Friday 1 July 2016

Guest Post: "Life is in the Telling" by Ariella Cohen

TITLE: Sweet Breath of Memory
AUTHOR: Ariella Cohen
PUBLISHER: Kensington Publishing


Amazon - Goodreads

Life is in the telling.

With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It's been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn't pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she's drawn--reluctantly at first--into a circle of friends.

There's diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers' spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit--a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John's death threaten Cate's newfound peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms' stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.

Life is in the telling. That’s the tagline for my debut Sweet Breath of Memory, a novel that celebrates the healing power of narrative. Set in the fictional town of Amberley, it introduces a cast of characters linked together in a daisy chain of triumph and tragedy; sacrifice and secrets. When a newcomer moves to town – war widow Cate – the townsfolk welcome her by sharing their stories. This isn’t born of narcissism but rather a sincere desire to connect. Strangers like Cate often feel invisible, vulnerable and wretchedly lonely; that’s why Amberley opens its arms to her.

At the novel’s outset, Cate is an in-between person – no longer wife to her beloved John and not yet the survivor she hopes to become. In the way of things, she finds her mental footing by helping others and being helped. As people entrust their stories to her, she sets them into a mosaic and comes to appreciate how even the most jagged pieces possess a unique beauty. In reconstructing Amberley’s past, Cate finds the courage to both remember and rebuild; to honor her past and embrace the future.

The women of Amberley behave toward Cate much as people everywhere do when meeting a stranger: they look for common ground. It’s a ritual we practice without realizing it – a dance of sorts set to the music of questions. Have we mutual friends? Where are you going on holiday? Which bookshop is your favorite? We reveal as much as mine for information, the give and take of biographical tidbits like a trail of breadcrumbs leading us toward an intersection – friendship, or at least an understanding born of shared interests. Should our life paths continue to run parallel, we may shift the focus and search for a crossroads in the past. Where did you grow up? What did you study at university? Oh, you read history, too! We breathe a satisfied sigh – at last, something that connects us.

Contrary to the political rhetoric of the day, people don’t choose to build walls of isolation. When we stray beyond our home turf – literally, virtually or through literature – we look for intersecting pathways. Some are poorly signposted, muddy and overgrown, but there is usually a track wide enough for two people to follow side by side. If we hit a rough patch, we may slow our pace, but over time our footsteps will smooth out even the bumpiest bits. And as we walk along, we’ll have a chance to chat and share our stories. Life is, after all, in the telling.

Sweet Breath of Memory can be bought via Amazon or Waterstones. Ariella Cohen can be found over on Twitter or her author website.

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