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Book Review: A Tale of Two Shtetls

By: Elissa Allerhand

Meir is a child protege, growing up in a Ukrainian shtetl who will one day succeed his uncle as the Rebbe. A great scholar from a young age, he is also gifted with empathy and a natural leadership. As evidence when he convinces his ailing father to take in an elegantly dressed woman running from her past, seeking refuge from the Russian Royal Court. Meir faces challenges as he prepares for his future role, including jealousy from his cousin, Gershon, who is also a nephew to the great Rebbe.

This work of historical fiction paints an interesting picture of shtetl life and the culture of the Hasidic movement. Meir is faced with a future that has already been decided for him and involves a difficult path with great expectations. I found myself rooting for Meir’s cousin, Gershon, to see past his jealousy and find his own path. The love story between Meir and Rivka is really lovely.

A Tale of Two Shtetls gives a vivid and realistic picture of life of Jews living in Ukraine and Russia in the 18th Century. One gets an appreciation for the dangers of living in a highly antisemitic environment with frequent pogroms. The story is quickly paced and nicely written. The paperback edition has a few editing issues where paragraphs are repeated in a few places, which detracted from the story a little. But overall, this was an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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March Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

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April Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

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May Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

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June Book Review Wrap Up

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

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An Interview with Julie Zuckerman

Julie Zuckerman is the author of The Book of Jeremiah, released in 2019. Her short stories and non-fiction work have also appeared in several publications.

Q: Can you sum up The Book of Jeremiah in 20 words or less?

 Jumping backwards and forwards in time, the book explores the pivotal experiences in the life of awkward but endearing Jeremiah Gerstler.

Q: What inspired you to write The Book of Jeremiah?

I was in a writing class and my teacher gave us an optional prompt (he wasn’t a big believer in prompts): “Write a story about someone who is definitely not you, who does something – a hobby or a profession – you don’t know much about, but you’d like to learn more.” I wrote about an 82-year old Jewish man who takes up baking, one of his wife’s hobbies, to satisfy his sweet tooth. Definitely not me (though I am Jewish, and I do have a sweet tooth). After completing that first story, “MixMaster,” I decided I had to know more about my character, Jeremiah. I wanted to understand how he became the person he was at 82, cantankerous and crusty on the outside but also endearing.

I’d recently read Olive Kitteridge and I loved how each story revealed another layer or two of Olive, even those in which she is only mentioned in a line or two. So Olive Kitteridge was very much in my mind as I set out to unravel Jeremiah’s life. I wanted each story to stand on its own, but also together to be more the sum of their parts.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

Throughout the stories, Jeremiah and his family members grapple with the events of their times. He serves in the U.S. Army in World War II; his wife attends the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963; his favorite student is killed in Vietnam shortly after graduating. For the seven (out of 13) stories that take place either before I was born or prior to having any memory of my own, I did a tremendous amount of research, reading up on many of the large and small details in my stories. As the daughter of a former American history teacher, I loved this aspect of the writing, and I encountered many events about which I’d previously known nothing. This is my idea of fun!

For example, my research took me to long explanations of what soldiers in the Signal Corps would have been doing just after D-Day in the European theater, what kinds of equipment they would have been using, and whether Parisians would have had access to regular coffee by July 1945 or if they’d still be drinking a chicory substitute. In another story, I dove into research about Operation Linebacker II, dubbed the Christmas bombings of December 1972, Nixon and Kissinger’s attempt to hasten the end of the Vietnam War. I read academic articles, transcripts of press conferences and reports of protests. In the story, Jeremiah attends a press briefing. What kinds of questions would the reporters have asked on the third day of the bombing campaign? With the transcripts, it wasn’t hard to imagine. For a different story, I found myself researching the box scores of Game Four of the World Series in 1932. Just last week, a reader told me he went and looked up the box scores and the date of that game to see if I’d just made it up or if I’d gotten the details correct!

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

Figuring out the structure was difficult. I had at least six different orders that I considered, and at times I made flash cards with themes, characters, dates, etc. trying to find the right balance. What finally cracked it for me was getting the advice to think of the book in thirds. Ultimately, I had to balance each third with stories that take place with the younger, the middle-aged, and the older Jeremiah, as well as with the five stories told from the points of view of other characters (his mother, his brother, his daughter, his son and his wife).

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Q: Who was your favorite character to develop?

 Jeremiah, hands down! To quote a recent reviewer, the book “seeks to elevate the lives of everyday people. Jeremiah is not the sort that one would expect to be at the center of a literary work, and that’s part of the book’s charm.” Jeremiah can be quirky, unpredictable, infuriating, and lovable – sometimes all at once. Of the 13 stories in the book, five are told from different family members’ points of view, but my favorites are the ones from Jeremiah’s POV.

Q: You’ve also written a number of short stories and flash fiction. Do you have a favorite you could tell me about?

I’ve just had a flash fiction piece published in CRAFT called Bender’s Sister Speaks. It is a slipstream/absurdist story that envisions an alternate reality for one of my favorite characters from the ‘80s, John Bender, the bad boy character in The Breakfast Club. As someone who was obsessed with the movie, and still knows many of the lines by heart, that was a very fun one for me to write. On a more serious note, I’m also quite fond of the first and only essay I’ve ever had published, entitled Subsoil of Memory, about a visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

 

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Q: What inspires you to write?

