks on a life-changing journey, discovers some incredible stories and tries to answer the question which haunts her: Why didn’t they leave?

“Eva Hnizdo’s Why Didn’t They Leave illuminates the lives of one extended family from the beginning of Naziism. With meticulous detail and heart-wrenching scenes Hnizdo offers answers through her characters’ actions as to why some chose to remain in their homeland and others fled. A story filled with history and heartache… survival and hope.” – Julie Maloney, author and founder/director of Women Reading Aloud

“Eva Hnizdo has turned her own story into a gripping work of fiction that follows a secular Czech Jewish family’s fortunes during World War Two through communism to a multi-cultural life in Britain. Her book says much about prejudice and tolerance, survivors’ guilt and the emotional challenges of motherhood, all through the voice of her extrovert and sexy heroine.” – Brigid Grauman, journalist and author of Uncle Otto’s Puppet Theatre

Zuzana is haunted by the choices that her family made during the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and later during the Communist regime. Her discoveries make for a compelling story of loyalty, love, and courage.” – Jacqueline Sheehan, author

Eva Hnizdo is a Jewish Czech, born in Prague in 1953. She is the granddaughter of a man who lost his life by deciding not to emigrate in 1938, and a daughter of parents who, after surviving the Holocaust, spent most of their adult lives under an oppressive communist regime. Eva studied medicine at Charles University in Prague and became a doctor. She escaped to the West in 1986 and obtained political asylum in the UK in 1987 with her husband and two sons. She worked as a full-time GP partner at the same surgery in Watford for twenty-three years. Now retired, she spends her time writing.

My 5 Star Review:

Magda is 13, it’s 1940 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Germans are taking over the country and Magda and her brother Oskar have already been booted from school, while their mother is sewing yellow Stars of David on their clothing. At first Magda thinks the stars look cool, then quickly realizes after getting pushed and shoved on the street, the star is a calling card for attention. Magda’s family was privileged and Magda’s mother Franzi and her husband Bruno did well with buying off SS agents by giving them many family possessions to avoid deportation to Theresienstadt, but by 1942 her family was finally deported. Some survived, some didn’t. When liberation finally came, Magda and her mother lived through the brutal and lean times and were lucky to be given back their home in Czechoslavakia.

Magda at 18 reinserts herself back into the school system and studies hard to graduate high school after missing four years of school and succeeds. She marries Mirek after she graduates and they live with her mother Franzi. Franzi mourns the loss of her husband, her son and all others while Magda wants to go on, avoiding the memories and deaths. By 1948 communism was taking over the Czech oslovakia and government was taking over private businesses, those who didn’t comply were sent to jails. It was like war was back but within their own country. Magda and Mirek were urged to leave in the late 40s, but Magda didn’t want to leave her mother. By 1952 they were stuck there. Anyone caught trying to leave the country was jailed.

In 1953 Magda gave birth to daughter Zuzana and was happy to let her mother Franzi do everything and look after her daughter while she kept occupied, entrenched in her job. By this time Mirek was already cheating on moody Magda. Magda decided she didn’t want her daughter to be Jewish so she convinced her unwilling husband to have Zuzana baptized to protect her from being a persecuted Jew, as anti-semitism was running rampant even after the war, especially while Czechoslovakia was under communism. When Zuzana was age 9, Mirek left Magda. He was tired of her whining and lack of interest in cultural things he liked to do. And he wasn’t happy about not giving their daughter a religion to practice, as Magda only wanted the baptism to protect her child from future incidence of anti-semitism, without teaching her about any religion.

In the mid 60s, Magda went to visit Bavaria. She was stunned at all the beautiful goods for sale in stores – something they didn’t have in the Czechoslovakia. Her pent up anger at Germans had her stealing from stores because she felt entitled after the Germans seemed to have stolen much more from her. Her passive- aggressive anger lingered.

By 1964, Zuzana was a young teenager who protested all her mother’s good intentions for her. Magda tries to send Zuzana for dance lessons but Zuzana doesn’t like it, doesn’t like girlie things or dresses. Magda wants to give her daughter everything she didn’t have, but Zuzana is rebellious. Zuzana prefers wearing pants and reading books to dresses and parties. Magda is often bitter at her daughter’s reactions to all her plans for her, as though Magda wanted to live what she missed out on vicariously through her daughter. Magda often mumbles to herself that her daughter doesn’t know how lucky she is to have access to clothes, classes and adventures as Magda internally remembers her time imprisoned during the Holocaust. But Magda stays firm in her decision not to tell Zuzana about her imprisonment or how so many family members actually died in the Holocaust. She never even told Zuzana they were really Jewish.

