Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells
Canterbury Bells represent Gratitude in the Language of Flowers

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

MANIPULATED LIVES by Helene Leuschel

The author of Manipulated Lives studied journalism and communications but one would think she had a PhD in psychology.  In this collection of five short novellas with a common theme, she has created true-to-life scenarios of how people are manipulated by others.  I am certain you will recognize someone you know. 

She captures our interest and raises our awareness of these occurrences with characters we have all met at some point in our lives as we sadly watch them become victims of manipulators—often by those closest to them acting in the guise of love.  Or worse yet, we might recognize ourselves as having been the manipulator in someone else’s life. These stories may cause you to squirm a bit.

The writing is skillful as she draws us into the story much the same way the character is drawn to the manipulator, a seemingly innocent and believable attraction that slowly deteriorates into something unmanageable and quite twisted.  I found myself cheering for the main character to become aware of what was happening in their lives and to run—to run quickly and not look back.   

I think it was quite masterful that the author carried out this theme with such a variety of characters, some young, some old, some vulnerable desperately seeking love and acceptance while others seemed confident and not likely to fall prey to such manipulation, yet they do. Is anyone safe?

These stories, though short, pack a powerful punch.  This book would be an excellent book club choice with its thought provoking situations.  Holly’s story would be an especially interesting assignment for teens. 

Someone said the sign of a good book is when you continue to think about it once you are finished.  It certainly has me thinking!

Friday, January 5, 2018

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

An extraordinary novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War determined to survive-- and to reunite.

But equally as fascinating a read is the author’s own true story and how she came to write the book.  At age 15, the seeds for this novel were planted when a high school teacher assigned an I-search project for students to explore their ancestry.  In talking with her grandmother, Hunter, who not being raised in the Jewish faith, was surprised to learn that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors.  She didn’t think about the project for another six years until she attended a family reunion where more stories of the war were revealed.  “I knew then that I needed to investigate and write about what happened.”

Hunter took off on a nine-year journey, armed with a digital voice recorder, that took her around the globe. The result is her acclaimed book starring her ancestors, the Kurc  family.

Page one opens in the spring of 1939 in Radom, Poland, where three generations of this family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war looms closer.  The talk around the Seder table is of new babies and budding romances.  But soon the horrors become inescapable. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see each other again, the Krucs must rely on hope, ingenuity and inner strength to persevere.

This novel spans five continents in six years.  It transports the reader from the jazz clubs of Paris to Karkow’s brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag. 

There are countless stories of WW II and often when I begin reading one, I wonder how it will differ from the others. This one, because it is based on truly incredible circumstances, renews the human spirit and  yes, it is aptly titled.  They were indeed the Lucky Ones.