I love trying to put the creative side of my brain to work, lying in bed dreaming up characters and figuring out their stories. I do especially well with prompts, as they give me permission to unlock my imagination. I try to spend some time every day outdoors – biking, running, or gardening, so many of my stories try to incorporate things like nature, birds, wildflowers, plants, etc.

Q: What message do you want readers to take away from The Book of Jeremiah?

What’s been most gratifying for me as a writer is to hear from readers who say they can see themselves or their family members in my characters. In one word: relatable. There’s often so much strife and tension within families. What I’ve tried to do with Jeremiah is to show that perhaps we should try to be more forgiving, even with – or especially with – difficult family members. Though Jeremiah and his family may behave badly at times, there’s an undercurrent of acceptance and forgiveness between them. In short, love wins.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

Right now I’m reading three books: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

On my nightstand: My Wild Garden by Meir Shalev, Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, The Library Book by Susan Orlean, The Submission by Amy Waldman, Pain by Zeruya Shalev

Ordered but haven’t arrived yet: Other People’s Pets by R.L. Maizes, All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad, A Small Thing to Want by Shuly Cawood, Crosscurrents and Other Stories by Gerry Wilson, The House of Ancients by Clifford Garstang, The Color of Love by Marra Gad, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips, Writers & Lovers by Lily King and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Looks like I’m going to be busy!

Q: What is your next writing project?

I’m in the middle of two new stories – one is a new Jeremiah story! – and another one that takes place here in Israel. I also have a complete draft of a novel about a mixed Jewish-Arab women’s biking group. I took a break from the novel revisions before The Book of Jeremiah came out, but that was a year and a half ago already. I really need to get back to it!

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

https://www.juliezuckerman.com

Julie can also be found on Instagram.

Q: Any closing remarks?

Thank you for having me! Reminder to anyone reading this: reviews are super important, especially for small press books! Whenever you’ve read a book you’ve enjoyed, please write a few sentences to review the book! It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate – the algorithms care about quantity of reviews, not quality – so a few lines can go a long way.

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Read My Review of The Book of Jeremiah

Book Review: The Book of Jeremiah

By: Julie Zuckerman The Book of Jeremiah, a Novel in Stories, follows eight decades of the life of Jeremiah Gerstler. I really enjoyed the concept of this book. Zuckerman lays out each milestone of Jeremiah’s life as though it were a short story, jumping from past to present and back again. The book feels like […]

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An Interview with Holly Sortland

Holly Sortland’s debut novel, Uri Full of Light, is now available on Kindle and in paperback, on Amazon. It’s on my current reading list. Check back next week for my review.

Q: Can you sum up Uri Full of Light in 20 words or less?

Uri Full of Light is a story about a conversion, redemption and forgiveness in the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy during Israel’s second Intifada. 

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

So many things! The main character, Hannah, is somewhat semi-autobiographical.  Like Hannah, I grew up with a terminally ill father, and, like Hannah, I was in an emotionally/border line physically abusive relationship when I was 18, and on the verge of making some very poor decisions. I can’t pinpoint one thing that inspired me to write the book; it some ways the book wrote me. 2019 was an extremely difficult year for me. I was serving as a pastor in the United Methodist Church, and our congregation experienced a lot of deaths. I  was also hospitalized for a mini-stroke, which led to the diagnosis of late stage Lyme Disease. I also experienced the death of my first love in high school, Patrick, who died from injuries related to a sky diving accident. Patrick brought me out of the abusive relationship that I mentioned earlier, and helped to birth the character Uri. As I was finishing the book, Patrick’s sister informed me that their maternal grandmother is Jewish. Strangely enough, when I was dating Patrick, I found myself drawn to Judaism and starting to research it, and even thought about conversion. I had know I idea that I was dating a Jewish boy at the same time!

 I also spent two weeks in Israel in the fall of 2019, which was life changing, and cemented my decision to leave the church and convert to Judaism. I spent lots of time in Tel-Aviv and Joppa, so when I wrote the scenes that took place there in my book, they were very fresh in my mind. 

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

Oh my goodness, where do I begin?  In my story, the Geller family practices modern Orthodox Judaism. The term “Modern Orthodox” required a lot of research in and of itself. I spoke with Jewish friends and a rabbi who serves in a Conservative shul, though he grew up Orthodox. We had a lot of discussion of what it meant to be “Modern Orthodox,” and in the end, we found that everyone seemed to have their own interpretation. One of my editors is an Orthodox Jewish woman, and we spent hours over zoom shaping the characters and the story. Did the Geller family speak Yiddish or Hebrew? Was it feasible to imagine that an Orthodox family would leave their Jewish community for a year because of work purposes, and if so–could they worship at a Reform shul? These were just a few of the questions that I grappled with, and I couldn’t have done with without the help of my editor, Shoshanna, and Rabbi Stuart Federow. I also had to ensure that my Hebrew was correct. Again, my editor and Rabbi Stuart were immensley helpful with that. 