Part two of the book is Zuzana’s story in the year beginning back at 1966, til the early 2000s. Now married Zuzana with a 13 year old son, Adam, tells her husband Harry that she changed schools when she was a teenager where she could learn more languages, adding that her mother got her in through black market connections, which she reiterates was really such a thing.

In 1967 Zuzana’s Uncle Otto and his wife came back to Czechoslovakia to visit his remaining family and he went to the synagogue with Zuzana, her mother and grandmother Olga. This was the first time Zuzana realized that it was not only the communist anti-fascists who were killed in the war, but innocent people, including her own family. Until then, Zuzana had been sheltered from knowing about war and the fact that she was an actual Jew. As an avid book reader, Zuzana began to read ‘different’ books that were starting to appear on the shelves – stories about the Holocaust.

As a late teen, Zuzana left the country, organized by her rich Uncle Otto and moved to England where she went to university and lived out her dreams of freedom, education, meeting people from different races and falling in love with her to be black husband Harry who became a pharmacist.

Zuzana felt she didn’t love her mother because Magda nagged her all the time and never gave her daughter a compliment, almost trying so hard to force her daughter to do the things Magda never had the chance to do. The tension remained between mother and daughter throughout the story until Magda’s ultimate death, when Zuzana learned from Uncle Otto what really happened to their family during the war, and this opened up a world of curiosity for Zuzana about her real heritage inspiring her desire to travel to America to meet the sparse family who survived the war and ultimately, moved to America. Then Zuzana gets the rude awakening about how her mother survived and the PTSD effect it left on Magda that made her become the way she was. She meets up with aunts, uncles and cousins who were survivors and descendants of survivors, and her new discoveries give her a new sense of why her mother acted the way she did, discovering her mum not wanting to talk of what she lived was a shield for herself and the PTSD she suffered through the rest of her life from what she lived through. Zuz learns that she shouldn’t have judged her mother and once Magda dies, Zuz’s grief becomes overwhelming. As Zuzana begins to have regrets in this new appreciation for her mother, we begin to learn the true effects the war had on this one family.

This is a story about a family caught up in the brink of war, during the war, and their lives in the aftermath. It deals with racism, anti-semitism, communism, humanitarianism and inhumanity. Fascinating on many levels with the intricately woven characters and going deep learning how and why these people were shaped. Yes it takes place during the Holocaust, but it’s about people’s individual lives, living through hell, and how they become after. This is the story of one once large family torn by war, how they survived, why some left in time, and why some chose to stay behind.

©DGKaye2022

How Am I Doing? Too Much Solitude isn’t Healthy – #Procrastination and #Grief

It was a year April 7th that I lost the love of my life, my husband, Puppy. And today is his birthday. I’ve been busy painting new rocks to place around his gravestone for his birthday visit. And went over to the garden center to pick up a lovely spring planter.

The sun’s rays were shining brightly in this photo

This past year has been one of The most difficult time of my life. Many days I find myself not coming to grips with anything. When you love deeply, you will grieve deeply. I am on my own way too much it seems and I know with certainty getting away for the winter was my saving grace, being around people – company, always someone to talk to.

Most of my days are spent reading, researching various things from the spiritual to online grief groups, and writing. It may seem I haven’t published anything for quite some time, but the writing has been plentiful and has given me much material to work with from my journaling and the many poems I have written. My procrastination, because of my newly acquired short attention span hasn’t permitted me to do anything concrete with any of it yet, but I’m slowly working on that as I struggle through each day with what feels like a never-ending grief who is my constant companion. I know though, that one day soon I will have much of my writing to share. My grief doesn’t just pop up randomly, but walks with me every minute of the day. Some days I can deflect it off ’till later’ and some days it just gets the best of me. So I continue to live in my mantra of ‘One Day at a Time.”

In my moments of distraction, I find myself running to Youtube listening to angel messages, Mediums, poets, from inspirational things to talks on the afterlife. I’ve been watching a lot of Youtube videos, getting lost in the 70s and 80s lately too. I can listen to that music because it takes me back to some of my most happiest times – the times before I met my husband, so those songs couldn’t set off yet another fresh round of grief. Somedays I find myself having to do anything to distract myself from doing anything productive as my grief is a staunch companion. I find myself always trying to gauge my emotions and watch where my mind goes. If I feel the need to abandon doing something constructive (like writing and getting back to edits so I can publish I book I wrote two years ago), when the weight of my grief reminds its presence, I need to do that in that moment. This is my coping mechanism taking over, and I must listen.

