Category Archives: Book review

Debut Novel Set in Preston Plains

By Roger Zotti

There’s never a moment in Jedah Mayberry’s striking novel, The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle (River Grove Books), when the reader isn’t aware of how much emotional insight and intelligence the author has put into his storyline and characters.

Jedah Mayberry’s debut novel is to be savored.

Jedah Mayberry’s debut novel is to be savored.

Jedah says that the novel “is about dislocation. It tells the story of an everyday family with their trials, tribulations and small triumphs. The Hopkins family suffers a collective loss disconnecting it from their goals, their surroundings and each other.” Its theme is “ambition. Without it we get nowhere in life.”
What Jedah would like readers to take away from it “is that there is hope after all—that the steps we take to right ourselves after a fall, to reclaim our spirit after a loss, are the things that define us, not the loss itself.”
In answer to The Resident’s question why he chose Preston and Norwich, as the book’s settings, Jedah, who grew up in Southeastern Connecticut, and “couldn’t be more proud,” says it was “to create a particular social dynamic, to use the subtle cultural divides that exist between Preston and Norwich.” Consider one of the main characters, Langston Hopkins: “Though apprehensive about the prospect of continuing to high school in Norwich, he finds that even people who look similar can have vastly different backgrounds, interests, and outlooks on the world.” In the character of classmate Tasha Davies, he “discovers those differences may be worth pursuing.”
In addition to Langston, another key character is his brother Trajan. In fact, after Langston’s devastating accident, the focus shifts to Trajan.
For me, Grandpa Tuke is the book’s most arresting character because he personifies wisdom gained through experience, and willingly shares it with Trajan. For instance, when Trajan asks him, “How do you know nature is a she?” he says, “Man is too concerned with himself to do all this, to fill the world with the birds and trees and fish….It takes a mother to understand….that life without something bigger than ourselves…is not a life worth living.” After Trajan asks him how he became so wise, Tuke responds, “I tried everything else first.”
The best advice Jedah ever received about writing is that perhaps he wasn’t a short story writer: “I set out with the belief that short stories were the way to break onto the literary scene. That said, Jedah’s advice to “anyone pursuing any art form” is to “set aside any perceived formulas and focus on whatever works best for you.”
Jedah’s book is available on amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
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Scudding Connects Sail, Subs in a Life-Stream of Family Experience

by Ed Johnson

Scudding is an unusual, well-written book by George Sherlock Maynard which weaves two interconnected, alternating stories and a world cruise by sail of the long-term effects of submarine activity during the Cold War.

 

Scud shows her ocean-going lines in this museum model.

Scud shows her ocean-going lines in this museum model.

In the early 1970′s, when my wife and I moved to Noank, we were introduced to George and Mary Maynard and their children. At that time, George was primarily self-employed as a woodcarver who specialized in decorative eagle and whale carvings, with a fine local reputation. He had a background in carpentry and had served aboard Navy submarines, although we were unaware of his actual Navy experiences back then. Mary worked as a feature writer with The Day in New London, and their three children, Molly, Gary and Hudson, all attended Groton public schools.
The family had been reading Joshua Slocum’s book, Sailing Alone Around the World, which described Slocum’s journeys aboard the broad-beamed yawl, Spray. George and Mary had long dreamt of world travel and decided to hand-build a replica, Scud, using a gaff-rigged-yawl sailplan. They would take the entire family on a long-term sailing cruise around the world—with no auxiliary engine.
Hence, perhaps, the boat’s name: The nautical use of the term “scud” describes “to run before a gale with little or no sail set.”

Scud’s at sea with sails set and propelled by the world’s winds.

Scud’s at sea with sails set and propelled by the world’s winds.

