Category: books

Giveaway Monday!

GITGlarge print_I am hard at work on a deadline for the third and last in a series of books I am writing with a good friend of mine, Mindy Starns Clark. The books are called the Men of Lancaster County series and they feature Amish men as the first-person narrators. The first one released in April, the second one is coming up in August, and we are working on a July deadline for this last one. It’s been a wonderful experience writing with Mindy and we’ve had a lot of fun with it. They’re great stories, by the way. I don’t read much Amish fiction and I never pictured myself writing it, but Mindy’s an expert in that culture, and I like to imagine that I can tell a story from any setting! All that to say, I am a busy girl this morning so I need to keep the blog post short and sweet. So how about a special kind of giveaway. I’ve got two Large Print editions of The Girl in the Glass to give away. If you know someone who appreciates large-print books, enjoys fiction, and perhaps they love Italy or perhaps they’ve never been, all you have to do is comment below and tell me who you would like me to send the book to if you were to win it. Your grandma? Your neighbor? Your local assisted living facility? A friend with vision limitations? The winner will be chosen by random drawing on Friday, June 13 at noon Pacific. Good luck!

When Good Enough Isn’t

When Good EnoughWhen my good friends and fellow pastors with my husband at The Church at Rancho Bernardo, Pam and Ken Ingold, told me they were going to write a marriage book, I knew they were the perfect couple to pound out words on a topic that has already been written about many times over. (Make sure you read to the end of this post because they’re giving away a copy of their new book, When Good Enough Isn’t!)

There are a lot of great marriage books out there — does the market really need another? Well, I can tell you why it needs this one. Not only is it full of great content, it’s slim! (just under a hundred pages) Let’s face it. We live in a busy world where time is precious. Not everybody loves to read outside what they need to for work (shocker, yes, but it’s true) and a lot of men just plain don’t. That’s what statistics say, not me.

But this is a book a busy couple could read together and not get bogged down in. And I would say it’s not just for couples in trouble. It’s the perfect book for couples to read before there’s trouble!

I “sat down” if you will, with Pam and Ken and interviewed them about their new book.  They’ve been married 35 years and have two grown children and one grandchild. They have been in vocational ministry for the past 17 years, and together have performed over 150 weddings and provided countless hours of pre-marital and marriage counseling, and they love witnessing a broken marriage restored! Here’s what they had to say.

What was it like writing a book together?

We have very different writing styles so it was definitely a challenge. It gave us an opportunity to practice what we preach, to truly collaborate rather than compete, concede or compromise.

What was the main reason you decided to write it?When Good Enough2

We have counseled couples in crisis for over 15 years, and we’ve seen some amazing transformations, but those are infrequent. At the same time, we’ve counseled couples experiencing “slow drift” headed toward crisis and discovered that, with the right tools, a marriage can frequently go from good to great!

What do you think is the biggest threat to keeping a marriage healthy in this day and age? Has it changed from what it was fifty years ago?

The biggest threat to marriages today is the sheer number of distractions, from social media to materialism, to kids activities, to perceptions created through marketing. The bombardment of outside influences has increased exponentially from 50 years ago, making building a great marriage harder than it has ever been.

In your book you wrote: “Expectations set marriages up for failure.” What     do you mean by that, in a nutshell?

When you expect something from your spouse and they don’t meet your expectation, you’re disappointed. If they do, your feelings don’t change. When you lower your expectations, you create an opportunity for your spouse to exceed them and you are able to celebrate together.

 That’s a very cool concept! Okay, so what’s wrong “with good enough”?

Do you remember the good meal or the great one, the good vacation or the great vacation, the good player or the great one? Why should marriage, the greatest institution on the planet, settle for anything less?

Touché. Did you learn anything new about marriage in the writing of this book?

We learned that we’re not giving up our pastoral careers! Seriously, we learned our culture has created an acceptance of marriage being good enough and not every couple is going to be willing to do the work that is necessary to make it great. But it’s worth it!

What advice would you give newlyweds just starting out?

First and foremost, put Jesus at the center of your marriage relationship, where your marriage is built on a covenant rather than a contract. Secondly, seek counsel from couples with great marriages and utilize the resources available. Third, spend time together – just the two of you! Make sure your marriage remains a priority, before children, while your raising them and when they’re grown.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Back to our day jobs and helping couples move their marriages from good to great! We don’t sense God calling us to write another book right now, but if we did, it would probably be on parenting.