If my soul craves the need to jump over to Youtube to watch a video on the Afterlife, or a music video to take me back to a happier time, I do it. I’m alone much of the time and I thank goodness I’m resourceful because let me tell you, I loved living on my own when I was younger. I had the time of my life in those days with a very active social life. But this time ’round, both the calendar and the couch are equally empty.

I’m okay with music prior to knowing my Puppy, but not yet ready for hearing ‘our’ songs. I passed on the Luther Vandross video – So Amazing, that popped up on the playlist, the one I walked down the aisle to when we married.

I’m getting acquainted with, but not quite used to living alone. Being single in grief at a certain age is nothing like being single in my 20s and 30s, especially when you’re still trying to digest being in the digit ‘six’ club. If I didn’t have my writing to keep me sane, who knows where I’d be. Writing is my sanity, as it seems to have been my ‘go to’ since I was a child. I feel like I’m in a new learning phase of my life where I allow myself to follow my whims instead of putting them on the back burner for tomorrows – those tomorrows that sometimes never come.

But I’m always writing. I probably have enough writing for three new books. The only thing I haven’t yet got back to is my desire to do something with my words. So in the meantime, I keep writing. And I’m actually considering putting some of my writing in podcast that will eventually become part of the book on grief that I’ve been journaling about. The universe will guide me when the time is right. My heart is far from ready yet to reread the thousands of words I have written in these past two years.

My circles in life are considerably smaller. I am grateful for the friends in my life, especially those who’ve ‘stayed’. And equally grateful for my online writing friends here who keep check on me and keep me motivated, informed and entertained. I feel as though I haven’t found a direction yet, so I remain coasting along to whatever the days ask of me without putting pressure on myself. Grief is a strange animal that takes hold of me in a moment’s notice. It distracts, it chokes, it hinders, and somedays it’s just emotionally crippling for me, and it works on its own schedule. Too much alone time is not healthy for a griever. I am trying to work on that too.

I will finish off by saying that procrastination is a well known thing for writers as we often will look for a distraction when the muse isn’t fulfilling. But sometimes, in other aspects of life, procrastination is the very thing that soothes our insanity, and a diversion is just what the doctor ordered.

Happy Birthday to my Heavenly Husband 🧡💔💘

Last of the diehard Toronto Maple Leaf fans – who may just make it this year!

Mexican memories

Love of my life

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Widowish” A #Memoir by Melissa Gould

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a book I came across that immediately grabbed my attention – Widowish: A Memoir by Melissa Gould. I thought the title was attention grabbing, and as a new widow myself, I felt compelled to read to see why the title had an ‘ish’ attached, it had me curious as to the meaning – did ‘ish’ mean kind of a widow? Sometimes a widow? So I dug in to discover and you will discover my findings in my review below.

With over 5000, 4 1/2 star ratings, I can certainly appreciate this woman’s journey of grief, confusion, guilt, and ultimately, finding happiness on her journey.

Blurb:

Melissa Gould’s hopeful memoir of grieving outside the box and the surprising nature of love.

When Melissa Gould’s husband, Joel, was unexpectedly hospitalized, she could not imagine how her life was about to change. Overwhelmed with uncertainty as Joel’s condition tragically worsened, she offered him the only thing she could: her love and devotion. Her dedication didn’t end with his death.

Left to resume life without her beloved husband and raise their young daughter on her own, Melissa soon realized that her and Joel’s love lived on. Melissa found she didn’t fit the typical mold of widowhood or meet the expectations of mourning. She didn’t look like a widow or act like a widow, but she felt like one. Melissa was widowish.

Melissa’s personal journey through grief and beyond includes unlikely inspiration from an evangelical preacher, the calming presence of some Real Housewives, and the unexpected attention of a charming musician.

A modern take on loss, Widowish illuminates the twists of fate that break our world, the determination that keeps us moving forward, and the surprises in life we never see coming.

My Four Star Review:

Amazon alerted me to this book on sale and as a new younger widow myself, I felt drawn to it. I could identify with so much of what Melissa had lived through. We read many books and stories about love and loss, but their meanings somehow give us a heftier impact when we have walked in the shoes.

Melissa’s world comes to a shocking stumble when her husband’s health takes a turn for the worse and has to come to terms with the loss of her loving husband Joel. She often finds herself not believing her husband is dead and it’s her friends that help her through the transition through widowhood. While her love is undying for her husband and some months have passed, Melissa finds herself conflicted as she discovers she’s having feelings for a family friend, a fellow musician, Marcos, from her husband’s circles. Joel was a musician and Marcos also performs guitar, along with all his other do good ventures – helping homeless, teaching guitar, and more. The friendship between Melissa and Marcos strengthens after Melissa asked Marcos to help sell Joel’s guitar collection.

