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Friday, July 13, 2012
Guest Blogger: Michigan Novel Takes Flight
A couple of days ago I put on Facebook an idea that had popped into my head: I asked anyone having bought a book in my shop that made a big impression to write and tell me about it. Then, I said, with the customer’s permission, I would put the story on Books in Northport. To my delight, someone took up my “Facebook challenge,” and here is today’s guest blogger, Barbara Stark-Nemon. A retired English teacher and speech/language therapist (speech pathologist), Barbara has finished her first novel and is well into a second—but I’ll let her tell the rest of her story:
I’ve taken up your FB challenge! Donald Lystra’s “Season of Water and Ice” came to me from you last winter on one of my solo sojourns to the lake house to write. Set in Michigan and written by someone who came to novel writing as a second career, this book was immediately of interest to me. Then I read it, and was treated to its taut, honest narrative voice and the spare simplicity of the 1950s setting with which I further identified. I loved this book, and a year later it found its way into my own novel…. Here’s the excerpt… you never know where a book recommendation will lead!
Sh’ma Yisroel........ The traditional prayer, watchword of the Jewish faith, floated unbidden into my mind along with gratitude for the opportunity to be pressed into the window seat of a small jet at take-off. To this very day, taking off in an airplane signaled a momentary suspension between the end of exhausting preparation and extrication from the complexities in my life, and the beginning of the rigors of an adventure that lay ahead. I had a childhood full of air travel in small single-engine planes, piloted by my parents and a family friend. I’d gained a visceral experience of the mechanical insecurities of aircraft, and the physical alarm systems offered by the human body to remind us that flight is not what we were designed to do. The prayer always seemed like a perfect acknowledgment of my transitional state on every level. It was all about oneness, and whatever will be will be.
“How are you liking the Lystra?” The deep voice penetrated the roar of the jet engines and my early attempts at mind-clearing meditation, another favorite airplane trick. I opened my eyes and looked at the man seated two seats over. He was very good-looking and as relaxed as a tall person can be in the undignified confines of a coach seat on a small jet. His violet-blue eyes met mine and then glanced at the book in my lap.
“Quite a bit, actually. Have you read it?”
“I wrote it. Donald Lystra,” and with that he offered his hand across the seat.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” I felt a whoosh of excitement synchronous with the ascending airplane. “That’s pretty amazing.” I could tell this man was not yet famous enough to expect to be recognized, and he was as pleased as I at the serendipity. “You first.” I ventured. “Where are you going? Are you giving a book talk?”
“Nope. I have a reunion. What about you?”
“I’m going to see apple orchards and hard cideries. Business trip.” I rushed on. “What I love about this book is the way you portray this adolescent boy in a world of adults that aren’t working in his best interest, but who love him. It’s so real.” I didn’t care that I sounded earnest and intense. It was an airplane after all. And the novel about a lonely young boy burdened by loyalty to his unhappy parents in their separate lives had touched me. It was spare and intimate. The boy was going to make it. The ultimate robustness of children was a theme that comforted me.
Barbara Stark-Nemon blogs as the Northport Muse on North by Northport.