This week, I read two books that were so good, and brought back a lot of memories for me. The first was an e-book, and the other was an audio book that I listened to.
Book #1 — A Candle for Nick by Lorna Michaels
I discovered Lorna Michaels when I read her book, “Season of Light,” which featured Jewish characters and was set in my hometown of Cincinnati. I loved this book–and reading about my town–everything from Cincinnati chili to her parents living in Amberley Village (my parents didn’t, but more about that later). When I saw that “A Candle for Nick” was available for Kindle (I read my e-books on the Kindle for PC app), I ordered it immediately. (My review is on Amazon and Goodreads).
I was immediately drawn into the story of the rabbi’s daughter whose son is diagnosed with leukemia. He loves baseball, especially the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. This made me think of a radio personality in Cincinnati whose son also had leukemia at age three, except his son is a huge Cincinnati Reds fan. In Michaels’s book, Mallory’s son has to go to Houston for treatment and Kent and Mallory take him to an Astros game when he is able to go. Kent arranges for him to meet one of his favorite players, and I remember the talk show host telling the stories about his son meeting his favorite Cincinnati Red (Michaels makes up the names of players like I did in my books, “Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny,” “Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless,” and “Three Strikes–You’re in Love” (short story series). I went a step further and called the Reds the Cincinnati Red Wolves.
Another thing Michaels does very well is descriptions of the Jewish holidays–Rosh Hashanah, (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur, (Day of Atonement), and Chanukah. She describes Mallory’s memories of cooking with her mother on the holidays, of being in her parents’ home, and of going to temple with them. Even Mallory’s son’s protests of “I don’t want to go to stupid temple” rang true for me because of all the bad things that happened to my parents at the end of last year and most of this year. Now that my parents had to give up their home due to health problems, in move into a nursing home, these passages of the book had even more meaning for me.
I remember going to synagogue with my parents. My dad wasn’t a rabbi, but he was fluent in Hebrew and we went to Rosh Hashanah services one day. He was called to the Torah to do a reading, and as soon as he stepped onto the bimah, the lights went out. As a six-year-old kid, this was exciting–how my dad had made the lights go out.
Like Mallory, I also remember cooking with my mom on the holidays, not only at her home, but at mine after I got married, and after my husband passed away (more about that when I get to the next book).
Book # 2 – A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr
This is the audio book, and I loved the narrator. She made these characters come alive for me –Ian, who came back from the war in Iraq with emotional scars, and cut himself off from the people who live in the town of VIrgin River and became a “mountain man.” Marcie, whose husband passed away from injuries he got in the war in Iraq (but could have died if Ian hadn’t saved him). As I listened to the book, I thought of my husband, who did not fight in the military, but who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in June 2001, and passed away in August 2001 at the age of 46. I remembered how he was king of the grill, and how we’d always have big parties for birthday, anniversaries, and the holidays. He was like the Emeril Lagasse of the grill (there is a scene in “Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless,” where Scotty the hero (loosely based on my husband) is king of the grill, and makes it an art form.
The secondary characters of Virgin River made me think of my friends–Karla, Greg, Denise and Bill, Gretchen and Tom, Matt and Terri, Dan, Kathleen, Karen…each special in their own way (there are so many more, but this is already long).
Thanks to these authors for bringing back such wonderful memories.