Through Melissa’s journey of grief, she takes comfort in the signs she believes she receives from Joel – signs that come from odd places – songs, a preacher named Joel, and television Housewives. These signs give her comfort in knowing Joel is around and wants her to be happy.

Upon one of her meet ups with Marcos, Melissa begins to feel an attraction for him, and the feeling is mutual. Melissa goes through the conflicting part about still feeling married to someone who is no longer on earth and a struggle to move forward with her life, even though she feels terrified of her guilt for doing so. Her paranoia ensues between her feelings for Marco and her guilt for having those feelings, feeling as though she is betraying Joel. She elaborates on all the new ‘firsts’ in her life without her husband, the chores she inherited, the important dates that passed – holidays, birthdays, her daughter’s graduation and more. Melissa carries all her feelings while journeying through her new life alone, worrying about how her daughter and others would eventually accept her endeavoring into a new relationship. Her person craved the company and conversation while in doing so, the guilt within her for doing so plagued her. Her dilemma was her own guilt and worrying about what others would say about her in a new relationship. She didn’t want people to think just because she was trying to move forward that she didn’t miss or love her husband anymore. There are no rules about when someone is ready to move on after loss and Melissa worried that she was disappointing people by dating someone nine months after burying her husband, especially her daughter. She felt as though people were judging her for not showing her sadness and going on with her life despite her grief and the unvarnished love she would always hold for Joel.

I felt I got to know Melissa and Marcos better than any description paid to Joel and their daughter Sophie, but in all fairness, although the story was built upon Joel’s passing it’s really about Melissa’s journey through the event and her transition through grief. A relatable read for those of us who have loved and lost and an inside look at the struggles of grief and how it affects us, for those who’ve never walked in the shoes.

Favorite Quotes:

“Grief was my constant companion who occasionally took naps.”

“I wanted to get to the other side of my grief, not stay in it forever.”

“There’s no rhyme or reason to grief, when it hits you, it hits you.”

Most powerful statement that vibrated within me was when Melissa said that she could finally stop envisioning her husband sick and dying, she could envision him how he truly was at his best. I still await that day.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review Plus – Bonus Documentary Recap on Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review with an added bonus. Today I’m going to review Joan Didion’s book – The Year of Magical Thinking. But before I share my book review, I’m going to share an overview of the 2017 Documentary currently on Netflix – Joan Didion – The Center Will Not Hold, where 86 year old, literary icon, Joan, reflects on her intimate stories from her writing career and struggles, and her forty year marriage to author John Gregory Dunne, brother to author Dominick Dunne. The documentary was directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

 

My 5 Star Review Documentary Review:

 

Joan Didion was born December 5, 1934 in Sacremento, California. She’s an American novelist and essayist and screenwriter. Joan is known for her incisive depictions of social unrest. Joan says she began writing at the age of five and was a shy ‘bookish’ girl. She never considered herself a real writer until her first published book. Joan struggled with social anxiety and took up acting and public speaking to help ease her anxieties. As a young teen, she spent much of her time typing out books by Ernest Hemingway so she could learn how sentence structure worked. Joan had a sordid childhood as her dad was in the army during WWII, with moving a lot she didn’t attend school regularly until returning back to Sacremento in 1944.

 

After watching the documentary and learning about the demises of both her husband and her daughter Quintana, my heart went out to Joan and I was compelled to read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, because she wrote it after John’s death. It was first published in 2005. In the documentary, Joan’s publicist talks about how he urged Joan to write her novel published in 2012 – Blue Nights, for both, John and Quintana.

 

John and Joan met in New York City when Joan won a poetry contest at her senior year in Berkeley for her essay, Prix de Paris, and the prize landed her a job as research assistant at Vogue. John wrote for Time Magazine at the time.

 

They bounced ideas off one another, each wrote their own books and essays, but they collaborated on screenplays together – Needle Park (1971 with Al Pacino) and A Star is Born (1976 Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Joan’s logline for Needle Park – “Romeo and Juliette as junkies.

 

In this documentary, we get a deep inside look at this author from her beginnings as a journalist writing hard stories, Joan would say that she writes about disorder because she’d then find the situation”less scary”. She wasn’t happy with the way some of her books were portrayed for movies, such as, Book of Common Prayer, complaining her characters were totally different than what she’d written.