Susan here: Thanks, Ken and Pam. Readers, if you want to hear more from this wise couple, here’s their Real Marriage blog that is full of more marriage-building tips. If you would like win a paperback copy of When Good Enough Isn’t for yourself or to give to someone (wedding season is here!), just leave a comment below. A winner will be drawn by random drawing on Friday, May 30 at noon Pacific.  And if you want, include the best marriage advice you ever got, heard, or gave.  Fire away!

Cover reveal!

SecretsofaCharmedLife_coverreveal When I get the email from my editor that the art department has come up with a cover for a new book, I always take a deep breath before I open the attachment to look at it for the first time. It’s the only time I can ever be just like the reader who is looking for a new book and who stumbles upon mine. They see the cover with fresh eyes and they know hardly any thing about the book except that maybe I wrote it.  What emotions will that first look evoke?

Sometimes I will see a cover and I will know that it is perfect. Other times it will grow on me. Other times I don’t feel like the essence of the book has been captured and I will have to craft a carefully worded email describing what I like about the cover and then attempt to explain, even though the cover has merit, why it doesn’t seem to work.

When I saw the cover for Secrets of A Charmed Life my eyes were drawn instantly like a magnet to the woman’s half-face, her ruby lips, her porcelain complexion and that gloved hand by her cheek. Is she flicking away an errant hair or raising a palm to her cheek in shock as we often do when something surprises us? What is she thinking? Does she know the secrets of a charmed life or is she desperate for someone to tell her what they are? Her lovely green dress fading into the River Thames in London tells me the setting and her 1940s vibe suggests to me it won’t be an easy setting. Not then.

All that it is to say, I did fall in love with this cover, but it was after I contemplated this woman and the mystery that surrounds her. This book, which will release in Feb 2015 by Penguin, is set for the most part in England during the years of the war. In a nutshell, Emmy is a idealistic teenager of a single mother who aspires to design wedding gowns. She sneaks back to London after she and her little sister have been safely evacuated to the countryside. Emmy has an appointment to keep with someone who wants to see her fledgling designs, and no rumors of an attack by the Germans will stop her. But she and little Julia arrive on the very day the Luftwaffe sends a wave of 800 planes over London’s East End – in broad daylight — bombing it relentlessly. When Emmy finally makes it back to the ruined flat where she left her little sister for a meeting that was only supposed to take an hour, Julia is gonSt-Thomass-bombed-1940e without a trace. And since Mum wasn’t expecting her girls to be at the flat – why should she? Emmy and Julia are in the countryside – Mum stayed elsewhere when the attack began. Julia had been left alone in the flat while hell rained down.

And so begins Emmy’s quest for absolution, for redemption, for restitution. She is a girl searching for the secrets to a charmed life. She had thought the perfect life began with the perfect wedding dress – the emblem of happiness and fulfillment. She was wrong…

So the cover works for me. Very much so. I see Emmy in this woman wearing the green dress, especially when Emmy attempts to reinvent herself after the loss of her sister which she clearly believes is her fault.  This is her journey in the book: Becoming someone who can find a way to live with regret. But what she discovers is something else entirely.

I would love to hear what you think of this cover and the little bit I’ve told you. Thoughts??

Unforgettable

the-invention-of-wings-sue-monk-kiddSome years back, when I first read The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, I remember thinking I wanted to be able to do with words what this author had done, and that is construct a compelling story with the perfect mix of simplicity and complexity such that people who read what I wrote would not soon forget it.  It wasn’t  so much the plot that wowed me as much as it was the way in which it was delivered to me.

A few years after that, when The Mermaid Chair came out, also by Sue Monk Kidd, several people whose opinions matter greatly to me said it was a different kind of book, not one that they loved, and that I probably wouldn’t find the magic in it that I did with Bees. I actually chose NOT to read Mermaid  for that very reason: because I didn’t want to mess with the echoes of Bees still swirling in my head. So naturally, when The Invention of Wings released, I was eager, anxious, and hopeful. Would it take me away to literary wonderland as Bees did?

The answer to that is a resounding yes.

When a book hits my sweet spot, it’s usually hard to describe in concrete details how. That kind of book somehow beautifully assaults my senses, viciously yanks on the virtues I hold most dear – like justice and fidelity and sacrificial love – and plants me as firmly in its setting and culture as if I had time-travelled there.  It haunts me when I am not reading it and woos me when I am. The characters’ voices linger in my mind and their  sorrows and joys feel like my own.  A book that hits my sweet spot doesn’t spoon-feed the ending; it suggests the denouement in a way that lets me feel like there are more pages in the book; I just don’t have access to them. The story is not over, and I am not expected to feel like it is.