For two years, as partners, Mary supported the family at her job while George built the 37-foot Scud. A home-economics major, Mary also planned meals in advance by estimating food consumption at home and obtaining educational materials for home- schooling on the boat. George received training in celestial navigation and, in 1973, they launched and stocked the boat, sold the house, donated their car, loaded the children, and sailed away across the Atlantic from Block Island to the Azores in 18 days. There, they acquired a dog, Leao, who became their security protector for the remaining journey.
After the family spent a year in the Azores, winds and currents took them to Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Cape Verdes, Panama Canal, and across the Pacific to Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji, Australia, Bali, Mauritius, Capetown…and back to Noank in 1978. They found varied employment and repaired the boat en route while the children stayed current with their schoolwork.
The author, George, writes with an engaging style in describing locations, events and people they encountered on this long trip, and is especially effective at narrating conversations. And although we know everyone makes it safely home to Noank, there were times when the family had some close calls which draw the reader’s attention….all part of what makes this book so enjoyable.
In parallel, the author relates an in-depth description of his previous, Navy life. In 1962, he suffered a delayed mental breakdown as a result of cataclysmic Cold War events while he was serving aboard a submarine. In modern terms, we’d call it an episode of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. He was placed in a Navy psychiatric hospital for a time and ultimately received an Honorable Discharge in 1964. But the nightmares continued: it took 14 years, including the five-year cruise, before he finally experienced recovery.

Joshua Slocum’s Spray was the inspiration for the Maynard-family voyage.

Joshua Slocum’s Spray was the inspiration for the Maynard-family voyage.

Many of us were unaware of these events until reading this book years later. In describing that difficult part of his life, George is very direct and his sense of humor is refreshing. Older readers will recognize that the Cold War period of the 1960′s was more dangerous than we realized at the time…especially if the author, we were directly involved, and forced to deal with moral issues and psychological consequences. Many wounds of war are not easily visible but are very deep.
In summary, George Sherlock Maynard’s book is enjoyable on two levels as an account of the family’s adventures during the voyage, as well as the author’s quest for healing from a crippling psychiatric disorder. He succeeds at both levels with intelligence and good humor.
Scudding is currently being sold in Noank Village at both the Community Market and Carson’s Store. It can also be ordered through Amazon.com.
To post your comments, visit www.theresident.com or follow us on twitter@Resident_News.

Antonio Cruz Returns!

 

by Roger Zotti

Bad Beat (starring Antonio Cruz) is J. Fields, Jr.’s second book. Currently he’s finishing the third book in the series, and, he says, “The fourth and fifth are almost plotted out.” Fields intends to have “the characters in the series each have their turn at facing problems and changing, in good and bad ways. The real challenge is to not let them grow stale.”
The fast-paced, entertaining Bad Beat (edited by Jim Parish) is about, Fields says, “some Rhode Island gangsters who try for a piece of action in the Native Sun Casino.” We learn, too, that the main character, the casino’s inimitable Head Butler Antonio Cruz—whom we met in Casino Shuffle, Fields’ hilarious, well-received first work—has “some dark connections with them in his past.” (Fields teases us with bits of information about Cruz’s background—which may perhaps be revealed more fully in the next book.) A suicide occurs as well, and Cruz and Mark Ford, the casino’s special investigator, “have to figure out how it’s all connected.”
If you’ve read Casino Shuffle, you’re familiar with the intelligent, humorous, kind, and immaculately attired Cruz. Always the gentleman, he has a code of conduct. Consider the scene in the elevator, near the end of the book, when the “nefarious and devious” Halifax Downs, the new Executive BB22013Director of Gaming Operations, accuses the pregnant Victoria of being a thief (“Won’t you miss your baby while you’re in jail?”). Then he insults Cruz (“You are covering for her…I suppose she could remind you of your mother, though they all look a bit alike.”) Mistake! Cruz’s code won’t permit anyone to slur him or his friends. He slaps Downs “across his face.” The chapter ends with a telling last line: “The sound was a lightning crack.”
The slap foreshadows what Cruz does in Chapter 61. Confronting Nicky, an armed gangster, “Antonio ducked…clanged the sword broad-side into the mafia man’s gun hand, and watched the weapon fall away into the darkness between rows [and he] barreled through the man’s legs and managed to get to his feet just as the assailant was hitting the carpet. He directed his foot into one of the man’s kidneys and had the blade to the fellow’s throat….”
“Just fun” is what Fields hopes readers take away from Bad Beat. The novel contains “a lot of behind-the scenes insights into the casino business, with a bit of mystery.” And yes, there are adult situations and humor—“but you won’t find grotesque bloodshed and overt sexuality. No one is going to flinch in shock reading my books.”
On the three days a week Fields spends with his son, he doesn’t write because “those days are all about him.” For the rest of the week, however, he writes: “I work in a casino all day, then come home and write about a casino at night for about two or three hours. The third book is almost ready for the editor.” Fields’ goal is “four books a year—which is ambitious, but fun.”
Bad Beat is available on Kindle at amazon.com.
To post your comments, visit www.theresident.com or follow us on twitter@Resident_News.

