Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice by David Coubrough

 

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Grant Morrison is determined to uncover the secrets surrounding two mysterious deaths that occurred over forty years ago. In 1972 Grant was on holiday in Cornwall with his family. It had been a tradition for some years for a group of families to meet up at the same hotel every August. The summer of ’72 was no different – at least to begin with.

One day Tom Youlen, a night porter at the hotel in which they were all staying, was found, collapsed in a country lane, by some of the hotel guests. He whispered a message to one of them but never spoke again before his death five years later. The same week that Tom Youlen was discovered in the country lane a body of one of the guests staying at the same hotel was found washed up on the beach. Although there were many suspects nobody was found to be responsible for either of the deaths.

Grant was only seventeen at the time of these events and has always been concerned that his mother may have been involved in some way. Although his mother died in 1995 it was not until her twin sister died in 2012 that Grant felt he could investigate the happenings of 1972.

Grant travels to Cornwall and although he is keen to uncover the truth, others do not feel the same way. He finds many of the people that were present in 1972 determined to impede his investigation and the ‘Spooks of Zennor’ try to scare him away from Cornwall and back home to London. An invisible girl singing ‘Half a pound of Tuppenny rice’ tries, but does not succeed, in deterring Grant from his mission.

As the plot unravels and some of Grant’s questions are answered another death occurs. Finally, when you think the story is all over a mysterious visitor to a funeral leads you to question if it really is the end.

Half A Pound of Tuppenny Rice has many twists and turns as Grant sets out to find the truth. The first part of the book is a little challenging trying to remember all the names of the people involved. As the story moves into the present day the characters become clearer and the plot easier to follow. 

The story is interesting in that it highlights the way people change over the years. How you remember people from your childhood days are often not how they are as adults as their life’s  experiences alter their views of the world.

I am sure there will be more books from David Coubrough in the future and wish him every success with Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice.

 Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice is published by Peter Owen (April 2016)

I would like to thank Diana Morgan at Ruth Killick Publicity for the review copy

No Longer Safe by A J Waines

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When Alice Fleming receives an invitation to join an old university friend, Karen Morley, on a two week vacation in Scotland she is delighted that her friend has got in contact again. It has been six years since they left university and they have had no communication since. Alice remembers Karen as being kind and a good friend and is chuffed to have been asked to spend the holiday with her.

When Alice arrives at the cottage, which is in the middle of nowhere and nothing to see but snow, she is not expecting quite what she finds. The cottage is very cold with no modern comforts. It has no telephone land line and an unreliable signal for a mobile phone.

They are pretty much cut off from everything and Alice wonders why Karen has chosen this remote location – especially as Karen’s nine month old daughter Mel has been unwell in hospital and needs an oxygen mask to breathe properly.

Alice is even more surprised when two other people from their university group arrive – Jodie and Mark. She is peeved by their appearance as Karen had not told her there would be anyone else there; she expected it to be just the two of them.

As they settle into an uncomfortable routine problems begin.  Mark’s behaviour is erratic and he is very controlling of Jodie, his girlfriend. He tells lies and keeps secrets. Jodie shows two sides to her personality. She is compliant and subdued in Mark’s company but becomes independent and enthusiastic about her dreams for the future when he is absent. Karen, Alice realises, is not the person she was at university.

At one point Alice asked herself “what were we all doing here?” She realises they are all strangers now, forced together by Karen, with her own reasons for wishing them all to be together.

Back in their university days Alice had a deep desire to be liked and Karen and Jodie exploited this by using her for their own needs. However Alice has clearly come a long way in shedding her downtrodden personality and manages to stand up for herself a lot more than she used to and Karen feels her plans threatened by this change in Alice.

When Alice meets Stuart the mystery begins to unravel and Alice gets closer to working out the mystery and the reason why Karen has invited her old friends to join her for the holiday.

In No Longer Safe AJ Waines’ experiences as a psychologist have led to interesting and clever plotting with lots of twists and turns and the occasional red herring. The story is narrated mainly by Alice and occasionally by Karen and towards the end you begin to question who is telling the truth and who is lying; who is sane and who is unbalanced.