The story is told in two points of view, that of a Southern slave owner’s daughter and the other, the slave she grows up with. The time of the tale is well before the Civil War.  The daughter grows up with a distaste for slave ownership and the will to do what she can to see it end. Here are some of my favorite lines:

“History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another’s pain in the heart our own.”

 

“We ‘re all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren’t we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we’ll at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all.”

 

“The sorry truth is you can walk your feet to blisters, walk till kingdom-come, and you never will outpace your grief.”

 

“Sarah was up in her room with her heart broke so bad, Binah said you could hear it jangle when she walked.”

Your heart will bleed reading this book, but it will heal in a way that allows you to remember why you loved it. You’ll be reminded why slavery is one of the ugliest ideas ever, and you’ll be glad there were brave souls who stood up in protest.

Highly recommended.

 

 

 

Mindy and me in LC!

cover_Apr14 There’s still lots of time to get in on the drawing for one of five copies of THE AMISH GROOM (click on the title to get to last Friday’s blog post) but I thought I would post the link to the article in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, which was just published this weekend. (The cover photo and the inside photo were both taken on Amish farms in Lancaster County on a research trip we took last summer).

Kim Ford, the interviewer, asked some great questions. Here is one that I answered:

Susan, this was your first work of Amish fiction. How did you learn about the Amish and their beliefs and culture? Given that you live in California, how were you able to bring the setting of Lancaster County alive in this story?

 

Me: I had very little familiarity with Amish culture when I began writing this book with Mindy, so I relied heavily on her vast knowledge and well-respected books and documentaries on the topic. Mindy and I also took a research trip to Lancaster County to prepare for writing the remaining books of the Men of Lancaster County series. We stayed at an Amish farm, ate meals in an Amish home, and talked to Amish people about their lives and culture.

I learned then what I have learned about any culture I have studied: People across the globe and across the centuries have different ways of living. But underneath the visual—including the clothing, whether it’s broadfall pants with no zippers or board shorts and Vans—people have hearts that long for love, to give it and receive it. Take away what makes us different, and there’s much that makes us the same.

Just click on the link below to read the rest of the interview! (And see you on Friday. I will be posting from the lovely Santa Cruz mountains as I will be teaching at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. If you are going, make sure to find me and say hello!)

http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/best_interview.html

 

Never in my wildest dreams

Amish GroomThere was a time when I would look at the plethora (I don’t use that word very often and it’s always exciting when I do) of Amish fiction out there and I’d shake my head and wonder how in the world does SO much of it sell in the Christian marketplace. There are hundreds of Amish titles out there. Hundreds. Many of my good friends in the inspirational fiction market write Amish fiction and — hooray for them — have outsold me exponentially.

There is high demand for stories with Amish characters living out  life — with all its joys and sorrows, triumphs and trials —  in an Amish setting.  I never thought I would pen one, so when my agent, Chip MacGregor, came to me with an idea to collaborate with my good friend and fellow writer, Mindy Starns Clark (who is also agented by Chip)  on a series called Men of Lancaster County, my first response was, “Who? Me?” My genre is a blend of historical and contemporary. And at the time, I didn’t know anything about Amish culture beyond the movie, Witness.

But as I was in between contracts and hoping to make the move into the general marketplace with my solo work, I decided to see what Mindy (and Harvest House Publishers, who gave me my start by publishing my first book in 2004) had in mind. The more I heard about the vision for Men of Lancaster County, the more I thought to myself, “I think I might enjoy this. I might even do okay at it.” Mindy’s a great writer, she and her husband John and come up with a great idea, and when it comes right down to it, I love Story. Story is about People in a Place working out a Problem. If I can write about a diarist during the Salem Witch trials or a Civil War spy in 1862 or a young dressmaker to a future queen of England, I can write about Amish men finding their way in a tiny cosmos called Lancaster County.

So there you have it! Behold, the first in the series is out this week. The Amish Groom is the story of a young man who was born of an Amish mother and a non-Amish father. He is a man with a choice to make, a life-defining choice. I absolutely love the trailer that Harvest House put together for it.

Sounds pretty good, right? You know what? I am really happy with the end result. It’s the perfect blend of my and Mindy’s storytelling skills. If you already love Amish fiction, I’ve no doubt you will be deeply satisfied. If you’ve never read it and have been wondering if you might want to try it, well, I suggest you try this one.