 

Joan admits that much of what she writes contained pieces of her. Her interests in writing were mostly about stories of humanity and the bad things going on in the world. Her visit to El Salvador prompted her to write political stories and essays, and an eventual book called El Salvador. She talks about the lie of the Central Park 7 – propaganda spurred falsely in the accusation of the rape of a jogger in Central Park, N.Y. and on VP Dick Cheney, “Bully of the Bush war,” “He took the lemons, made lemonade, spilled, and made someone else cleanup.”

 

John and Joan kept a low profile in the celeb world. They adopted their daughter Quintana at birth. When Quintana was asked what kind of mom Joan was, she replied, “Okay, mostly remote.” Joan began questioning how parents are sometimes on auto-pilot and don’t realize child neglect.

 

In 2003, Quintana took ill and was rushed to hospital when she went into septic shock resulting from pneumonia, which turned worse and ultimately left her in a coma at the time of John’s death. John and Joan had just come home from visiting Quintana in hospital on December 30, 2003, and they were sick with worry about their daughter. Joan made dinner, the two sat down to eat when John had a massive, fatal heart attack. Later, looking in her husband’s closet with a friend to pack up his clothes, Joan said, “What if he comes back?” That was clearly a grief statement because I could so identify with not wanting to let go. After she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan said it was the hardest book to write, but had to write it to get through. I totally get that. She told herself that after writing the book she would learn to let go. This woman lost the love of her life while their daughter lay in a coma.

 

Months after Quintana’s recovery, she fell and hit her head, suffering a massive hematoma and resulting in six hours of brain surgery. As Quintana was recovering her major illnesses in 2004, she came down with Pancreatitis in 2005, and ultimately died from it in August 2005 at age 39. Didion wrote Blue Nights in 2011 for Quintana. That woman was broken.

 

Joan was/is a tiny woman, and after losing her family, her wonderful friends stepped up to take care of her and made sure she ate at her already weight of 75 pounds. Joan then wrote the play for the book The Year of Magical Thinking, which starred Vanessa Redgrave, in the nonfictional soliloquy.

 

Joan wrote Blue Nights after the play, about Quintana – a book she said she didn’t want to write. On her life when asked if she had regrets about things, she said, “The failure to plan for misfortune,” her guilt of failing as a mother.

 

In 2005 Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and became a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Magical Year of Thinking. In 2015, President Obama awarded Joan with the Mastery of Style in Writing Award for exploring the culture around us and exposing the depths of sorrow and for her ‘startling honesty’.

 

 

Poignant Quotes:

 

“Everyone has moved on except the one left grieving.”

 

“See enough and write it down.”

 

“A journal – a forgotten account paid with interest.”

 

“Remember what it is to be me, that’s always the point.”

 

 

 

 

I recently finished reading Joan’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking. After seeing the documentary and having only read one other of Joan’s books, I felt compelled to read.

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

 

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

 

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve—the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

 

This powerful book is Didion’ s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

 

 

My 5 Star Review:

 

An accounting of love and loss. In this often, heartwrenching book, Joan Didion champions her once simple writing life alone, without her husband, best friend and consultant on all her writing. Joan reminisces on her life and writing with her husband John, always with her – writing, walking, traveling, filming – they did everything together, despite them both being individual writers, with the exception of a few collaborations.

 

Joan takes us through her life in vignettes as she shares memories of incidence on vacations the family took together, the circles of people they traveled with, their routines, when they adopted Quintana, motherhood, and mistakes. But most poignantly, Joan focuses on the time of John’s death, the surreal moments, the most insignificant things becoming big things, the most minutest details overlooked while she was living numb are being realized in this story. She begins her story with the the eve her and John went to visit Quintana in hospital, while she was in an induced coma. They were both worried sick about their daughter. Joan makes dinner, they sit down to eat and John has a fatal heart attack right in front of her on December 30, 2003. Her details are precise. She talks about her different kinds of grief, comparing the variation in grief between losing her parents, to how different her grief felt when John died. Joan shares what it was like waking up the next morning alone. She’ll take you right into her realizations. So identifiable for anyone who has ever deeply loved and lost. I know much of what Joan speaks, like not even remembering if we ate or not, mostly not. It’s a numbness that takes over to break the impact of the shock.

 

Joan bares herself with raw honesty on what grief leaves on someone, the stages of steps involved until reaching acceptance, but I wonder how many ever get there. Joan shares how she came to decisions about giving her loved one’s clothes away, as Joan in her denial stage held hope he may come back. Joan discusses her concern of having to break the news to Quintana about her father’s death, after she awakes from a long coma. Joan shares her fears about her daughter getting sick again overshadowing her grief – “Until now, I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened, Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.”