The characters are all very distinct and work well for the story, although Alice can sometimes be a little frustrating in her naivety. There are a few aspects of the plot which I hoped she would latch on to a little sooner but perhaps that is just her personality.

A great book to read – one that you’ll not want to put down until you reach the final page.

 

AJW3AJ Waines was born in 1959. Before becoming a full time novelist she worked as a Psychotherapist for fifteen years – spending some time working with ex-offenders from high security institutions. The experiences she gained in this work have given her a comprehensive understanding of criminal and abnormal psychology.

Also by AJ Waines: The Evil Beneath, Girl on a Train and  A Dark Place to Hide

You can follow AJ on Twitter: @AJWaines

Our Responsibility to be Happy

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s our duty to society to be happy.  At face value it seems self-centred and indulgent to seek happiness when there’s so much suffering in the world. It seems like a ‘blow you Jack, I’m alright!’ type attitude. However, the more I think about it and watch life going on around me, the more I believe that if we could make it our priority to be happy then the world would be a much better place.

During a recent visit to a supermarket a woman barged into me with the force of a rhino (I’ll refrain from commenting on her size!). Slightly winded and taken by surprise I found myself apologising –  as you do! (For some reason the British have this strange habit of apologising for things they haven’t done. There is a wonderful book called Watching the English by Kate Fox which investigates English behaviour – and the author spent an afternoon bumping into people and discovered that over 80% apologised to her  for bumping into them!)     

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            So sorry that you bumped into me!         Image courtesy of Pixabay

 I obviously didn’t apologise loud enough – or perhaps the woman was deaf as well as bloody rude – and I found myself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse. “Don’t F…..g say sorry then” she yelled as she shoved her trolley into mine, grazing my knuckles in the process. Stupidly, despite her obnoxious behaviour, I began to explain that I had apologised even though she had in fact bumped into me but she stormed off, leaving me mumbling to myself like a crazy lady.

No longer in the mood for shopping, due to indignant outrage, I picked up a few more things and headed for the checkout. No points for guessing who was at the checkout next to mine. Yes, the charging rhino who was now venting her anger at the poor man at the till.

She was clearly not a happy bunny and I felt sorry for whoever was waiting for her at home.

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Grumpy = difficult  Image courtesy of Pixabay

Observation tells me that unhappy people tend to be self-focussed, rude, difficult and antagonistic. I’m not talking about sad unhappy but miserable unhappy. Miserable people make it their mission in life to make everyone else’s lives on par with their own. Happy people on the other hand tend to be more tolerant, flexible and generally nicer people. Happiness is infectious. Being around happy people makes you feel good despite your own problems.

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Happy = nice to be around Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

So, how do we seek happiness and fulfil our planetary duties?

A new car…that would make me very happy! A month in the Caribbean…how could I be miserable sunning myself on a beach there? Obviously it is my responsibility to be happy so Lastminute.com here I come!!

But do these things really make me happy? Momentarily, yes. Then I revert to my baseline level of happiness. The level that is me. The level that, whatever the problem or pleasure, I revert to in everyday life. Once I’ve overcome the awe of sitting on a Caribbean beach for a few days I get a bit bored and think how nice it would be if I could wander around an art gallery and get out of the heat!

My daughter has travelled a lot and worked as a volunteer in small villages in Uganda and Cambodia and she tells me that the people there seemed happy with life. Despite having very little, they were happier than many that she meets at home. (Home as in England – not home, home…we’re not generally a miserable bunch). They were always willing to share their evening meal, which consisted of a few floating bits in a watery broth. They had more than their fair share of problems, as you can imagine, but their baseline level of happiness was higher than many who have acquired an abundance of material goods.

Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by eternal events” The Art of Happiness, HH Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.

The key is not to confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure comes and goes but the aim is to achieve a higher baseline level of happiness. We clearly need the basics of a roof over our head, food in our stomachs and clothes to wear but does all the extra bits really make us happy? It’s all about our attitude to life and we can do a lot to change our expectations in order to achieve greater joy.