You can comment below (just say hi or tell us what you love about Amish fiction or what you wonder about Amish culture or…) and maybe win one (I am giving away five copies by random drawing this time next week) or hop over to your favorite book retailer and pick one up. If you happen to win one of these signed copies, you can give away the one you bought, and since it always feels good to give books to people, it’s a win-win. I need to hear from you by noon Pacific April 11. Comment away!

A satisfying song…

WillowFrostEver since finishing The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford a few years back, I had been one of those standing anxiously in line for his next one. (If you’ve not read Hotel, you really need to examine your To Be Read priorities!)  So of course I was very happy to hear that Songs Of Willow Frost  was coming our way in 2013 and not only that, but also that Jamie Ford would be at Warwick’s Books in San Diego’s beautiful gem La Jolla, to speak about it.

I love talking about the books I’ve loved but I hate to give too much away in the telling. Reviews matter to me, not just the writing of them but reading them and sharing them and I am always grateful when a reviewer manages to tell me why she or he loved (or didn’t love) a book without spoiling anything for me.  I can tell you that just as Hotel  yanked on my heartstrings, so did Willow.  I can tell you that the prose is wonderfully unpretentious and yet deep and luminous, and that there are great lines that you just have to read twice or three times they are so meaningful. I can tell you there are surprises along the way to keep you turning pages and needing to know what is to become of the Chinese-American boy whose mother relinquished him to an orphanage years before and who suddenly sees her on a movie screen in a Seattle theater with a different name.

I can’t say I loved it more than Hotel, or even as much, though I did love it. Perhaps it was Hotel‘s premise that resonated within me to a deeper degree. I admit I have a hard time summoning empathy for women who allow and then stay with men who abuse them. My deepest apologies if I offend anyone by saying that. I am not saying I can’t summon the empathy, I am saying it is difficult for me.  But this story, which moves back and forth between William’s story and his mother’s, is moving and compelling, even in those moments when I, had I been Willow, would have done something very different.

Here are some of my favorite lines:

“She heard the flickering of the shutter, the hum of the lights, and the silence punctuated by the sound of Colin’s footsteps, fading.”

 

“The shadow woman inhaled, which caused no small relief to William as he stepped closer. She was clothed in a pale blouse and skirt. The tub was dry. It was as though she were bathing in memory alone. Her fur stole covered her chest like a blanket. Her hat sat in the bottom of the tub, near the drain. William could hear a baby crying in another apartment; somewhere down the hall, though the haunting, desperate sound was gone so fast he might have imagined it.”

 

“It was the words of parents that kept most of the orphans here – the silken bondage of a mother’s promise, “I’ll be back by Christmas, if you’re a good boy.” Those mythic words, laced with happy-ever-afters, became millstones come January, when ice deckled the windows and the new boys stopped counting the days and began crying themselves to sleep, once again. After five winters at Sacred Heart, he’d learned not to hope for Christmas miracles – at least for nothing greater than a pair of hand-me-down shoes, a book of catechism, and a stocking filled with peanuts and a ripe tangerine.”

 

Songs of Willow Frost  will tug and tear and tenderize. It’s the kind of story that reminds you why stories exist.

Jamiep.s. This line at left in my copy of the book is one that I love, too.

Thanks, Booklist

top-10_womens-fiction_adult_f2Every now and then as a novelist you get some unexpected affirmation from those whose opinion of your work matters a great deal. When I learned A Fall of Marigolds had been named in BookList‘s Top Ten Women’s Fiction for 2014, I was humbled to the core.This centutry-old magazine is published by the American Library Association, and is used to help libraries decide what to put on their shelves and to help library patrons and students decide what to read, view, or listen to.

This list comprises the top 10 women’s fiction reviewed from the last 12 months and covers “chick lit to tearjerkers, heavy issues to lighthearted comedy.” According to BookList, one of the key ‘appeal factors’ for its Women’s Fiction Top Ten list is “that sense of recognition the target audience—yes, women—gets from identifying with the heroines, and these novels deliver something for just about anyone.”

I am beyond grateful and so honored to be among these other writers and I know I will be adding some new books to my TBR ladder to the sky, too. Here’s the list. Have you read any of the books here? Tell us all about it. Or tell us what your list of best books for 2014 is so far.