 

Imagine trying to stay sane!

 

Joan Didion is an iconic writer. As a journalist, she followed stories of humanity, out in the field. She said it was easier to deal with war if she could see it. She’s a tiny frail woman who can barely move her hands now at age 86, but that doesn’t stop her from still using them to articulate what she speaks. She’s lived through hell and back TWICE, first losing the love of her life, then her daughter. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write about such pain. It’s not surprising this Warrior Woman has won so many awards. I was drawn to this book after watching a documentary about her, The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix after my own husband’s passing, and I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have loved and lost.

 

 

Poignant Quotes that resonate:

 

“Life changes fast.

 

Life changes in the instant.

 

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

 

The question of self-pity.”

 

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

 

“I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death.”

 

“Marriage is memory, marriage is time.”

 

“For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others.”

 

“I have trouble thinking of myself as a widow. I remember hesitating the first time I had to check that box on the ‘marital status’ part of a form.”

 

“I realized that for the time being I could not trust myself to present a coherent face to the world.”

 

“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.”

 

“I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.”

 

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Sunday Book Review – Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

The Sunday Book Review highlights Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, who is a noted author, educator, and grief counselor. This book is a great companion guide for those of us who’ve loved and lost someone. It offers 100 practical ideas to help cope with grief.

 

Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies (Healing Your Grieving Heart series) by [Alan Wolfelt]

Available on Amazon

 

Blurb:

Helping widows and widowers learn how to cope with the grief of losing their helpmate, their lover, and perhaps their financial provider, this guide shows them how to find continued meaning in life when doing so seems difficult. Bereaved spouses will find advice on when and how to dispose of their mate’s belongings, dealing with their children, and redefining their role with friends and family. Suggestions are provided for elderly mourners, young widows and widowers, unmarried lovers, and same-sex partners. The information and comfort offered apply to individuals whose spouse died recently or long ago.

 

My 5 Star Review:

Comfort for the grieving spouse’s heart told in bite-sized, often one page chapters. Easy to digest as a complete read through, or as a night table book where you could keep it handy to open a page for a bit of inspiration.

The book offers short and comforting words and suggestions and short to-the- point topics and advice to live by. An easy read that had my head nodding in acknowledgement to much of it. This book offers good tools to help wade through the grief journey.

Dr. Wolfelt offers us 100 Practical Ideas in one page chunks as he shares a common issue mourners face with uplifting advice on how to deal with those moments. I will share quotes I felt poignant, and I’ll add my own thoughts from my own experience in response:

“The death of a spouse tears through every layer of your existence.” – Fact.

“You will grow to learn that you can mourn and live at the same time.”–  I’m beginning to learn this.

“The loss of a partner is among life’s most wrenching and challenging experiences.” – 1000000%

The doctor tells us “The journey of grief is a long and difficult one. It is also a journey for which there is no preparation.” – Fact!

We’ll learn that feelings of shock, numbness, and disbelief are nature’s way of protecting us from the full reality of the death of a loved one. Yes! Thank God for the numbness and denial! We’re advised to reach out to someone when we need to share our pain. Good advice for sure, but for some like myself, I don’t like to reach out and burden others. I wish some would pick up a phone and check up on me – if nothing other than common courtesy.

Reminders about who we are now after we are left as half from one. The arduous and painful work will begin when we assume our own new single identity.

Here’s a bigee for me: “Widows often tell me how surprised and hurt they feel when friends fall away after the death of a spouse. I found out who my friends really are,” they say. – This is my number one glaring headlight into my new life – the very, very few who are now in my life. Death surely tells a whole story.

“Caring for someone who is sick is physically as well as emotionally draining.” – Understatement! There is no pain like watching your beloved die before you daily.

I’m pretty sure I’m here: “You may not know what to do with yourself now that your days are no longer consumed by caring for your spouse.” – Yes, not only our world has been shaken, stirred and turned upside down, but now we’re also out of routine, another sense of loss – that we are no longer needed.

“Many people have lost touch with the gift of family. Your friends may come and go, but family, as they say, is forever.” – I’m sorry, but this part actually made me laugh. Let me rephrase that: Your family may come and go, but friends are forever. I’m a living testament to this.

“If you harbor bad feelings about your partner’s medical care, find a way to express those feelings.” – Oh I’ve expressed my feelings loud and clear. Covid killed my husband and he didn’t even have it. He couldn’t be assessed in hospital during Covid, so like the many more who died because of Covid, without having Covid will be numbers we will be receiving in time. My husband was a victim of not being able to get assessed early enough in hospital. That is Fact.