I also had to research a lot about life in the IDF. I read up about secretive units that were created as the suicide bombings began to increase in the late 1990’s early 2000’s and weren’t acknowledged by the IDF until the second intifada ended. It also helped that my Israeli tour guide served in the IDF, and he shared a lot about his experiences as a soldier. As I noted in my book’s acknowledgements, an event that takes place later in the book is loosely based off of a story that my Israeli tour guide shared. I was pleased with how well I was able to weave it into Uri’s story. Finally, I also had to research a little Arabic, and my Palestinian tour guide was very helpful with that. I am incredibly grateful to have made such great connections during my trip to Israel. 

Q: What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

Probably plot development. I am not an organized persion (ask my husband or children about my housekeeping skills), so I am not one to plot out the book/storyline before I start to write. As I said earlier, in a lot of ways, the story ended up writing me. I truly believe that HaShem planted this story in my mind and the characters and plot just came to be. But there were defintely times when I wondered if I was taking the book in the right direction. After I made a major decision regarding one of the main character’s, I read that portion of the story to my 11 year old daughter. She started to cry! I knew that it could have that sort of impact, I was taking the story in the right direction. 

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Q: Who was your favorite character to develop?

Oh, definitely Hannah! As I said, she is somewhat semi-autobiographical, but there are many things I added to Hannah’s story that were very different from my own. Hannah is a fiery, strong-willed character, yet she still found herself in an abusive relationship. I think that holds true for so many women. It amazes and saddens me the amount of strong, confident women I know who have endured some form of partner abuse (including myself). And even though she doesn’t get a lot of attention in the book, I enjoyed creating the character of Uri’s mother, Devorah. My Jewish editor and I had to invent a background story for her. We had to decide–was she a woman who would wear a tichel or a wig, or a headcovering at all? In the end, Devorah ends up having grown up in Israel and comes from a very Orthodox family. There is a lot more to be told about Devorah. 

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers?

Well, without giving away spoilers, the first thing people tell me is how much they cried. There is tragedy in this story, but it’s realistic to the horrors that so many families faced during the second intifada. I also have had women tell me how much they see themselves in Hannah, especially before she undergoes her conversion, when she was harboring guilt and carrying scars from her abusive relationship. I think a lot of women can see a bit of their younger selves in Hannah. 

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Q: What inspires you to write?

I have always wanted to write a novel, but never imagined myself during it. I found that the writing part was easy; editing it was a grueling, never-ending process. In this case, writing the story of Hannah and Uri was incredibly therapeutic. It helped me deal with my the grief I harbored from my father’s death over twenty years ago, as well as the grief I experienced when Patrick passed away. I also think that writing is way to permanently leave our mark in the universe. I hope that forty or fifty years from now, when I’m dead and gone, people will still be reading the story about Hannah and Uri.

Q: What message do you want readers to take away from Uri Full of Light?

As I was writing the story, breath and light seemed to be two elements that popped up again and again. Breath and light are part of creation, and ultimately, transformation. In the book you see a transformation of virtually all of the characters, including minor characters who, on the surface, harbor ill will. But in the end, you find that they too are capable of changing for the better. I hope that readers feel renewed when they finish the story, and also, though it sounds trite, hopeful. In the time that we’re living in now–a global pandemic filled with civil unrest–we need to read stories about people changing for the better. We can’t change the world if don’t change ourselves. 

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

Lots of Jewish literature! Right now, I am reading Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. I’ve loved her since I read The Red Tent almost twenty years ago. I also have her book Living a Jewish Life on my Kindle, along with some titles about the IDF and secretive Masad operations. I am facsinated with real-life spy thrillers. As I am embarking on my conversation, I’m also reading To Pray as a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin,The Book of Jewish Values: A Day by Day Guide to Ethical Living by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, and some other books about the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism. 

Q: What is your next writing project?

My friend and mentor Rabbi Federow wants me to write an autobiography about my faith journey into Judaism, so I am considering that. My next fiction project will be a prequel to Uri Full of Light, focusing on Avi and Devorah Geller. There is a reason they left Bala Cynwyd temporarily for South Dakota, and I’m excited to delve into that back story. 

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

My author Facebook page is best: www.facebook.com/HollySortland

Q: Any closing remarks?

Nope, I think I said it all! 

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An Interview with Eunice Blecker

Eunice Blecker is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is a long-time member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. Her novel, Shavlan, was published in 1998. Q: Can you sum up Shavlan in 20 words or less? Shavlan is a historical novel about the author’s maternal grandmother during the fall of Tsarist Russia and […]

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Short Story Contest

Your Assignment Hurry, the contest deadline closes tonight! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment

It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August.

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Contest Rules

Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or less. No discriminatory themes, explicit violence, or explicit sexual content.

Selected entries will be featured here during the month of August.

You retain exclusive rights to your work and are free to republish. Republished stories are welcome.

This contest is not affiliated with any other organization other than this site.

To enter, complete the Entry Form below. Please include a brief bio which may include social media handles and the titles of any published works you would like to promote.

