Archive for Book Reviews Posts

A Widow’s Awakening – Unpacking the Ultimate Mystery

By Kara Post-Kennedy

“The author understands above all that grief plays tricks with the mind and that as sentient beings we are always seeking meaning; even in tragedy, even in the senseless.”

– Kara Post Kennedy

Here is a detailed and insightful book review of A Widow’s Awakening:

Death is the ultimate mystery; while we can understand the mechanics of biological, physical death, it is hard for any of us to fathom the ongoing journey of the soul without its corporeal suit.  Religions try to explain it in a way our brains can comprehend, people who share “after-life” experiences hope to shed some light for the curious, but no one truly knows, once the body has expired, what this energy and intelligence and love we have accumulated during our lifetime does next.

In “A Widow’s Awakening”, Maryanne Pope grapples with all of this through the transformative lens of profound grief; when her husband and “soul mate” was killed in a freak workplace accident at the age of 32, her life was turned upside down and inside out so catastrophically that she had no choice but to dive into the ocean of pain and confusion to try to make sense of her enormous loss.  Or if not “sense”, at least find meaning.

This fictionalized account of her story is by turns raw and gangly and then elegant and profound.  She leaves her ego at the door and just lays it out bare—she is not precious with herself and gives the reader the whole spectrum of her response, from grandiose delusions to suicidal despair.  The rollercoaster ride of early grief is accounted for with complete candor; her unflinching approach makes for a compelling, although sometimes uncomfortable, tale…

Please click here to read entire review.

To order a copy, please visit BHC Press.

Book Review: An Octopus in my Ouzo

 

“It takes years to know for sure if you’re in a good relationship; but I didn’t have years to get pregnant.”

– Jennifer Barclay, An Octopus in my Ouzo

Life on the Tiny Greek Island of Tilos

I read An Octopus in my Ouzo; Loving Life on a Greek Island over the summer. At the time, I loved reading the author’s detailed descriptions of island life…the swims in the sea, the long walks through the countryside, the goats, the villages and local characters…the delicious Greek food!

Now that a couple of months have passed since I finished the book, what also stands out in my memory is the author’s personal story of coming to terms with not being able to have a baby. Although she is living (and loving) one of her dreams – living full-time on a Greek island – she is struggling to accept the fact that another dream – motherhood – likely won’t be happening.

I appreciated the honest and eloquent way in which the author shared her journey. It can be incredibly difficult to accept that we are not going to get everything we want – or think we want – in life. And yet to be able to step back and look at all that we do have in our lives, and be thankful for that, is essential.

The Seahorse Moment

There is a powerful scene near the beginning of the book that involves a seahorse. It hit me hard. I won’t divulge much detail in case you read the book yourself. But for me, the seahorse moment spoke volumes about the importance of speaking up for what we believe in…even if it is something as small as a seahorse. I was reminded of this quote:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

For how often do we hold back on speaking our truth about the “little things” because we don’t want to get into a discussion…don’t want to rock the boat?

More often than we care to admit, I suspect. For maintaining harmony in a household and peace in personal relationships are equally worthy objectives. But the “little things,” in my experience, are not always so little. They may, in fact, be tips of icebergs.

I highly recommend reading An Octopus in my Ouzo. It will warm your heart, whet your appetite for scrumptious Greek food…and quite possibly inspire you to spend some time on a Greek island 😊

My Connection to Jennifer

I have written about Jennifer Barclay before. I reviewed her delightful book, Falling in Honey; How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart. And Jennifer was the original editor for my book, A Widow’s Awakening. Jennifer taught me how to write creative non-fiction. Sentence by sentence, she showed me how to transform a painful personal experience into an engaging story for the reader.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

published in Book Reviews, Change, Death, Grief, Inspiration, Life After Loss by Maryanne | August 7, 2018 | 4 Comments

Note: At the time of writing this blog (Aug 7th, 2018) Yosemite National Park is closed due to the Ferguson wildfire. Thousands of tourists have been evacuated and two firefighters have died. My thoughts & prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the firefighters.

