FROM ASHES TO HONOR
MAN OF HONOR
The First Responders Series by Loree Lough is a look into the lives of first responders — EMTs, Search and Rescue (SAR) professionals and firefighters — what motivates them and how their job choices affect their lives and relationships. At last count, this popular Inspirational author had 82 award-winning books (more than 3,000,000 copies in circulation), 67 short stories, and 2,500+ articles in print. The oft-invited guest of writers' organizations, colleges and universities, corporate and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, Loree Lough loves sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry. Loree has traveled coast to coast and border to border, appearing on national, regional, and local TV and radio shows. Although this once-upon-a-time traveling troubadour refuses to say when, exactly, she traded her Yamaha for a wedding ring, she IS willing to admit that, every now and then, she blows the dust off her six-string to croon a tune or two. But mostly, she just writes (and writes). Loree and her husband split their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she continues to perfect her talent for identifying critter tracks. Her favorite pass time? Spending long, leisurely hours with her grandchildren... all seven of them! She loves hearing from her readers, and answers every letter, personally. Visit her website, http://www.loreelough.com.
Sarah Sundin is the author of the “Wings of Glory” series–”A Distant Melody”, “A Memory Between Us”, and “Blue Skies Tomorrow”–which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Sarah Sundin followed an unusual career path for a novelist, receiving a bachelor’s in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. She now lives in northern California with her husband, three children, an antisocial cat, and a yellow lab determined to eat her manuscripts. When not driving kids to soccer and tennis, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches women’s Bible studies and fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school. She has been writing since 2000 and belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Authors Network. She is the author of the Wings of Glory series – A Distant Melody (Revell 2010), A Memory Between Us (2010), and Blue Skies Tomorrow (August 2011). In 2011 she received the Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A Memory Between Us was featured on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Fiction List for 2010.
Tricia Goyer’s “The Liberator Series”, includes “From Dust and Ashes”, “Night Song”, “Dawn of a Thousand Nights”, and “Arms of Deliverance”. Four different tales, rich in authentic historical detail, connected by the WWII setting. Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Beside Still Waters, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit www.triciagoyer.com for more about Tricia and her books.
It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed “Restoration”, by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. There is no hero or heroine in this story, but a collection of people and lives that you hope will somehow be set to rights. There are secrets, betrayals, devastating loss, and mysteries which propel the characters toward resolutions and new beginnings. Alice is the wealthy daughter of a class-conscious British family. She shocks everyone by marrying Claudio, an entitled minor-landowner, and moving with him to Tuscany. They begin their life together in a once-beautiful villa in need of much repair. As they work side by side to build a dream life, they try to ignore their underlying differences. A much-loved son, Giovanni, is born, and they find a measure of contentment. However, as the villa and its lands begin to flourish, more and more demands are made upon both Claudio and Alice. He is very much a man of the land and his dependents, and she begins to long for tastes of the life she left behind. She recklessly reaches out for greater fulfillment, and yet she is not without guilt and self-recrimination. The illness and eventual death of young Giovanni pushes Claudio and Alice further apart. Her intended reparation to their marriage is halted by Claudio’s strange disappearance. Alice is left to manage the villa and its lands with the help of a devoted family friend, Pritchett. As the war progresses, more and more seekers of sanctuary descend upon Alice and her home. One of them, a young woman named Kristin, comes bearing a serious wound and deep secrets which could gravely affect many in their wake. The effects of our actions and missteps are very much evident here, and those with survivor guilt must find a way to move forward. Chose to live, and live the life you are given. This is a book which will make you want to read it all in one setting. You will want to know how the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A very good read.
Just as the garden of “Winter Bloom” is lovingly and skillfully brought back to life, so are the lives of the characters revived and renewed. Tara Heavey tells the story of five people who work together toward a common goal and discover much about themselves and each other along the way. When young widowed mother Eva Madigan spies the sadly neglected walled garden of the elderly Mrs. Prendergast, she is struck by the desire to restore the wasted space to its former glory. It takes some convincing, and Mrs. Prendergast warns her that the garden is meant to be sold, but Eva is given permission for her project. She places an ad at the grocer for help with a community garden, and only two people respond to the ad: Uri, a distinguished older gentleman, and Emily, the clerk from the grocer. Soon they are joined by Uri’s son Seth, and after a time, even Mrs. Prendergast begins to help with the work. Each of the gardeners has been touched by tragedy, and their individual stories are woven throughout the telling of the restoration. Uri, a tailor by trade, was taught much by his own father, who was a master gardener. Seth, who inherited his love of cultivating the soil from his father and grandfather, has his own landscaping business. Emily, stuck in her clerk’s job, longs to further her education and move on with her life. Mrs. Prendergast, a lady of impeccable social grace, is nonetheless rumored to have killed her husband and buried him somewhere in the garden. It is her greedy, needy son, Lance, who is pressuring her to sell the land. Eva’s husband took their baby daughter for a drive to settle her crying, and they were both killed in a terrible accident. Eva was left to care for their young son, Liam, and to manage her survivor guilt. These are remarkable people, trying their best to live “ordinary” lives. I was touched by their heartaches, and I celebrated with them their joys. Their shared experience was an affirmation of life, not only for the characters, but also for the reader. I will definitely read more work by the wonderful storyteller, Tara Heavey!