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Deadline for Entry:

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Read a Past Features:

Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

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Book Review: Shavlan

By: Eunice Blecker

Based on true stories past down to the author by her maternal grandmother, Shavlan tells the story of Sarah Taube against the backdrop of life in early 20th century Russia. The story follows Sarah Taube’s life of love, loss, faith, and hope.

Sarah Taube’s story is an important depiction of life for Eastern European Jews in this particular time period. This was not an easy time to be alive. The story portrays Sarah Taube’s evolution from innocent young girl to strong, resilient wife and mother. Her life has it’s share of tragedy and loss yet she does what is necessary for the survival of her family.

The love story between Sarah Taube and Charles is so sweetly written. Their enduring love, in spite of all the difficulties they face is truly beautiful. Sarah Taube’s independent spirit is passed down to the next generation, in her daughter Ruchel who insists on blazing her own trail in life.

This is a lovely story and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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My Interview with the Author:

An Interview with Eunice Blecker

Eunice Blecker is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is a long-time member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. Her novel, Shavlan, was published in 1998. Q: Can you sum up Shavlan in 20 words or less? Shavlan is a historical novel about the author’s maternal grandmother during the fall of Tsarist Russia and […]

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An Interview with Eunice Blecker

Eunice Blecker is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and is a long-time member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. Her novel, Shavlan, was published in 1998.

Q: Can you sum up Shavlan in 20 words or less?

Shavlan is a historical novel about the author’s maternal grandmother during the fall of Tsarist Russia and its aftermath.

Q: What inspired you to write Shavlan?

When I was a child, I asked my grandmother many questions about her ancestral town, Shavlan and heard many stories about her life there in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. I was fascinated by the stories she told about her shtetl, Shavlan. Learning about what she and her family had to endure, along with others of that era, while living through World War I, her expulsion and exile to the Ukraine, the Russian Revolution, the Russian Civil War, pogroms and Lithuanian Independence made me realize what a strong woman she was, having been a witness and participant in these historical events. I was determined that one day I would tell her story so that it would not be forgotten.

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Q: What research did you do when writing this story?

Using a timeline from 1871 to 1924, when writing my grandmother’s story, I mainly relied on the Internet to research and identify sources about the history and historical events which occurred in telling her story

Q: I understand you visited the town of Shavlan and later published an article, “To Walk Their Walk”. Can you tell me more about the experience?

I felt as though I had gone back in time once we stepped foot in Shavlan in May 1996. The town was very small surrounded by farms. Along the roadside stood a black and white cow mooing, and in the background I heard roosters crowing. Two children were playing in the pasture. When I asked why they were not in school, they shouted, “Because we do not feel like going today.”

I saw a farmer still using a horse-drawn plow to turn up the earth just before planting his seeds. How antiquated was that, I thought. When I asked directions, he gave me a smile, and I noticed half his teeth were missing.

I learned that when the Soviets left, the land was returned to the families who owned it before, but the children of the landowners didn’t know how to farm, so the land was uncultivated.  The young owners were just hanging on to the property in hopes that someone would come along and buy the land and make them wealthy.

Up the road stood the old marketplace where my grandmother once ran a stall every Thursday morning. Except for an older man selling baby chicks from out of the trunk of his car, the marketplace was deserted.  And directly across from the marketplace was a one level store with one bookcase containing a few canned goods.  Where did these people get their food I wondered?

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I met a ninety-year old woman wearing a dreary, brown babushka tied round her head who lived in a small, dilapidated wooden house. It looked as thought she had stepped out of the nineteenth century. After introducing myself, I remembered not to say anything about my grandmother owning property there because the occupiers of these old houses would fear I was there to take their homes away from them.

I asked if she remembered the Jews who lived there many years ago and did she remember my grandmother who owned a bakery between 1920 and 1923. She seemed to recall my grandmother’s bakery.  Then, she began to cry as she related the stories about when the Germans came into town and took away all the Jews. It seemed obvious she was upset going back in time to those horrible days during the war and her tears appeared to be sincere.

I asked to come into her house. I was very curious to see how the place looked, as I realized it was at least one hundred years old. I was shocked at what I saw. There was no heat, electricity, running water, or toilet facilities. The inside consisted of a kitchen with a wood burning stove and two bedrooms. She told me that there was no one to plant the crops or cut the firewood. This woman appeared to be totally alone except for the neighbors who, from time to time, helped her out.

The next stop was the old Jewish cemetery. What a disaster! There was so much underbrush that it was almost impossible to walk the area. Many headstones were toppled while others were unreadable. After the Jews were taken away in 1941, the Lithuanian villagers invaded the cemetery and dug up many bodies looking for gold and jewelry buried with the dead. Sadly, I knew I would not find any identifiable ancestral headstones there that day.

Contributed photo

After an hour of walking around, I said a prayer over the remaining souls thinking to myself, somewhere in this vast cemetery lay at least two or three of my ancestors crying out to me, “Here we are. Here we are.”

Some day I may return to Shavlan. But there was one thing for certain, I did walk in my ancestors’ shoes that day. Yes, I did “walk their walk.”

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Q: What was the most difficult part about writing this book?