“Being without someone to hug and hold is often a big part of their grief. You may have kissed and hugged your spouse every day. You probably slept side by side. Losing this kind of physical intimacy can feel devastating.” – No kidding! The good doctor hit the motherlode here. We hugged and kissed many times a day. Of course we slept not always side by side, but spooned and tucking my always cold feet under his legs. There is no replacement. It’s loss upon loss us grievers will continue to endure.

“It’s not unusual for mourners to save clothing, jewelry, books, locks of hair, and other personal items. You may even want to wear your husband’s old sweatshirt or sleep with your wife’s robe.” -Some of the small comforts in my own grief. I gave away most of hubby’s things and kept what was most sacred to me: Special photos, his gold chain, now worn with his wedding ring hanging from it. His slippers by the bed. His favorite sweatshirts. And his love that is always around.

“Should you still wear a wedding ring when you’re a widow, or shouldn’t you?” – Naturally, there is no one answer. But if you’re asking me, I will be wearing my wedding ring til the day I die – no matter what may come.

“Griefbursts” – This is a perfect word for the unprepared for moments where merely a kind word, hug or song can set off the waterworks.

Throughout this book, the good doctor shares some good advice on things to do to get back into community, suggests when it may be time to talk to a counselor, join a support group, among many other suggestions.

Another quote I found resonated big-time with me was: “You may lack the energy as well as the desire to participate in activities you used to find pleasurable. The fancy term for this is ‘anhedonia,’ which is the lack of ability to experience pleasure in things you previously found pleasurable.” – I’m so there. I don’t like to be out long, and like to dash right back home when out for a time. What I need is a holiday away from my environment.

“If you choose to marry, know that you will never get over your grief for the spouse who died. You will always love your previous spouse and, even years and decades later, you will always feel some grief over his or her death. This is normal and necessary.” – I absolutely couldn’t agree more. Real love never goes away. Why would I even consider remarrying? My husband filled my heart and soul. That doesn’t go away. Marrying anyone else could only make them second best, and who would want to be that?

If you are grieving, read this book.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

Sunday Book Review – Ghosts Among Us – James Van Praagh

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing international Medium, James Van Praagh’s, Ghosts Among Us. If you are at all curious about the ‘afterlife’ and what is entailed on the other side, Praagh’s book is helpful to help understand how life works ‘on the other side’.

 

Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side by [James Van Praagh]

Available on Amazon!

 

Blurb:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ghosts, but Were Too Afraid to Ask

From a very young age James Van Praagh was aware of a dimension that most of us cannot see, and he has dedicated his life to explaining it to the rest of us. The New York Times bestseller Ghosts Among Us takes us on an incredible journey into the spirit world that brings to light one of our greatest mysteries—what happens to us after we die?

 

My 5 Star Review:

Medium James Van Praagh first invites us into glimpses of his life by sharing his young life and his first encounters with other worldly spirits; he thought his calling was to the priesthood, his later realization was that’s not where he belonged, and his journey through writing, moving to Los Angeles, connections and seances, were the beginnings of Praagh’s becoming a famous medium.

After the introduction to Praagh’s spiritual life, and sharing his first sightings of ghosts, he shares stories of people who’ve experienced NDE (near death experience) and wishes to enlighten us about both, the complexities and simplicity of the ghostly side of life.

Praagh informs us that there is no such thing as death, but only transition, it is only the end of the physical body. He tells us there is no pain when someone dies, nobody ever dies alone, for as we pass out of our bodies, our deceased loved ones are their to greet us. Praagh tells us that those who experienced near death situations all concur with similar experiences told by those who’ve ‘come back’.

Most observed themselves floating out of their bodies and watching from above what was going on, feelings of overwhelming peace, moving toward a tunnel with a light ahead, being greeted by deceased loved ones, an encounter with an angel or being of light, began experiencing their life review. Some went reaching the borderline where you can’t cross over, only to be sent back into their body with great reluctance, and regrets of not realizing the truth about life while they were alive, realizing the lessons failed to learn on earth. When a person sheds its physical form, the silver cord that keeps the etheric body attached to the soul is severed. That is the end of life on earth, but not necessarily end of life in a new realm.

In this book we will learn about the different realms we venture through once we are on the other side. We’ll learn about lowly ghosts too who never evolve and remain on the lower realm without graduating to higher realms. We learn that it takes a lot of energy for a ghost to make anything manifest on a physical level. The more willing we are to open ourselves up to spirit, the more spirits will reveal themselves to us. And the biggest reason ghosts have for wanting to reveal themselves is to help console grieiving family. Apparently, after death, our lost loved ones ‘stay around’, wanting to let family know they are still ‘very much alive’, just on another realm.