Groton Resident’s First Novel

“I write because I have lived,” says Thurman P. Banks, Jr.

“I write because I have lived,” says Thurman P. Banks, Jr.

by Roger Zotti

For Thurman P. Banks, Jr., Beyond John Dann, his debut novel, “isn’t just a book. It is a way of life [and is] about finding hope during troubling times in life—the ones we all face, as well as the ones John Dann faces alone, and that we hope we never have to.” It’s also about “accepting those moments we fail and appreciating the times we succeed, and being thankful for the life we have been given during both.” As you read the novel, you’ll realize you’re being challenged—along with John Dann, the protagonist— to “realize there is wisdom to be gained in every aspect of our lives.”

The Groton resident hopes readers “are inspired by the book” and take from it “the understanding that while the choices we make and the things that happen to us throughout life matter, it’s what we make of those decisions and occurrences that matter the most.” One of the book’s major aims is to push “readers to not only laugh a little easier but to look a little closer and search a little deeper” into their own lives.

While working on his novel, Thurman says, “I learned that I loved writing and have many stories to tell.” He adds that he’s working on a second novel, which should be published in a year. But writing itself “isn’t my greatest passion. Life and the search for a deeper understanding of it are. I don’t live to write. I write because I have lived.” As for authors who have influenced him, he says that “when it comes to reading, I’ll read any genre, any author, and I truly believe that every book has something you can take from it.”

Thurman’s book abounds with exceptional writing—specifically, philosophical insights about life. Here are three examples: First, “I think some people just feel the world more…even the cold harsh injustice it can bring, and without the knowledge that happiness can be made from nothing…” Second, “Admitting your sins to yourself is accepting who you are, admitting them to others is asking for redemption…” Third, “We so often spend our time searching for answers that we allow the questions to linger on, even when faced with the greatest truth—that some things just aren’t ours to know.”

Beyond John DannThere are also penetrating snapshot-like images of the characters. Of his mother, who fears being alone in life, John tells us, “…she has turned into an irony of madness.” Of his verbally and physically abusive father, a character both despicable and at times admirable, and who perhaps undergoes the novel’s biggest transformation, John says, “…when Dad was drunk and pleasant, he sounded drunk [but] when he was drunk and angry, he sounded sober…”

Set in Hayward, Connecticut, and beginning in the 1970s, John Dann tells his coming-of-age story from the vantage point of an adult who has survived a tumultuous upbringing. A story of survival, the novel is coupled with compassion, forgiveness, and humor. Thought-provoking, inspirational, often heart-wrenching, and written with pristine clarity, “Beyond John Dann” will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

Jordan Sandor Returns in ‘Targets’

by Roger Zotti

“Targets of Opportunity” is a fast-paced thriller.

“Targets of Opportunity” is a fast-paced thriller.