It was difficult imagining myself in my grandmother’s place, as she lived through the joys, sorrows and tragedies in her life.

Q: The cover art for this book is hauntingly beautiful. Can you tell me about the process of creating the cover?

Inspiration for the book cover started with a conversation I had with my daughter   Cynde, the designer of the cover. We discussed my novel and viewed some bestselling titles in the book’s genre. I described an image I had in mind of a woman with her children walking along a railroad track. She agreed that this type of design cover would convey a very important scene of the novel and would help connect with the audiences of potential readers. I was blown away by what she produced. It was exactly as I had imagined it to be. As one of my reviewers stated, “I was enchanted by the cover. It is nostalgic and sad, but at the same time hopeful.”

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Q: What was your biggest take away from writing Shavlan?

Writing Shavlan left me with a feeling of joy that I had finally memorialized my grandmother’s life story not only for my family and my readers but also for future generations. 

Q: What message do you want readers to grasp from this story?

I would want my readers to learn about the difficult lives the Jews led in the Pale of Settlement under Tsarist rule and how an uneducated, naïve young girl from a small shtetl in Tsarist Russia can rise above her surroundings and through her life experiences become an independent woman able to stand on her own two feet and make decisions on her own.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

Q: What is your next writing project?

I’m doing preliminary research on a novel about a woman I met on my trip to Lithuania who was deported to Siberia when the Russians invaded Lithuania in 1940.

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

https://shavlan.com

Q: Any closing remarks?

I had gathered a good deal of information about my grandmother’s life. However, when I began putting to paper the adventures she had, I found that there were still unanswered questions and gaps in her life story. It was then when I decided to tell her story as a biographical novel instead of a biography. My novel commingles fact and fiction following the timeline of my grandmother’s life. By doing this, I was able to get inside her head, to stand where she once stood and see the world as she saw it. And the pathway to get inside her head was through my imagination.

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Read My Review of Shavlan:

Book Review: Shavlan

By: Eunice Blecker Based on true stories past down to the author by her maternal grandmother, Shavlan tells the story of Sarah Taube against the backdrop of life in early 20th century Russia. The story follows Sarah Taube’s life of love, loss, faith, and hope. Sarah Taube’s story is an important depiction of life for […]

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Book Review: Uri Full of Light

By: Holly Sortland Uri Geller is a high school junior, trying to adapt to life in South Dakota when his father chose to take a job in the local hospital, transferring his family from their Modern Orthodox community in Pennsylvania. It’s a challenging transition for him but all of that changed when he met Hannah […]

An Interview with Sharon Hart-Green

Sharon Hart-Green’s debut novel, Come Back for Me, was released in 2017. She is also the author of Not a Simple Story and Bridging the Divide. Q: Can you sum up Come Back For Me in 20 words or less? A gripping story of trauma, loss, and the redemptive power of love set in the […]

An Interview with Lev Raphael

In honor of the 30th anniversary of his book, Dancing on Tisha B’av, I had the opportunity to interview Lev Raphael. Originally published in 1978, his book still resonates with today’s audience. Q: Can you sum up Dancing on Tisha B’Av in 20 words or less? The stories deal with the legacy of the Holocaust, […]

An Interview with Sherry V. Ostroff

Sherry V. Ostroff is the author of two books, The Lucky One, is a memoir originally published in 2016, and Caledonia, a work of historical fiction was published last year. She is a winner of the Indie Diamond Book Award.

Q: Can you sum up Caledonia in 20 words or less?

Caledonia is the tale of two strong women separated by three centuries but bound by mysterious circumstances.

Q: What inspired you to write Caledonia? Do you have any special connection to Scotland?

I love history, and after reading the Outlander series (twice) I was intrigued by the history of Scotland. Then, I read two books: The History of Scotland by Neil Oliver and How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman. In each, I found a little-known historical event called The Darien Scheme – Scotland’s attempt to create a colony in present-day Panama in 1698. Its failure would change world history. Having never heard of this before, I asked history teachers, history buffs, and Scots, and it was a mystery to most. For an author of historical fiction, this was a perfect storm; an exciting true event that no one knew about.

I have no genetic or family connection to Scotland, but I have visited the country five times in the last five years. I have immersed myself in the culture, the food, the traditions, the history, and the landscape – all things Scotland. I will not be returning this year which is sad. Scotland feels like home.

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Q: Tell me a little about the research that went into Caledonia.

My goal in writing historical fiction is maintaining the integrity of the past. I have a master’s degree in history which included training in research. Luckily, I love digging for information because there are always treasures to find. Almost every page of Caledonia has involved some form of research and it pleases me when a reader recognizes the effort.

 Here are several examples.

  1. When the story shifts to Anna, one of two main characters, I must be careful how she speaks. I can’t include modern vocabulary in her 17th century dialogue. Therefore, I am constantly checking the etymology of her words. Often, that comes with a surprise. Many times, words that I guessed were modern, turned out to centuries old.
  2. Travel to the locations mentioned in Caledonia is part of my research. I have visited almost every place mentioned in the book, and some places were chosen to help better my understanding of 17th century life. For example, I traveled to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, England to learn about 17th century ships. One place I didn’t visit was Darien National Park in Panama, the site of the 17th century Scottish colony. I have good reason for skipping the Park. It is a vast mountainous jungle and is one of the most dangerous places in the world. It is not safe for tourists.
  3. A fun part of research is eating the food mentioned in the story. Except for the sausage-making scene, as describe by Anna, I have tried it all, Passion fruit has become a favorite.
Q: Which character was your favorite to write?