I truly believe it’s our priority in life – our contribution to the planet, if you like – to seek happiness. It’s neither self-indulgent nor selfish. Hard work it may be, to express more love and affection and smile at everyone; sometimes nearly impossible to show compassion when you’re angry and frustrated but the more it’s practised the easier it becomes (so all the books say!). Over time, less things irritate and annoy – and this raises the baseline level of happiness. .

Simples!

 

 

Chosen Child by Linda Huber

Chosen Child is Linda Huber’s fourth novel. The previous three, like Chosen Child, are psychological thrillers: The Paradise Trees (2013), The Cold Cold Sea  (2014) and The Attic Room (2015)

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Ella dreams of having a child to love and care for; to do the usual family things that most take for granted.When she and husband Rick become ‘panel-approved to adopt’ they are invited to go to an adoption party which provides an afternoon full of fun and games for the children and a chance for prospective adoptive parents to choose a child.

Ella is enthusiastic but Rick is not so keen. He does not like the idea of picking a child. Any child will do…as long as it is a boy…and as long as he has no disabilities, he says.

As the afternoon progresses, Rick becomes increasingly difficult and Ella is exasperated with him for spoiling the day. When Ella sees six-year-old Soraya she feels an immediate connection. This is the child that she wants.

As Rick becomes ambivalent about the adoption of Soraya, Ella ignores the cracks in her marriage and attempts to keep the peace until the adoption of Soraya is finalised and they become a complete family.

Meanwhile, Amanda, mother of 14-month-old Jaden is caught in a stagnant marriage to Gareth and has a lover, James. Whereas Gareth is often grumpy, James is funny and clever. They meet whenever they can in his small flat and occasionally at her marital home in St. Ives. When Amanda discovers she is pregnant she has no idea whose baby it is – husband Gareth or lover James.

Amanda and James could not have predicted what the future would hold when they embarked on their frivolous affair. Both were in search of some excitement and escapism from the boring humdrum of life rather than meeting because they had fallen in love. One day an unpredictable and devastating event occurs which has far reaching consequences for both Amanda and James changing their lives irrevocably. This, in turn, threatens Ella’s future with Soraya.

I found all the characters realistic, from Ella’s desire to keep the peace with a difficult husband so as not to jeopardise her chances of achieving her dream of adopting a child, to Amanda and James’ desire for some fun to make life a little more interesting. Rick’s uncooperative and moody personality was an authentic portrayal of an unhappy man with a lot of problems on his mind.

This is another page turning novel from Linda Huber. She is excellent at keeping the tension throughout, compelling you to keep reading. Chosen Child is a story which challenges the morality of human nature and how erroneous choices made under pressure determine future outcomes; how sometimes people just get swept away in the wreckage before having a chance to make sensible decisions. 

IMG_0733 Linda, born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland now lives with her family in Arbon, Switzerland. She originally trained as a physiotherapist and came into contact with neurological patients and handicapped children which have given her an insight into the coping mechanisms people use when faced with difficult situations.

You can follow Linda on Twitter: @LindaHuber19

You can read a full review of The Attic Room here

 

Where the River Parts by Radhika Swarup

Set in 1947 during the period of the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, Where the River Parts is a story of love and separation; of shattered dreams. It tells of the pain and suffering endured by those who had to escape from their homeland, with very few possessions, and make a new life in unfamiliar territory.

When the British agreed to give India independence the Hindu and Muslim communities could not agree to form a united India and so the country was separated into two states: The Northern part, which was predominantly Muslim became Pakistan and the Southern, Hindu dominated region, became the Republic of India.

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Seventeen year old Asha is Hindu. Firoze, the brother of Asha’s best friend Nargis, is Muslim. They have lived as neighbours, in peace, for many years and the two families are good friends. Asha and Firoze fall in love and embark on a relationship which Asha, in the naivety of youth, believes will be accepted by both families despite their different religious backgrounds. Asha states simply that:

“We like each other. Our families like each other. I don’t see what the problem is.”