Jeffrey S. Stephens says what prompted him to write his latest work, “Targets of Opportunity,” was “a real life clandestine operative. I can’t say much more than that, but I am grateful to those anonymous men and women who work in the service of keeping our country safe.” A smart thriller, “Targets of Opportunity” brings back CIA agent Jordan Sandor, who this time is trying “to frustrate a planned terrorist attack on our shores that will have catastrophic effects when unleashed. “

What Jeffrey hopes readers will take away from “Targets of Opportunity,” which is the sequel to “Targets of Deception,” is heroism. “It comes in many forms,” Jeffrey says. “But I believe the purest type comes in the act of doing the right thing, the brave thing, even when your actions will never be known or acknowledged. Humphrey Bogart at the end of ‘Casablanca’ comes to mind. In that iconic last scene he gives up the woman he loves for the good of a greater cause.” He adds that when “a man acts for motives beyond his selfish instincts, for things he holds as most important to him, that is when we are really at our best.”

Jeffrey resides in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has been writing “for as long as I can remember.” He credits J.D. Salinger with “making me want to become a writer when he introduced me to Holden Caulfield.”  From Ernest Hemingway he learned that “less is more, and that the heart and soul of a human being is about how one deals with the brutal truth of life and mortality, not about the material things that surround us.” Citing Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” Jeffrey asserts, “It invites you into the lives of his melancholy and sometimes pathetic band of travelers that reaches me in ways modern writers do not.”

In “Targets of Opportunity,” we witness Sandor’s controlled anger and strength when he roughs up Times reporter Frank Donaldson. The brash newsman’s piece—which Sandor correctly believes is “highly inflammatory”— was about Sandor’s recent mission, “a United States incursion into North Korea.”  Shoving the terrified reporter against the wall, Sandor intones, “If you print anything that screws up the exchange of my men [Bergenn and Raabe]…you’ll answer to me.” Then he storms out of the Times’ office and enters the lobby, “a smile on his face…”

Sandor is also a man of deep feeling. After a horrific terrorist attack on a commercial jet, “he imagined the stunned passengers as the aircraft was torn apart and began its accelerating dive into the Caribbean. How long had people remained conscious? … He was not able to shake the image of their last chaotic moments.”

Jeffrey Stephens’ fluidly written novel, with its short chapters, muscular prose, and realistic dialogue, achieves an action rhythm, a breathlessness, which propels the storyline forward from the opening page.  The heroic, quick thinking Jordan Sandor is someone who risks life and limb to do the right thing.  Move over, Jack Reacher.

Book Review: A Book For All Seasons

Darryl Nyznyk, author, Mary’s Son.

Darryl Nyznyk, author, Mary’s Son.

by Roger Zotti

Several months ago, when I came across Darryl Nyznyk’s novel, Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas (Cross Drive Publishing), my first thought was maybe it’s too early to read a book about Christmas. In a recent interview, Darryl set me straight. “For those who relish the meaning of Christmas,” he says, “the story resonates every day— not just at Christmas. It has adventure and lessons of hope and love for each day of a person’s life and should be appreciated and discussed every day.”

“Mary’s Son” has received rave reviews. Lauren Smith, EZINE’s on-line reviewer, called it “a wonderful and poignant story…an inspiring read.” Also, it’s a three-time winner of the Mom’s Gold Choice Awards.

Darryl, who practiced law for twenty years and now writes full time, hopes readers take away from his work Christmas’s real meaning, which is “Christ’s birth and the teachings of the Judeo/Christian ethic upon which this country was built.” He believes—and correctly—that his book’s “a good read and an exciting adventure, dealing with real characters with modern day issues.”

The book focuses on two angry youngsters—wealthy, snobbish, angry eleven-year-old Sarah Stone, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver, and streetwise, thirteen-year-old Jared Roberts, whose father has gone missing for a year. As the storyline progresses, they “discover the meaning of Christmas from a mysterious man and a journey in time.”

Written over a fifteen year period, here’s what Darryl said he learned while writing “Mary’s Son”: “While I and my wife were raising our daughters, I was working feverishly to make a living. What specifically writing [the book did] was help me focus through all the turmoil and struggles on the one constant we all can have if we let it in…the giving to others that is the paramount point in Christ’s message… if I kept that in mind every day, my life and the lives of those I loved would be happy… I grew dramatically during this time.”

Darryl Nyznyk’s novel deals “with real characters with modern day issues.”