Of course, I love Hanna and Anna, but I feel slightly closer to Hanna only because I have known her longer. The first chapter I ever wrote, (Chapter 4) is Hanna’s introduction. Except for the loss of her father, I poured into Hanna all the experiences I wished I had had: a degree in archaeology, attending an ivy league school, and living in Scotland. But, if I were to pick another character, Cook Innes is a favorite. Many times, I chuckled through his dialogue and his ability to wiggle his way out of trouble. He’s the kind of character you would want on your side.

What readers may not realize is that characters talk to authors, and if a book is going to be successful, the author must listen to what they have to say. I love hearing from Anna and Hanna and I’m grateful for their successful steerage throughout my writing.

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Q: Which character was the most difficult to develop?

I know this sounds unbelievable, but I had no trouble with any characters. I am a pantser when it comes to developing the story and characters. Pantser, as in ‘flying by the seat of your pants,’ means nothing is planned. I let my characters guide me and if I need help, I go for a walk so they can talk to me privately. My characters have always come through. This ‘collaboration’ has continued through the sequel to Caledonia.

Q: Did you find it challenging to write a story that is so personal to your family when writing The Lucky One?

Yes, I did. After my mother handed me the story, it took another 28 years until I finally sat down and wrote. That was partly due to my still working full-time and having a young child at home. Then, I wasn’t sure how to organize the story. Or what genre.

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Q: The Lucky One is written in your mother’s voice with only a few notes or corrections. Why did you choose to present her story in that way?

Historians always prize a primary source. My mother was that source, and I did not want to change her words. Therefore, writing The Lucky One as a novel did not appeal to me. But I wondered about my contribution. And then I realized that the reader may want to know the historical and cultural background to what my mother was experiencing. My contribution gave context to her story. 

Q: Was there anything you learned or took away from the experience of working on The Lucky One?

The Lucky One was my first book. I learned early-on the following. First, you should not write alone. An author needs others (not friends or family) to read their work and offer suggestions. Second, an author needs a tough skin. When your writing is critiqued properly, there will be criticism and some rejection. View this as a learning curve. Third, I learned how to listen to my characters. In The Lucky One, it was my mother. Although she had died well before I started writing, I found she was advising me, nonetheless.

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Q: What is on your current reading list?

I just finished The Girl with a Pearl Earring. Currently on my to-read list is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larsen and When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan Sarna. I’m always interested in reading anything about Scotland, the Inquisition, or Colonial America. In other words, I write historical fiction because I love reading it.

Q: What is your next writing project?

I am writing the sequel to Caledonia, entitled, On the Edge of a Precipice. It is the continuation of the Anna’s and Hanna’s story. It will come out in 2021. Writing a sequel is a new learning experience. I want On the Edge to stand alone, so I must be sure that the reader has all the necessary information from Caledonia. It has been a joy to write my characters’ story, and it will be sad when I am finished. Readers have asked me if there will be a third book to the Caledonia saga, but the second will finish the tale. I want to end while the story is still fresh and vibrant. I don’t want to force more just for the sake of putting words on a page.

I am currently considering a new topic for a new historical novel once I finish On the Edge of a Precipice.

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Q: Can you provide your web address for the audience?

https://sherryvostroff.com

Q: Any closing remarks?

One of the joys of reading is meeting potential readers. Since 2016, I have given many book talks and I’ve met with book groups. I have two different programs, one for each book, and I am developing a third for the sequel. Two of these talks are about the art of writing. Readers seem most interested in learning how an author does their craft. If anyone is interested in my program, they can contact me at svostroff528@gmail.com. Caledonia and The Lucky One are available in paperback, ebook and free for Kindle Unlimited members.

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Read My Reviews of Sherry’s Books

Book Review: Caledonia

By: Sherry V. Ostroff Anna Isaac is a fifteen year old Jewess living in 17th century Scotland. Her father is determined to see her settled before his poor health becomes worse so he tasks her angry and vindictive brother with choosing her groom. Faced with an impossible choice, Anna seeks the help of a visiting […]

Book Review: The Lucky One

By: Sherry V. Ostroff In order to do this story justice, I’m going to use the summary from the back cover to avoid any errors in the details: Ita was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was the former Pale of Settlement which was a large swath of land in […]

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Short Story Contest

Your Assignment It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August. Contest Rules Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ […]

Book Review: A Tale of Two Shtetls

By: Elissa Allerhand Meir is a child protege, growing up in a Ukrainian shtetl who will one day succeed his uncle as the Rebbe. A great scholar from a young age, he is also gifted with empathy and a natural leadership. As evidence when he convinces his ailing father to take in an elegantly dressed […]

An Interview with Julie Zuckerman

Julie Zuckerman is the author of The Book of Jeremiah, released in 2019. Her short stories and non-fiction work have also appeared in several publications. Q: Can you sum up The Book of Jeremiah in 20 words or less?  Jumping backwards and forwards in time, the book explores the pivotal experiences in the life of […]

Short Story Contest

Your Assignment

It’s time for the July Short Story Contest! Use the image below as your writing prompt to craft a short story. If selected, your story will be featured in future posts, during the month of August.