As many in their situation have experienced, life is never that straightforward. 

As Partition approaches the violence escalates and, despite the reluctance of Asha’s father, the family is forced to leave their home and go to Delhi when Asha is put at risk. Firoze remains in the newly formed Pakistan. Asha and Firoze say goodbye with the belief that they will be reunited  to marry when the troubles settle. Asha has a secret that even Firoze has no knowledge of when she sets off on her journey to Delhi.

The tension between the two countries continues and Asha and Firoze are forced to rebuild their lives without each other. It is fifty years later when they meet again, in New York. Asha’s granddaughter wishes to marry a Pakistani and through this union Asha and Firoze are reunited. However, underlying prejudices resurface and the horrors of the Partition are remembered, creating challenges for all involved.

The fleeing of refugees is topical due to the crisis in Syria, with thousands upon thousands forced to leave everything behind and seek a new life where there is peace. Although Where the River Parts is set in a different location and time period the essence is the same: That overwhelming sense of survival which forces families to leave everything behind in pursuit of safety.

The first few pages give an indication of what the reader can expect from this moving story.

Was that the sound of gunfire? A boy stepped on a twig, and all turned towards the night – was this them, was this the Muslin butchers?”

Their fear at every noise, their fear of being discovered before crossing to safety, is palpable. The story is told mostly through the eyes of Asha, and Radhika has captured well the challenges and sacrifices the young girl has made through the Partition of India. As a third generation migrant from Pakistan Radhika has personal knowledge of the complex backgrounds of both the Pakistani and Indian cultures and these have been beautifully expressed during the novel.

The story reflects the reality of how prejudices and memories of horrors experienced during such brutal conflicts survive generations, and how the strength of culture and background often override the forces of love. If two people of different religions choose to remain together against their family’s wishes it is not uncommon for parents to disown a child – such is the depth of feeling.

How do Asha’s family deal with her granddaughter’s wish to marry a Muslim? You will need to read the book to find out.  Happy reading!

I wish Radhika lots of success with the book and thank Keara at Sandstone Press for the review copy.

Where the River Parts is published by Sandstone Press 

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Radhika was born in India and spent her childhood in many different countries providing her with plenty of experiences for her writing. She has published many articles and short stories and currently writes for the Huffington Post.

You can follow Radhika on Twitter: @rdswarup

Which camp are you in?

So scientists have finally detected Gravitational Waves. They took their time as Einstein proposed the theory over a hundred years ago – but they got there in the end.

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Einstein knew years ago! Image courtesy of Pixabay

Most of us (I assume – unless I am particularly dense…which is very possible) have no idea what Gravitational Waves are, despite the experts doing their utmost with explanations such as ‘ripples in the fabric of space-time’.  What on earth (or space…or time) does that mean?

The answer I suppose is that we don’t really have to understand the full meaning of scientific discoveries. What they do tell us, however, is that there is a world out there, beyond our comprehension which occasionally leaks little clues to prevent us from becoming complacent about the world we live in.

It gives us food for thought; raises questions about the world around us; encourages to seek explanations for the overarching term ‘nature’.

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Complexity of our bodies – Image courtesy of Pixabay

Take us for example. Science has come a long way in the understanding of how the mind and body work but there is still so much we don’t know. Every second our bodies carry out millions of processes: physical, chemical, mental – many of which are performed by the autonomic nervous system. It keeps us breathing and functioning without us having to do a thing. How amazing is that! As Deepak Chopra voiced in one of his books, if we were left in charge of our bodies we would die very quickly, so complex are the processes taking place.

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We are not alone! Image courtesy of Pixabay

So even when we know and understand that the autonomic nervous system is doing such a wonderful job, we rarely question the driving force behind it. What allows our bodies to work without our input? Nature of course, we reply. So, what is nature? Who or what is controlling our bodies; the planet; the universe? It is natural to question our existence and try to discover ‘what makes the world go round’ but sometimes we think we have the answer only to realise that the answer is incomplete.