Darryl Nyznyk’s novel deals “with real characters with modern day issues.”

In “Mary’s Son” one of the most memorable the images occurs when Sarah’s father, Jonas, is watching his daughter at the annual Penfield Heights’ Party. She’s dancing with one of the book’s key characters—Nicholas, an enigmatic old man. Darryl writes:  Sarah “looked so much like her mother… Jonah had tried for a long time and finally succeeded in burying the memory of the wife he’d loved so completely. Yet, as he now stared at Sarah, he realized he’d done more than bury the memory of his wife’s loss. He’d pushed his only daughter away.” It’s Jonas’s most crucial epiphany.

Clearly, the book’s appeal is that in an age when positive news is rare, an age often lacking in hope, Darryl’s work is a vivid example of vital storytelling with an unquestionably positive message.  In fact one reason Darryl wrote “Mary’s Son” was because “I needed to give my four daughters [now grown] something they could read every year to remind them of the goodness that still exists in the world.” Aimed at readers of any age, it’s a book for all seasons.

Big League Dreams Up At Bat in New Novel

Drew Golden’s novel “is based on a true story.”

by Roger Zotti

Some readers may think Drew Golden’s novel, Stealing First (Legacy Publishing), was written by a man. “A surprise, maybe for you and your readers,” is Drew’s response, “but I am a woman, and my name is one of those gender neutral things, isn’t it?” As for her novel, it’s “about baseball but is also a historical story and that’s what I write—historical fiction that I’m pleased to say is often on best-seller lists.”

Drew continues: “Based on a true story,” the book, “which was fun to write, is the tale of nine rag-tag young white men who form an American Legion baseball team, the Nina Redbirds, in rural Louisiana.” The year is 1957 and when the Redbirds’ coach quits, “the only man who’ll help them is former Negro League pitcher Scoot Groshon,” a World War II veteran and former pitcher for the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs whose promising career was curtailed by an injury.

Though Jackie Robinson of the National League Brooklyn Dodgers and Larry Doby of the American League Cleveland Indians broke the color line in 1947, Drew explains, “Integration still wasn’t part of the lineup in small-town southern baseball in 1957. Groshon isn’t even allowed on the field.” Near the end of the book there occurs what Drew calls “a twist of luck.” The Redbirds “make it to the championship—only to….” Sorry, readers, no spoilers here!

Interestingly, Drew knew little about baseball and had to rely on other people for information—“such as former minor league players here in Asheville and in southern Louisiana.” Also, her sister Joan Golden became involved with the project. A playwright and screenwriter, Joan adapted the book into an award winning screenplay, which “is currently under consideration by two Hollywood producers.”
Never overstated, the book’s big themes are racial segregation, family and friends, sportsmanship (and the lack thereof), loyalty, and dreams. The dream motif reaches its culmination when Ronnie LeBlanc, the main character, who hopes someday “to play big league ball,” says to his father, Guy, “[It’s the] dream that I could have as a memory when I get older.”

Ronnie’s more immediate dream is, however, to pitch for the Redbirds and defeat the Braves in the upcoming regional championship game. After the game, he tells his father, he’ll quit high school and work full time to help support the family. But that’s not enough for Guy, who says, “…sometimes it’s harder to quit dreaming something than it is to keep on dreaming it. Giving up your dream is the mark of an adult, Ron.” Babette, Ronnie’s mother—who once dreamed of becoming a movie star—counters, “…our son should have a chance to do something he wants before he gets to where he does what he has to do and nothing else.”

One of the most memorable ideas in Drew’s fully realized novel is that the final score of a sporting event—in this case an important baseball game—doesn’t always reflect who wins the game. Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites, and in various bookstores, “Stealing First” is written for adults of any age.

A Journey Through Time

Eddie Upnick wrote Time Will Tell, the first book of his fast-paced trilogy, because of a chance meeting in Antigua with Sidney Dowse in 1995. “Mr. Dowse,” Eddie says, “was one of 76 men who escaped from Sagan, the prison camp portrayed in the 1963 movie The Great Escape.” Fifty of the men were murdered by the Gestapo and Sidney was later recaptured. “The stories he told me were amazing,” Eddie explains. “Before the war started, Sidney worked with Sir Stewart Menzies, who headed up the MI-6 British Intelligence.”