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Contest Rules

Stories are to be 1,500 to 3,000 words. All genres welcome. Please keep it ‘R’ rated or less. No discriminatory themes, explicit violence, or explicit sexual content.

Selected entries will be featured here during the month of August.

You retain exclusive rights to your work and are free to republish. Republished stories are welcome.

This contest is not affiliated with any other organization other than this site.

To enter, complete the Entry Form below. Please include a brief bio which may include social media handles and the titles of any published works you would like to promote.

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Deadline for Entry:

Entries must be submitted by 11:59pm cdt, Tuesday July 28th, 2020.

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Short Story Feature: Riptide

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the June Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is: Riptide By: Rylee Alexander Rylee is a thirty-something-year-old author from Central New York with big dreams to travel. She has a husband, two boys, and a dog, and spend what little free time she has reading, and […]

Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

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Short Story Feature: Riptide

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the June Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is:

Riptide

By: Rylee Alexander

Rylee is a thirty-something-year-old author from Central New York with big dreams to travel. She has a husband, two boys, and a dog, and spend what little free time she has reading, and binge-watching Netflix. She has published one novel with more coming soon.

            Small towns are beautiful. They’re quaint, personable, and full of charm. But small towns are just….small. They feel even smaller when you’re seventeen and in the epicenter of the community. I want adventure, fun and to be carefree. I have always been studious. I’m graduating high school in two weeks with a 4.3 GPA. I have more volunteer hours than I could count. I’ve raised money for countless charities. And yet, I haven’t even begun to experience life or any type of adventure. I have big dreams of moving to a larger city. A place where no one knows my name, or my face. A place where I’m not known as the mayor’s daughter.  
             I gaze out my bedroom window and see the rippling water and I smile. I feel ease and calm whenever I focus on it. It would be the one thing from this small coastal town that I’d miss. I know that even if I went somewhere with a body of water, it would never compare to this. I tap my pen onto my notebook, trying to gather my thoughts for my valedictorian speech. I despise public speaking or public appearances, but this one was giving my panic attacks one right after another.
            I am most nervous about speaking in front of my parents. I don’t want to let them down; I’m the second of two kids and Scott is the perfect son. He was the valedictorian while getting a basketball scholarship to Duke. He is charismatic, and everyone loves him. I am an introvert with my peers or those of authority. We are almost complete opposites, but I have always tried my hardest to follow in his footsteps.  A knock at my door diverts my attention from my speech and my….life.  
               “Come in,” I say as I spin around in my computer chair.   
            “Skye, honey,” my mom says gently. “I know that you’re working on your speech, but Bradley is here to see you.” I sigh, not wanting to see my ‘boyfriend’. He is my boyfriend for all intents and purposes, but I’m not in love with him, nor is he with me. I’m only dating him because my parents keep forcing my hand. I’m a people pleaser and as much as Brad and I are done, I can’t break up with him and disappoint my parents. But I think I need to.

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            “Mom, can you please shoo him away? I’m trying to get this done.”  
            “Skye, I will not shoo that boy away as if he were some fly. I’m not rude.” Mom scoffs.  
             “I don’t think I can handle the distraction,” But I was standing up and placing my pen down in my notebook. “I’ll just come downstairs and tell him I’ll call him later, is that okay?”  
            “I suppose that would be okay, but please appreciate the effort that he puts into your relationship. He takes it seriously, and I think you should, too.” No, he takes trying to get me into bed seriously, but I wasn’t going to tell my mother that.  
            “I’m sorry, Mom, I’ll do better.” I have no idea why I just said that. I didn’t want to do better with Brad. He is sort of an asshole. He is the “perfect” boyfriend around our parents, but when they are out of sight, forget it. He gets handsy and talks to me like I’m below him. 
             I kiss Mom’s cheek and walk down the spiral staircase to meet Brad. I look out over the banister and see him standing there in his white polo shirt and khaki shorts and I internally roll my eyes while plastering on my fake smile.  He looks like a tool.
             “Hey Brad,” I say as I reach the foyer. “What are you doing here? I thought that we decided that I was going to work on my speech tonight and we’d see each other this weekend?”  
            “No, I know, I’m sorry.” He flashes a smile, seeing my mom behind me. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to grab a bite to eat or something, maybe take your mind off of things?”  
            “Thank you for the offer, but not tonight. I’ll take a rain check.” I smile, breathing a sigh of relief.
            “Skye, go out. Get some food and take a break, you need to recharge.” Mom urges. I wish I was a bratty teenager who could yell at my mother and storm away in a huff, but that isn’t me.    
            “Are you sure, Mom?” 
            “Oh relax, honey. You won’t be gone long, will you?” She looks over my shoulder at Brad.  
            “No ma’am. I’ll have her back in two hours. Scouts honor.”  
            “If you insist,” I say looking in her eyes trying to plead with her silently. She nods.
            “Do you need anything from upstairs? Cell phone? I’ll grab it while you get your shoes on?”  
            “No ma’am, I have my phone,” I say retrieving it from my pocket. “Never go anywhere without it.” I laugh. I slip my flip flops on and head for the door.  
             Brad gets into the driver seat of his shiny brand-new BMW, without saying anything to me. He pulls out of my driveway and heads in the opposite direction of all the local restaurants. I look around confused. 
             “Brad, where are we going? The Pier is that way.” I say as I point behind me. The Pier was our normal go-to hang out.  