BookList’s TOP TEN WOMEN’S FICTION:

The Apple Orchard. By Susan Wiggs. “Art specialist Tess has a successful professional life but is lacking in the family department. When she’s named heir to one-half of an estate and discovers the other half goes to the sister she never knew she had, her life gets turned upside-down.”

The Bookstore. By Deborah Meyler. “Between studying art history at Columbia University on a prestigious scholarship and a two-week fling with a magnetic, wealthy man, 23-year-old Esme Garland from England is happily settling into life in Manhattan when she discovers she’s pregnant. This character-driven novel is witty and poetic.”

A Fall of Marigolds. By Susan Meissner. “The heartbreaks of two women, separated by decades, come together in the history of a scarf that holds special meaning to each woman. Christian fiction author Meissner’s first mainstream women’s fiction novel hits all of the right emotional notes without overdoing the two tragedies.

Golden State. By Michelle Richmond. Estranged sisters Julie and Heather are brought together as Heather goes into labor and Julie, a doctor, rushes to her side to assist. But the sisters are separated by forces beyond their control, as their city, San Francisco, is in chaos, shut down by political protests. Perfect for fans of issue-driven women’s fiction.”

Ladies’ Night. By Mary Kay Andrews. “Grace, an interior-design blogger, discovers her husband is cheating on her. She begins therapy with a group of other “marital misfits,” and the women soon start meeting at Grace’s mother’s bar, where they plot revenge but eventually learn to move on.”

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe. By Jenny Colgan. “In this fun and fast-paced read, Issy Randall loses her job and her boss/boyfriend in one embarrassing swoop. She decides to take her severance pay and open a bakery in her London neighborhood.”

Sweet Salt Air. By Barbara Delinsky. “Two girlhood friends who’ve been estranged for the past 10 years reunite to collaborate on a cookbook, both of them harboring secrets. Never fear; Delinsky knows when a happy ending is in order.”

Time Flies. By Claire Cook. “In this delightful beach read, two best friends reunite for their high-school reunion and overcome their fears. The banter is a lot of fun, and the characters’ realization of what is important is certain to make readers yearn for reconnections of their own.”

Who Asked You? By Terry McMillan. “Told from the perspectives of several of the characters, this novel offers an array of personalities and everyday life challenges within a story of close friends, family, and neighbors as they grow and change over many years.”

The Whole Golden World. By Kristina Riggle. “Dinah’s world is about to fall apart—her teenage daughter has been caught half-naked in her teacher’s car. Rain, the teacher’s wife, is watching her life fall apart instead of rejoicing in the news that she’s finally pregnant. Fans of Jodi Picoult will devour this story.”

The Wedding Plant

To mark the release of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS this month, I am happy to welcome writer friends to the blog to share with you a story about a family heirloom that is precious to them. An heirloom scarf is what ties two women together in A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, and heirlooms are what tie these blog posts together. At the end of the month, there will be a fun giveaway. Enjoy!

On this lovely Valentines Day, I am happy to welcome Kaira Rouda to the blog to share a wonderful story about a special little spider plant.  Kaira is an award-winning entrepreneur, marketer, speaker and author. She is the bestselling  author of REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs (Wiley), founder of numerous companies including Real You, and brand creator of Real Living Real Estate, the nation’s first women-focused real estate brand.  Her first novel, HERE, HOME, HOPE (Greenleaf Book Group) was published in May of 2011, and won a 2011 Indie Excellence Award for fiction. Read to the end to see how you could win a copy.

“But most importantly, it survived.”

My keepsake is a liviKaira-Roudang and growing reminder of a relationship that has withstood the test of time. I call it The Wedding Plant and this is its story:

The wedding plant originated as a tiny spider plant that was part of my green and white wedding bouquet I held in my trembling hands in May of 1990. My mother, an avid gardener with a bright green thumb, plucked the unsuspecting spider from my bouquet just before I tossed it per custom to all the single ladies at the reception.

Mom returned home that night, planted the little spider, and helped it grow for the next five years. I had no idea she’d even thought to do this. On our 5th Wedding Anniversary, she presented the plant to my husband and I.?Through the ensuing years – including four babies, two cats, three dogs, many jobs, snowstorms, six different houses in two states, two birds, and all that life will throw your way – the wedding plant has flourished. Sure, some years it looked a little pale. Other years, it had offshoots galore, growing and thriving with gusto.Kaira photo

But most importantly, it survived. And with its survival, it became more than just a plant, it has become symbolic of the struggles and joys of a long-term relationship, of the need for its care and feeding, of the need to nurture and cherish it.