Most of us fall into one of two camps when choosing to question our existence and the universe about us: Some take the spiritual path and some take the scientific route.  The goal is the same, whether trying to find Gravitational Waves or discover if reincarnation exists.

The truth revealed by taking the spiritual path is found by personal discovery. It uses techniques such as meditation to give experiential knowledge of things that, in the everyday life, are not evident: Are we the only life forms in our universe? Is there life after death? Can we leave our bodies and perform astral travel? Where is our consciousness while our bodies are being minded so efficiently by the autonomic nervous system?

 The only drawback of this method is that, whatever is discovered, cannot be conveyed to others. It is restricted to ‘your eyes only’. If you were lucky enough to discover one of these answers you may tell your family and friends (many educated, sane and normal people do) in the hope of helping them to understand the nature of their existence.

‘I left my body and visited Aunty Mary in Australia yesterday,’ you say. ‘Learn to meditate and you’ll be able to astral travel too!’

Yeah right! You can image how well that would go down!

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Science, the conventional route – Image courtesy of Pixabay

The scientific route, however, carries credibility. It seeks its truth through using instruments of the physical world. It produces results for all to see. (That said, I believe that Gravitational Waves exist only because a group of scientists say so. They could easily all be in on a scam).

I do understand that scientists have to work with the proven and I also believe that things should not be accepted on blind faith. However, this does not mean that the spiritual path is any less valid just because individual experiences cannot be shared.

There are so many mysteries to our universe and more and more are unfolding all the time and I believe that any investigation into the truth of our existence, whether scientific or spiritual, will lead to the same place.

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Conventional method of transport – Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Unconventional method of transport – Image courtesy of Pixabay


 

 

 

What A Way To Go – By Julia Forster

 

JULIA FORSTER

When Harper was five her parents split up. Dad kept Ivy Cottage in the sleepy village of Hardingstone where ‘people walk without aim, as if the footpaths are covered in treacle’.  Mum got Harper and the Mini. Harper is now on the brink of becoming a teenager. She lives with her mum and spends alternate weekends with her dad.  The two worlds she inhabits are very different.

What a Way to Go is a character driven novel which moves at a good, steady pace. It tells Harper’s story in a moving and sensitive way, packed with humour, wit and insight. References to polka dot clothes, music magazines such as Smash Hits and UCCA forms immerse you in the 1980’s. Julia has done a fantastic job at providing a very entertaining read.

For a full review of What A Way To Go visit the Greenacre Writers site on the link below:

http://greenacrewriters.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/what-way-to-go-by-julia-forster.html

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Image courtesy of Alice Hendy

Julia has been in the publishing industry for many years and has received valuable experience in many fields.  She spent time ploughing through manuscripts at a literary agency in London and was involved in marketing and publicity for the literary magazine New Welsh Review.

You can read more about Julia Forster in Conversation with Greenacre Writers on the link below:

http://greenacrewriters.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/a-conversation-with-julia-forster.html

 

 

 

The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War

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Anna Dahlberg knows little of her early years spent in Germany. Her German mother, Peggy, and American father, Rod, had settled in America after the end of World War 2 while Anna was still very young.

When Anna’s overbearing husband, Lowell, insists she keeps an appointment at the military-history magazine offices that belonged to Lowell’s father she is upset by his insensitivity. It is her deceased mother’s birthday – the first after her death – and Anna wants to spend time looking through her mother’s belongings.  She misses her and feels a heavy burden of guilt that she had not answered her mother’s request to visit just before her death. Her mother rarely asked for anything but Anna had been busy helping Lowell and had put off the visit. Her mother said she had received a visitor and there was something she needed to tell her.

When Anna had arrived that terrible day and found her mother unconscious on the floor there had been a home movie playing on the television. Anna assumed them to be relatives of her German born mother; relatives she had never met. One scene showed three girls picking flowers in a field and Anna had felt it had some connection with her mother’s past.