One story Dowse related served as the driving force behind Eddie’s work. It concerned two men who met with Menzies, in British headquarters, in July 1939. “Carrying hand-held devices,” Eddie says, “in fifteen minutes they broke the German Enigma codes and improved the British fledgling radar system by 75 miles.” Before leaving, they handed Menzies a list with the names of 19 German spies working in England. “‘We’re not defectors,’ one of them said. ‘We are here to make sure a certain future doesn’t happen.’”

Eddie points out that “Time Will Tell” involves “four rebel scientists from 2133 that travel back to 1938 to change the outcome of WWII. In their timeline Germany won the war, and the rebel scientists want to change history.” They’re pursued back in time “by SS agents from the future with the twenty-second century’s most hideous weapon, the hydro-eradicator, [which] in an instant removes all liquid from the body, leaving only chemical waste and bone fragments behind….Part Two of ‘Time Will Tell’ is the more Sci-Fi side of the story. But rest assured, [some] of these tales are closer to the truth than many would believe.”

The second book of the trilogy, Future Tense, takes place in 2022-2028. The protagonists’ children and grandchildren of the first book learn what their parents did and, Eddie avers, “try to continue the fight.” The final book, 2052, “deals with the end of life on Earth and how our heroes attack the problem. It answers all the open questions left from the first two books.”

The great virtues of Eddie’s debut book are its clear writing, playful humor, blend of historical fact and fiction, tense situations, and imaginative renderings of real people, like Hitler, Churchill, Rommel, and Einstein. Add Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry to that list. Rodenberry, one of Eddie’s favorite writers, makes a brief appearance in “The Space Race” chapter in Part Two. When Roddenberry asks Jeff, the book’s narrator/main character, what he specializes in, Jeff says, “Time travel theory.” Then he adds, “Gene was fascinated with my theories of time and space….Of course, he had no idea that these weren’t just theories but fact, as I had lived most of them.”

Eddie considers his trilogy “reality based science fiction, though some might call them historical fiction, despite the facts that are hidden in the walls of these books.” Over forty years of stories told to Eddie “by top level people in many industries” helped him piece the project together. He continues: “Each of these novels are a fast, enjoyable, and informative read—that I promise your readers.”

American Success Story

by Roger Zotti

James Curl believes his book, the inspiring Jersey Joe Walcott: A Boxing Biography (McFarland), is one of the greatest achievements of his life. A newcomer to writing books, Jim asserts, “I decided I wanted to write about former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott because he deserved to be written about. So I began writing and everything fell into place.”

Here’s what Jim hopes readers take away from his well documented sports biography, which is also part social history: First, “that despite one’s circumstances, you can achieve your dreams,” and second “that after all my research and talking with Jersey Joe’s family, I learned he was a truly great fighter and very decent human being.”

“Just think … of all [Jersey Joe] accomplished.”

Jersey Joe Walcott, born Arnold Raymond Cream (1914-94), recorded one of the most unforgettable upsets in boxing history. In chapter 14, “Winning the Title,” we learn on July 18, 1951, at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, in his fifth try to win the world heavyweight title Walcott, a 7-1 underdog, knocked out reigning heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles, one of the sport’s most underappreciated titleholders.

Finally, after a career that began in 1930, the thirty-seven-year old Walcott was heavyweight champion of the world. It happened like this: As the bell sounded for round seven, Walcott was slightly ahead on the judges’ scorecards. In prose that sings with action, Jim writes that he avoided a quick left jab from Charles and “then countered with a perfectly timed left hook/uppercut to the right side of Ezzard’s chin.” Down went the champion! Somehow he “miraculously willed himself up. But his punch-rattled brain couldn’t control his body. He stumbled backward….Charles was counted out at 55 seconds into the seventh round.”