It sits behind me as I write in my office, soaking up the Southern California sunshine, a daily reminder of love.

HereHomeHope-FinalCoverYou can connect with Kaira on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @KairaRouda.

Thanks for being here today, Kaira, and sharing such a lovely story of the resiliency of love and commitment on this Valentines Day. Readers, just comment below for a chance to win a copy of Here. Home. Hope. Do you have an heirloom reminder of love? Do share. Or just say hello! Enter your comment by Weds. Feb. 19 noon Pacific. Good luck and Happy Valentines Day!

 

 

Five Silver Spoons

To mark the release of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS this month, I am happy to welcome writer friends to the blog to share with you a story about a family heirloom that is precious to them. An heirloom scarf is what ties two women together in A FALL OF MARIGOLDS, and heirlooms are what tie these blog posts together. At the end of the month, there will be a fun giveaway. Enjoy!

Today I’m happy to welcome Yona Zeldis McDonough to the blog today. Yona is the author of five novels, including Two of a Kind.  Her sixth, You Were Meant for Me, will release from New American Library in October 2014.  She is also the author of 21 books for children and her fiction, essays and articles have been widely published in many national and literary magazines.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, children, two yappy dogs—and five silver soupspoons tucked safely in a drawer. Read to the end to see how you can win a signed copy of Two of a Kind.

“The only things to have survived…”

YonaOne of my most precious heirlooms is a set of five silver soupspoons. They came from the house of my maternal grandmother, Tania Guttmann. Tania was born around 1909 in Ekaterinaslav, a city in Russia. Her mother, Miriam, was almost biblical in her fertility—she had 22 children; Tania, the second to youngest, was born when her mother was 52 and her youngest sister was born when their mother was 54.

Tania’s father was a tanner, a profession that was considered repugnant—and therefore a profession permitted to Jews.  It was also very lucrative, and so unlike many Russian Jews of her generation, my grandmother grew up in a very fine house with parquet floors, velvet drapes and crystal chandeliers.  She and her sisters were given dancing lessons and the older girls played the piano. The boys went to a prestigious military academy.   They spoke Russian at home, not Yiddish.

But then her father went on a business trip and did not return.  Anxiously, her mother awaited word from him. It never came. Instead, she received a gruesome parcel: his dead body in a canvas mail sack.  The body had been found on the railroad tracks; it was presumed that he had been murdered. Since his papers and prayer shawl identified him as Jewish, it seemed likely that other Jews, correctly surmising that someone would be worried about him, sent the body back.

Miriam’s response to this horror was to drink poison; my grandmother once told me that she still remembered the burns at the edges of her mother’s mouth.  But Miriam did not die; she rallied and decided to flee the country, now in the throes of its bloody revolution, with her five youngest children. She put mattresses in the windows to deflect the rockYonaspoonss and bricks that were frequently lobbed through them and she went out, day after day, to sell what she could: jewelry, dishes, silver. Tania and her sister were left alone, waiting for their mother to come back.  They were cold and hungry.  Her sister would ask, “Where’s Mama?” and Tania said, “She’s coming soon.”

Miriam was able to put together enough money for the tickets and she and her children went first to Riga, and then ultimately to America.  For some reason, she did not sell those five silver spoons, but gave them to Tania, who gave them to my mother, who gave them to me.  They are lovely spoons, simple, yet elegant and they have a pleasing heft in the hand.  Tania lived to be 94 and those spoons were the only things to have survived from that house, that country, that life.

Yonasbook I have long believed in the talismanic power of objects and these spoons are for me, very potent symbols.  And in my novel, Two of a Kind, my protagonist Christina Connelly shares my belief about objects—she is an interior designer and deals in antiques as well.  There is a pivotal scene in the book that centers on a silver candlestick and although a candlestick is not the same as five spoons it was those spoons that led me to write that scene. I will keep them until it is time to hand them down to my own young daughter.

Connect with Yona on her website , Facebook or Twitter : @YonaZMcDonough.

Thanks, Yona, for sharing such a moving story about your grandmother and great-grandmother.  You can be in on the drawing for Yona’s newest book, Two of A Kind, by commenting below, even if it’s just to say hello! But if by chance you have a family heirloom that has a difficult journey or situation attached to it, I’d love to hear it. Post your comment here by noon Pacific on Feb 17 and your name’s in the hat. Good luck!