Prepare to have your eyes opened, your heart broken, and your view of the amazing endurance of the human spirit revised and revived. You will experience all of these things when you read Rosie Alison’s “The Very Thought of You”. A shattering, yet spirit-sustaining, glimpse into loss and survivorship, this is a story which will resonate with many. Few will be unaffected. In the summer of 1939, with the impending threats of WWII devastation looming large, thousands of children were evacuated from London, sent to safer locations in the surrounding countryside. These children were torn from their homes and separated from their parents, and no one could be certain what the future would hold. “The Very Thought of You” focuses on one such child, Anna Sands, relocated to the wealthy manor home of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Childless themselves, the Ashtons welcome the children and provide them with care and an education. It is the gallant and gentle Thomas who becomes a touchstone in Anna’s life. He is a man who suffers great loss and unspeakable tragedy, yet he lives his life with appreciation for the beauty he sees among the devastation. True love comes to Thomas in midlife, but it is not a love with whom he will be allowed to share life on earth. However, even death cannot dim the luminescence of this love. Your heart will ache for Thomas, but his soul remains undaunted through it all. As with many who have experienced the shock of wartime desolation, Anna searches throughout her life for real peace of mind. As a married adult, with children of her own, Anna finds some measure of comfort in reconnecting with Thomas. They form a somewhat tentative, but still caring relationship, keeping touch in letters and Christmas cards. Ultimately, Anna’s search for fulfillment will come full circle and bring her once again to Ashton Manor. As the song says: “The very thought of you, and I forget to do those little ordinary things that everyone ought to do….”. This story and these characters are neither little nor ordinary. They will stay in the reader’s consciousness for a very long time.
“The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Reading them both enhances the collective story content. Vivienne de la Mare is the wife of an English soldier, and she and her two daughters live with her mother-in-law at the family home in Guernsey. Vivienne’s husband was absent from her life long before he went off to war. His affair with an actress alienated him from Vivienne’s heart. Left to care for her mother-in-law, who is rapidly succumbing to dementia, Vivienne makes life as pleasant as possible for her two young daughters. When the German occupation arrives in an intense and violent manner, many rapid changes occur in the life of the islanders. German soldiers take over the empty house next to Vivienne’s, and she becomes involved with one the officers. Theirs is a poignant, passionate, and ultimately improbable affair. During the time of the occupation, Vivienne is faced with many difficult decisions, some of which may have dangerous consequences for those she loves. “The Soldier’s Wife” is written in a beautifully descriptive style, and it offers glimpses into both sides of the horror of the Second World War. The shades of survivorship are well represented. My mother and grandparents often talked about food shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and also later during World War II. My grandparents were very resourceful, skilled in gardening and preserving food, and they were practical in making the most of what was available. As a matter of survival, the characters in “The Soldier’s Wife” had to learn to do the same thing. Used to the bountiful produce from the land and the sea, and the superior dairy products from the famous Guernsey cows, the islanders suddenly were faced with scrambling to find substitutions for everyday foods. They learned to use vegetables in many different ways including making flour from dried ground beans and coffee from roasted and ground parsnips. I am not sure that I would be that resourceful, but we never know what we are capable of until we are faced with great challenges. One of my favorite scenes in “The Soldier’s Wife” involves the rapture of Vivienne’s struggling family’s enjoyment of an unexpected gift of overripe peaches. The fruit was sweet and succulent, and it seemed like a taste of Heaven. The juice from the peaches ran freely down their chins as they gratefully devoured their fruity treasure.
More reading recommendations:
“The Bungalow” by Sarah Jio (author of “The Violets of March”):
“A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war. A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.” http://www.amazon.com/Bungalow-Novel-Sarah-Jio/dp/0452297672/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327369042&sr=1-1
“The House at Tyneford” by Natasha Solomons:
It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford-and Elise-forever.
“The Lost Wife” by Alyson Richman:
A rapturous new novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Last Van Gogh. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.
“Letters From Home” by Kristina McMorris:
Liz Stephen’s life changes when she meets infantryman Morgan McClain at a Chicago USO club. Liz has long expected to marry her childhood friend, Dalton, yet her instant attraction to Morgan is mutual. But when she misinterprets Morgan’s chivalrous rescue of her friend Betty, she flees without explanation. When Betty begins corresponding with Morgan, she asks for Liz’s help. Soon, Morgan and Liz, under Betty’s alias, are exchanging soul-baring letters. Betty, serving in the Woman’s Army Corps, finds unexpected romance of her own, as does Liz’s engaged best friend Julia. But as the war ends, each woman faces the repercussions of her choices. Inspired by the true story of her grandparents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in a story that is timeless, tender, and unforgettably moving.