The Healing Power of Nature – Mountains of Light Book Review

 

“I want to simplify my life so that I’m not worn out and frustrated at the end of every workday. I want to move at a pace that helps me notice what is around me and gives me the chance to interact with it.”

– R. Mark Liebenow, Mountains of Light

Looking for a late-summer read?

I recently finished Mark Liebenow’s beautiful book, Mountains of Light; Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite. I have always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park. After reading Mark’s book, now I really want to go!

This non-fiction read is about Mark’s journey of coming to terms with the death of his wife, Evelyn. It is in nature – through repeated visits at different times of the year to Yosemite – where Mark finds peace with his wife’s passing.

This makes sense. In my experience, spending time in nature and/or with animals seem to be able to soothe chaotic thoughts and emotional turmoil like nothing else.

Here are a few snippets from Mountains of Light:

“I feel edgy and certain of my mortality. I came here wanting Yosemite to shake me out of my stupor and help me face death. And it has, but it feels like Yosemite wants to do this by having me listen to its stories.”

“Mark Twain regretted knowing what lay beneath the swells in the water as he learned to guide riverboats down the Mississippi River because he no longer saw its beauty.”

Part of me no longer cares why natural places affect me so deeply, and I’m not really concerned about what does or doesn’t have a soul. If I say that every part of creation reveals something about nature’s reality then I’m challenged to look at everything with respect and find insights…the wild outdoors simply inspire me.” 

Another observation that struck me about Mark’s book was the significant difference between how he chose to share his grief, through his story, and how I shared my experience with grief in my book, A Widow’s Awakening.

I’m not sure whether this is a gender thing or not i.e. do women tend to be more open than men about sharing the details of their emotional journey?

In A Widow’s Awakening, I yank the lid right off Pandora’s Box of Grief and let it ALL out: the devastation, the hurt, the hatred, self-pity, anger, jealousy, bitterness…the confusing thoughts, conflicting emotions and spiritual isolation.

To be honest, I haven’t read that many books about grief, so I found Mark’s candid but subtle journey intriguing. There was definitely a sense of inner struggle as he tried to come to peace with his wife’s passing but it was rather enlightening to read a personal memoir by an author who I suspect is an extremely private person. The depth of his loss and subsequent sorrow is immense; how he chose to communicate that loss to his reader was very different to my approach.

And that’s a good thing.

For everyone grieves differently. And different authors approach the same subject matter in their own unique way. And yet, despite our differences – as people, as writers – we are still able to find the common threads of love, loss, passion and peace.

“Evelyn’s presence is always with me, especially when I spend time at Happy Isles, her favourite place in the valley. I’m surrounded by the words of John Muir, as well as by owl and hawk, mountain lion and bear, raven and jay, coyote and ouzel, which often show up unexpectedly with surprising inflections of wisdom. I’ve finally accepted that death is a necessary part of life and that I have had to turn away from home and live in the backcountry of stone for a while to deal with my grief. In spring I think I will be ready to turn back toward life.”

R. Mark Liebenow

On a less personal but equally important note, I read Mountains of Light while writing the next draft of my screenplay, God’s Country, about Canadian-born silent screen star, Nell Shipman. Nell’s story is very much about her love of the natural world and wild animals. Mountains of Light was the perfect book to be reading while working on this script. I think we sometimes lose sight of how much wisdom the wilderness holds. And what we lose sight of, we risk losing.

I highly recommend reading this beautiful book.

Retriever not included in book giveaway 🙂

*Win a copy of Mountains of Light

If you would like chance to win a copy, please send us an e-mail by Aug 15th, with the subject line, “Mountains of Light,” and your name will be entered into the draw.

*Contest open to WWOW (Weekly Words of Wisdom) subscribers only. If you’re not a subscriber but would like to be 🙂 here is the link to sign up.

A Widow’s Awakening Novel Coming Sept 13th

Please visit BHC Press to pre-order.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.