Jim points out that Jersey Joe “came from extreme poverty and went on to win the heavyweight title and after retiring became the first African-American to become sheriff of Camden County. In fact he was the first African-American to become sheriff in the entire state of New Jersey. Just think of how far he had come and all that he accomplished! It’s amazing!” He adds that Jersey Joe’s life “is a Cinderella story, if you can handle hearing that again. I talked with boxing historian Herb Goldman, who said that even more than heavyweight champion Jimmy Braddock, Jersey Joe is the true Cinderella Man.” (Braddock was the subject of Ron Howard’s 2005’s film “Cinderella Man.”)

Vincent Cream II, who wrote the book’s Foreword and is Jersey Joe’s eldest grandson, is impressed with Jim because “when I spoke with him my question was, ‘Why did you choose my grandfather to write about?’ His answer resonated with me when he said, ‘I felt your grandfather deserved to have a book written about him.’ For all the things my grandfather achieved, and for there not to have been a definitive work about him, was what inspired Jim.”

For Vincent, Jim’s book is definitive: “For me and members of my family, Jim put all the things my grandfather did into his book, and the blessing of it is I can take that book, hand it to my son and my grandson, if I’m blessed to have one someday, and say, ‘This is who you are. This is where you began.’”

Book Review: The First Woman Pope

Human beings are “essentially the bridge between spirit and matter” – Peter Canova

by Roger Zotti

Begin reading “Pope Annalisa” (Trimountaine Publishers) and you’ll soon realize Peter Canova has written a mesmerizing novel. In addition to dealing with important contemporary themes, both religious and political, his ambitious work features an absorbing storyline, many memorable characters, and is consistently provocative.

To keep his storyline moving, Peter asserts, “I labored to make some dense material understandable.” Clearly he succeeded. Consider how he clarifies the problem of time and God. To the admirable Cardinal Roncalli, the 43-year-old Annalisa says: “It is said God exists beyond time. No yesterday, today, or tomorrow, just now….So why did He give us time? …Through time we are given the opportunity to act and then to meet with the results of our actions—our errors or successes—on another day, at another time.” Annalisa also tackles truth which, she asserts, “comes in dreams, images, and symbols. It is a constant process of revelation.”

As for the book’s key theme, Peter says: “It’s that there is really no true separation between humans and the divine—as we’ve been taught in Judeo-Christianity. Latent within each of us is a divine spark [we are able] to communicate with, in order to bring our lives to a higher level of being while we’re here in this material form. Within that is the recognition that all things, seen and unseen, emanate from one consciousness. This consciousness has projected itself outside of itself into many different points of consciousness.”

Peter adds that “the primary dynamic behind life you see in all the ancient cultures is a male-female polarity underlying the energetic processes of the universe. Once we understand this and balance these forces—which is certainly possible—the gateway to contact with this higher level of information residing in our being is opened. That sounds complex, but throughout the story you see how the growing awareness of that principle affects the characters’ lives.”

Peter hopes readers take away from the novel a “more exalted conception of what a human being is.” He stresses that human beings are “essentially the bridge between spirit and matter.” In his twenties Peter had “very real experiences—not imaginary ones—that had to do with this source of higher information.” Some of his premonitions saved his life “and were so startling I spent the next 35 years trying to understand the source of this intuitive information going through me.”

In “Pope Annalisa” a key moment occurs in Chapter LV, when the Cardinals have assembled to elect a new pope and a “terrorist intrusion” occurs. Thanks to Annalisa’s intervention, it doesn’t turn deadly. After the unexpected incident, the diminutive Annalisa, “her skin…the color of coffee and cream, smooth and calm,” is elected the world’s first African and female pope. Rest assured her goal to change “the world’s political [and religious] landscape” isn’t going to be easy.

The first book of a trilogy, “Pope Annalisa” has won two International Book Awards as well as awards for Visionary Fiction and New Age Fiction. It will also be made into a motion picture. Visit Peter’s website (www.popeannalisa.com) for more information about him and his critically acclaimed novel.