Later in the book, the author talks about how ghosts like to make contact, as Praagh offers various methods of how we can protect ourselves to avoid attracting lowly spirits.

Praagh gives us some wonderful insights and stories to elaborate on his discoveries. If you’re curious about what happens in the ‘afterlife’, read this book.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Grief Diaries – Dimes from Heaven. So, Where are You? – Grave Decorating

Dimes from Heaven, So where are you already?

 

I heard when you find dimes, your lost loved one is around. I came across three while cleaning out our large rented condo to move to a smaller one. And then, nothing.

 

Moving sucked whatever life I had left in me – to the bone. It wasn’t enough I lost you and my heart and soul were broken, but I’m physically broken from the new record breaking most horrendous move I’ve ever endured; and you know we had plenty of horrors with our many moves together – not to mention, I had you, my strong, handsome handyman to do the grueling things and heavy lifting, and to hang a million things I asked of you. You never denied me. We were so good together.

I’m reading many books about how people get through this most painful heart-wrenching time in life and survive from not dying from a broken heart. It always makes me think of my dad when I’m in my deepest moments of a new wave of grief; I always said he died of a broken heart because my mother crushed him so many times. I can feel how this could happen.

I just need to start feeling your presence, like I can sometimes when I feel my dad and aunt around. I know their signals when they are around. I need to sense your presence and have a visit to help calm my fears. I need to know you’re okay, you know, like the story I told you many times, about the one and only time I went to visit my dad in heaven and saw his light and spoke with him? I’m waiting for that time again with you.

In the meantime, after visiting your grave two weeks ago, I Couldn’t Find You?

I promised myself when I got this place sorted after the big bad move, I was going to come visit our grave. I hesitated a few times because I felt the need to be close to you here. Even though I ‘think’ you are around me, but no concrete evidence to appease me yet, I felt I needed to visit your grave to see if I felt closer to you there. It was a beautiful sunny day and I hadn’t been out in many, and my (our) new apartment is a bit too dreary for me, which adds to the grief I live daily. But I digress, so I was feeling like I had to test my feelings I get when ‘I think’ you are around at home, to see how I will feel at the cemetery being physically closer to you – Only I Couldn’t Find You.

Omg, I took in some beautiful warm sunshine as I walked around the graves and looked for that beautiful big tree that was kind of a landmark, but everything looked so different without snow. And many more graves and headstones have been added.

I walked around and called out to you loud and clear, “Puppy, where are you?” And I didn’t feel a thing, and just wasn’t sure exactly where you were since they laid the grass and there’s no marker. I was sure then that your presence is felt more in our home than at the cemetery.

I got back in the car and drove around to the office. The woman seemed warm when she asked if she could help me, and I told her I can’t find my husband – our grave. I waited while she went to check out ‘our’ neighbors on file so I could find you and handed me a paper with a few names in our row. And I found you!

The grass hasn’t fully mended yet. All the things left there from last time were gone. Before grass was laid, the grave was a pile of dirt with all the flowers and ribbons from your coffin piled on top. It’s a barren looking grave at the moment. I assessed and made a list of what to buy to ‘spruce’ up the area and remind others that there is someone under the grass.

I wanted something symbolic to leave there as a marker until the headstone is made, which apparently takes 4 months to make and that will be perfect. I want to make you a big unveiling when this damn Covid thing is over and done with – or, at least, under control because I want the many people who would have been at your funeral to be there this time. So no rush. If things are calmed down by end of year I’ll arrange it then. If not, it can wait til April, your one year. And I will be arranging it all on my own, for that is how I live now, on my own.

I got back in the car to drive home and turned back on the radio when I started the car. I hadn’t listened to it on the way down because I was on speaker phone with my friend Alison during the drive. Well, on came Johnny Cash – one of your all-time favorites. Mysteriously, the station was tuned into the 50s channel, which you know I alwayssssssss made you change because I don’t like that era of music. We’d compromise, I’d give up my 70s channel and you’d give up the 50s and we’d listen to the 60s together in the car. So what was up with that? I never turn the 50s on in my car! That was you, I know. 🌺

Update: I gathered some beautiful rocks, ordered paint markers and sealant and made my own decorations for you. I placed a small planter of baby roses, a plaque, several loving rocks and butterfly stakes around the grave. I couldn’t have you lying there incognito with no name and no recognition, so as usual, I fixed up your spot.

Graveside design

 

©DGKaye2021