At the magazine offices Anna meets Hannes Ritter, the new editor, who encourages her to research and write a piece on Eva Braun, the long-time mistress and eventual wife, of Adolf Hitler. As she looks at a photograph of Eva Braun she sees the same face staring at her as the one from a portrait that hung on her parents’ wall for as long as she can remember.

Anna’s journey into the past takes her into the world of Eva Braun and her love for a man who many despised.  It shows a side of Eva Braun that few knew. As secrets are unravelled Anna realises she knows very little about her own mother’s past in Germany under the Third Reich and discovers her mother and Eva shared a special friendship. With the help of Hannes Anna uncovers secrets which have a profound effect on her belief of who she is.

The Munich Girl reflects Phyllis’ interest in people, their relationships and the effects we all have on one another in the decisions we make. Each character reveals different aspects of humanity and gives an insight into the human condition. We see Anna’s distress and sometimes disappointment that her mother had kept secrets from her but also we see through Peggy’s early life in Germany her reasons for making the decisions she did.

Lowell shows that our overwhelming sense of self-preservation leads sometimes to behave in a shameless and thoughtless manner while Hannes displays the good in human nature through his expression of love and kindness. Then there is Eva. A woman who was able to love a man hated by so many.

The Munich Girl is a beautifully written book which weaves history and fiction to give an incredible story. It is an uncomplicated read of a complex situation. It is one of those books that carries you along the journey with the characters while offering an understanding of the intricacies of relationships. A good read and highly recommended.

Phyllis Edgerly Ring has a profound interest in nature and humanity and conveys through writing her intSk20130812-101848erest in the journey we all share on this planet. She gives thoughtful consideration to our evolution through history and the influence others, and the world as a whole, has on each one of us. Her love of inspirational writing has resulted in over 900 articles to prestigious publications such as The World and I, Writer’s Digest and The Christian Science Monitor.

In 2009 Phyllis released a collection of these essays and articles called Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details and in 2015 released her first novel Snow Fence Road.  Inspiration for The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War, released in November 2015, came from a visit to Germany where Phyllis spent some of her childhood years.

I wish Phyllis oodles of success with The Munich Girl and look forward to reading much more of her wonderful writing in the future.

For more information about Phyllis take a look at her website:  http://phyllisedgerlyring.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Who am I to judge?

“People who judge others tell more about Who They Are, than Who They Judge.”  –  Donald  L. Hicks, Look into the stillness.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

I decided this year to forego that fruitless tradition of making resolutions as I have a history of breaking them before the Christmas decorations are packed away.  

I chose instead to select an aspect of myself in which I feel ‘needs a bit of working on’. Considering my flaws the choice was not an easy one, trust me, but in the end I plumped for the issue of judgement. I sometimes (well, quite often) have a propensity to make judgements without  understanding the facts.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Over the Christmas period this topic arose in different guises and got me thinking about the subject in general.

Christmas Eve, rushing to get my son to the station and then to the shops before they closed (I’d forgotten the sprouts would you believe!) we were held up in traffic. Everyone was attempting to manoeuvre around a car which had stopped on the main road as though parked. When we eventually passed it I saw that the driver was a young girl on her phone.

‘How inconsiderate,’ I ranted,  ‘she could have at least waited until she reached a side road and pulled in!’ 

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

‘Perhaps she’s broken down mum, and is calling the AA,’ replied my thoughtful son.

Ummm…Oops! Hadn’t thought of that. I saw the telephone and impulsively judged the poor girl. It didn’t really matter on this occasion because the girl had no idea that I had been so accusatory.

the munich girl

Great book – read it and see!

I didn’t give it another thought until a few days later when I was writing a review on The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring (coming soon…watch this space!). The central character,  Anna,  on discovering the truth of her past found it difficult to understand the decisions made by her mother many years before in the aftermath of World War 2.  

Her lack of empathy for the choices her mother made, led me to think about the judgements we make regarding other people’s decisions. We think: How could he/she do this to me? Why wasn’t I told? Why did I get left behind? These thoughts are natural enough when feeling hurt but perhaps we should be asking why those choices were made.  How much suffering did the other person incur from making those choices?

