BOOSTER DAY AT TGOB: THREE NEW DEBUT NOVELS TO CHECK OUT

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I’m doing PR today for three acquaintances.  Two I’ve met in what we call “real” life, one I’ve encountered only on WordPress.  Nobody paid me. Nobody asked me.  Not one of the three is aware of this post.

But when someone you know ( or “know”) works for years and years — in two cases below, eight years — on the typescript of a novel and it finally becomes a published book, I think that book deserves a shout-out when introduced to the reading public.  Nothing below may appeal to you. But perhaps you know someone with different tastes, and could spread the word.  All are available for pre-order on Amazon. In order of publication date, here they are:

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SINGLED OUT, by Julie Lawford.  Available in paperback on January 28: $13.99; Kindle edition on February 1, $3.99.

Julie is a British marketer who decided four years ago she really wanted to be a writer.  She has worked long and hard to become one, and now she is.  You can read about the process, and her angst along the way, in her blog, A Writer’s Notepad. [She’s also become a blogging buddy, but that’s neither here nor there.]  I haven’t had the opportunity to read any of her book, which she calls “a gritty psychological suspense story set on a singles holiday in Turkey,” except the first sentence.  But a novel that begins:  “He stands over her, fastening his jeans” — come on, ladies, how can that not grab you?

This is the Amazon description of Singled Out (which I bet Julie wrote herself):

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite what they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat. But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

The tag for Singled Out is: “There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?”  If you want a read that subverts the sunshine holiday romance, “taking you to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily ever afters” — this may be the winter book for you!

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THE BROMLEY GIRLS, by Martha Mendelsohn. (Texas Tech. Univ. Press)  Paperback, $11.43.  Publication date, April 15.

I met Martha at a monthly prose writing group I attended in Manhattan (commuting from Princeton), from about the end of 2006 until 2009.  The meetings took place mostly in Martha’s apartment on Central Park West. [She makes a mean guacamole. Her husband hid out somewhere while we were there.]  It was at those meetings that I read, and then heard read aloud, the chapters of the first and second drafts of The Bromley Girls — a young adult (“YA”) novel that deals with anti-semitism, anorexia, mean girls, sibling problems, and the burgeoning of young love, as experienced by a fourteen-year old transferring to a new school in Manhattan in 1955.  But it was primarily, even in its early drafts, a smooth and suspenseful story, not just for young girls but also for me (in too many ways still a young girl at heart).

I haven’t seen what happened to The Bromley Girls after I left the group, but it can only have gotten better.  Martha’s a terrific writer, and when it at last left her computer, it was selected for publication by a university press with a YA division. This is how it’s described on Amazon:

It’s 1955 and fourteen-year-old Emily Winter’s promising start at Bromley, a posh, academically challenging Manhattan girls’ school, threatens to turn sour when her new friend Phoebe Barrett joins an anti-Semitic club founded by the popular and snobby Cressida Whitcroft.

But how can Emily stay angry with Phoebe, who shares Emily’s fascination with knights and the Middle Ages, when Phoebe has put herself on a dangerously stringent diet and is sinking into an ever-deeper obsession with losing weight?

In a story about the search for identity and the triumph of friendship over bigotry, Emily discovers a knack for leadership as she copes with Phoebe’s snubs, a newborn brother, a know-it-all classmate addicted to true-love magazines, a whiz kid who thinks he’s James Dean, a fifteen-year-old fencer with an intriguing scar, and a surprise assignment that brings everyone together.  Will the Bromley girls rise above their prejudice? Will Emily and Phoebe be best friends again?

If you’ve got a young daughter or niece or granddaughter who loves to read, The Bromley Girls could be the perfect gift. Confession: I even plan to give it to myself, despite already knowing how it comes out.

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SAFEKEEPING, A NOVEL, by Jessamyn Hope. (Fig Tree Books) $12.18.  Publication date, June 9.

Jess was another member of the guacamole-eating group of writers that met at Martha’s house.  All but one of the other members, although not quite as old as me, were at least within hailing distance of my age. Jess was in her early thirties.  She came from Montreal and had spent time in Israel.  Now she was living very frugally for a year, on savings from a former job in advertising, in order to write the first draft of a novel.  (She already had an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.)  She arrived at our meetings on rollerblades, with a small dog named Golda in a baby-carrier.  [Golda was extremely well-behaved, if given a few baby carrots first.]  Under these circumstances, I read and heard read aloud most of the chapters of that first draft of Safekeeping.