My father, who is 91, was evacuated to Devon from London during the war and was telling our children of his experiences there. I remembered that my mother and her three brothers were kept in London as my grandmother didn’t want to be parted from them. Both choices were made from a place of love.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

My fathers’ parents loved him and wished him to be safe and my mothers’ parents loved their children and couldn’t be parted from them. As it turned out my father had a reasonably good experience as an evacuee and neither my mother nor her brothers were harmed during the Blitz.

It could have been a very different story. Imagine the anger and resentment that could have been directed towards either set of parents if something dreadful had happened. My father could have been abused in the hands of strangers or a member of my mother’s family killed in the Blitz.

Which prompted me to think again about the subject of judgement. Nobody can anticipate the future. I believe that the majority of people do what they think is best at the time for those they love. We are so wrapped up in our own suffering or well-being that judgement of others without understanding the reasons behind certain actions is all too easy.

So, as well as thinking before I open my mouth assuming the worst of someone,  I will try to respect decisions made by others, even if I don’t agree with them, on the understanding that they are doing the best they can at that time with the information they have.

My Father’s Son by Andy Symonds

 

My Father’s Son

MFS cover

Nathan is just thirteen when the knock comes at the door which turns his world upside down.  His father, a decorated Navy SEAL has been killed during combat in Afghanistan leaving Nathan, Cheyenne – Nathan’s eight year old sister and their mother Gayle to cope as best they can in the aftermath of his death.

From the first page Nathan captures the attention of the reader:

 “Most people can’t pinpoint an exact moment when their life changed to such an extent that they effectively became a new person. It’s a rare privilege, or great burden, to have cognizant memory of what amounts to a re-birth. For better or worse, I am in that terrifying fraternity.”

Although his father’s team mates, Uncle Spencer, Bull, and LT Hagen do their best to give Nathan (Nate) direction they are absent, away on duty, for long periods of time. Nathan is left to struggle with all the usual problems and distractions of adolescence as well as cope with the loss of the father he usually looked to for guidance.

Because his father died a hero Nathan finds it difficult to live up to the expectations of those around him and feels he is letting everyone down. Living in his father’s shadow puts a lot of pressure on Nate as he moves through adolescence and he is regularly in trouble. He is angry with the world and everyone in it.

Especially when he meets up with the girl he likes,Tammy, who has strong opinions on America’s involvement in the Middle East. She voices the opinions of many who believe the soldiers and sailors should not be in Iraq or Afghanistan. She is against the killing of anyone and so therefore is against war. But as Nate said  “It’s not that simple” as the forces have a job to do in protecting the rights of the country’s citizens. 

Andy Symonds has captured the hopes, disappointments and confusions of a teenage boy dealing with the sudden and violent murder of his father whilst trying to discover his own identity as he matures.

Although a book containing a lot of sadness and pain it is not a depressing read. Throughout, it contains hope; hope that Nathan will pull through the difficult times; hope that he will make his choices, not on what is expected of him, but on what is right for him.  

Beautifully written it gets to the heart of the lives of the families of those working for the Services. It is a book with depth, courageously exploring family relationships in time of terrible tragedy and the long lasting effects it has on the children who are left behind. Frequently angry, Nathan’s relationship with his mother begins to change but he still retains a loving affection and a desire to protect his little sister Chey.

Andy Symonds has also conveyed the additional issues that arise from the death of a family member who is part of the Services. As the lives of Servicemen and their families are intertwined they form a cohesive unit and each time a member of that unit is killed in service it affects all the other families. Death, especially where the Forces are deployed to places like Afghanistan, is a regular occurrence and each new death brings fresh pain to everyone, opening wounds that have yet to heal.

It is a book that needed to be written and should be read, whether you believe in war or not.

 

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Andy Symonds is an award-winning journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area. His father is a thirty-three year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and he grew up on military bases throughout the world.

You can follow Andy on Twitter: @fatherssonbook