Now it’s eight years later, individual chapters of it have appeared in Ploughshares and Colorado Review, among other publications, and it is being published in its entirety by Fig Tree Books.  The description that follows is, again, from Amazon:

It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To make up for a past crime, he needs to get the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather loved when he was a Holocaust refugee on the kibbutz fifty years earlier.

There Adam joins other troubled people trying to turn their lives around: Ulya, the ambitious and beautiful Soviet emigree; Farid, the lovelorn Palestinian farmhand; Claudette, the French Canadian Catholic with OCD; Ofir, the Israeli teenager wounded in a bus bombing; and Ziva, the old Zionist Socialist firebrand who founded the kibbutz. By the end of that summer, through their charged relationships with one another, they each get their last chance at redemption.

In the middle of this web glows the magnificent sapphire brooch with its perilous history spanning three continents and seven centuries. With insight and beauty, Safekeeping tackles that most human of questions: how can we expect to find meaning and happiness when we know that nothing lasts?

Jess has her own website where you can find out more about her and her 400 page novel. (And see a photo of her at her desk!)

Happy reading!

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WHEN DOES “OLD” BEGIN? — A GUEST POST

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[Although I’ve begun to think of people in their 60’s as “still young,” I realize that’s just a matter of perspective.  There was a time when I thought 50 was “old.”   Here’s a piece by Martha Mendelsohn, a New York-based writer colleague of mine who’s at least twelve years younger than I am. It first appeared in the Winter 2011-2012 issue of Persimmontree, an online magazine of the arts by women over sixty, as a response to a request for short pieces about “The Next Step.”  I enjoyed reading it when it was published there, and felt it certainly also deserved a place in a blog about getting old in a world where most other people, who appear to be getting younger every year, have begun to treat you as if you’re somewhat older than you still feel.  I should add that Martha has curly streaky-blonde hair, probably wears a size 2 or 4 and looks damn good — not just “for her age” but for any age.]

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 ACCEPTANCE

by Martha Mendelsohn

The members of my book group were downing the dregs of the Manchego and wine when L. cleared her throat: “This may sound like a weird question—but do I look okay?”

Surely that was a rhetorical question. “You look more than okay,” we hastened to reassure her. With her twinkling blue eyes and deep dimples, L., at 68, was still an undeniably attractive woman. “Because as soon as I got on the subway,” L. continued, “a man, who couldn’t have been under 50, offered me his seat.”

A groan of recognition arose. It seemed that all of us recent Medicare recipients had been subjected to this particular brand of public transportation gallantry, and none of us appreciated it. Maybe we could no longer take the subway steps three at a time, but we went to the gym, chased after grandkids, and still worked. We were not about to throw ourselves under the train tracks for these unwanted acts of kindness, but we deemed them offensive.

J. was the most outraged. She had spent much time and money having the quotation mark between her eyebrows and other signs of age erased, but that didn’t stop a passenger from insisting she take her seat on the crosstown bus. Someone suggested: “Next time, just say, ‘Thanks, but I’m not pregnant.’”

I find myself thinking that the only time anyone should cede a seat is for a pregnant woman or any passenger, whether 19 or 90, with an obvious infirmity. Why shouldn’t an obviously still-mobile person of a certain age be allowed to remain standing? I was on the bus with my husband when a not-so-young woman bolted up, begging him to take her seat. (He acquiesced reluctantly.) “This man plays eight hours of tennis a week,” I informed her, even though in truth it annoyed me how much time he spent on the courts.

For now, hoping to head off seat offers, I hide my under-eye pouches behind sunglasses. But I encounter other affronts: At doctors’ offices, I routinely am called “hon,” “sweetie,” and “dear.” Will the time come when I feel grateful for such endearments and those thoughtful riders willing to yield their seats? Will I ever reach the point where “pushing 70” doesn’t sound like it refers to my mother?

The next step is to accept my age. To accept the seat.

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[Martha has also written a page-turner of a YA novel which is scheduled for publication in April 2015 and may be pre-ordered at Amazon.  It’s called The Bromley Girls and is about a Jewish girl’s experience with latent anti-semitism as a sophomore at an exclusive and expensive girls’ private school in Manhattan in the 1950’s. If there are young readers in your extended family and circle of friends, you may want to check it out.]