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            “I know that. I’m not stupid. We’re not going there.” He huffs, rolling his eyes at me.    
            We drive for fifteen minutes in silence and pull off into a clearing that overlooks the water. There are two other cars parked in the clearing along with a red Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle. The cycle catches my eye because I have been dreaming of owning a bike since I was old enough to know what a motorcycle was. Of course, my parents will never allow me to get a motorcycle.  
            “What are you looking at with such a goofy smile?” Brad asks.  
            “The bike,” I said nodding my head toward it, “I would kill to ride on the back of that.” He scoffs at me, and I shrug my shoulders, knowing he feels the same way about motorcycles as my parents. They all think that bikers are delinquents and noncontributing members of society. I disagree with each of them. Brad knew that I wanted a bike, but only because he thought I was checking out the men on the bikes, versus the bikes themselves, but I was just admiring whatever they were riding.
            Brad hops out of the BMW and heads toward the trunk while I reluctantly get out of the car.  
             “There’s a nice spot near the water, just down these rocks.” He says pointing over to our left.  The beach was beautiful, but the water was angry. It crashes along the shoreline violently, taking anything in its way out with it. I admire its power and the force it comes in with, wishing that I could be that strong and powerful in every aspect of my own life. I let others push me around and I take everyone’s opinions as gospel.  
            “There’s a small cove just beyond this bend right here, that’s where we’re going.” He says while I trail behind him, still admiring the waves. “Come on, let’s go. We’re on a time crunch here, you know. I told your mom we’d only be two hours.” He snaps. This is Brad. Everyone else loves him, I can hardly stand him. Still, though, I find myself speeding up to catch up with him.
            “Sorry, I was just–”
            “Staring at the waves, I know.” He rolls his eyes. “You’ve lived here your entire life you’d think you’d be used to it by now.”
            “I am, I just love it. It’s so–” 
            “It’s stupid,” he cuts me off.  
             He lays the blanket down and sits on top of it while I sit on a nearby rock.  
            “Look, we’re graduating soon, don’t you think we should just call it? This isn’t a relationship.” I said as I play with the bottom of my shirt. “You don’t like me, I don’t like you, the only thing you want from me is someone to sleep with you, and I’m not your girl, I’m sorry.”  
             “Who says I don’t like you?”  
            “You do, all the time. Your actions and the way you speak to me. The way you’re so fake in front of everyone around us. It’s over. We’re not the same kids who used to be best friends and play in the sandbox together.” 
            “What’re you going to tell your parents?” He asks. 
             “The truth. We’ve drifted apart, college is coming up, we’re not in love, pick any of those because they’re all true. I don’t hate you; I just don’t like you very much. You’re not the kind of person I’d ever want to be with.” I say gently as I try and smile at him.  
            “Well, thanks?” He says as he rolls his eyes. “You’re not exactly my cup to tea, either.”    
            “So why the hell did we keep this facade up for so long then?”  
            “I have no idea….our parents, maybe?” He shrugs. “I didn’t bring you out here to break up though, this isn’t what I had in mind when I said we needed to relax…”  
            “This is exactly what I needed.” He nods his head in understanding, and we sit in silence for a while.  
            We drive back to my house, again in silence, and I give him a gentle hug goodbye. I walk upstairs to my room with some weight lifted from my shoulders and a smile on my face and I walk into my room and finish my speech.
             I walk downstairs feeling accomplished and look at the clock on the stove. It’s nearly ten PM and I’m starving since I haven’t eaten since lunch. I open the fridge and grab a plate of leftovers. Mom comes into the kitchen wearing her pink silk bathrobe and slippers.  

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            “Mom, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I said pulling my plate from the microwave. “I just finished my speech and I’m starving.”  
            “You finished your speech? That’s great! Can I read it?”  
            “Would you mind if I made you wait until graduation? It would make me feel better….”  
            “Not at all, honey. I’m so proud of you.” She says as she walks to the cabinet and retrieves a glass for some water. “Well, eat your dinner and head off to bed. You have an exam tomorrow.” 
            I spend the next few days doing the same things, studying, taking finals, and practicing my speech. It was uneventful and less stressful than I thought it would be. I haven’t heard from Brad since our break-up and my parents handled it better than I imagined that they would. My mom backed me up and my dad followed suit once he read her expression.  
            My phone pings next to me on my nightstand and I pause my show and open the text. I smile seeing that it’s a text from the closest thing I have to a best friend, Alexa, telling me that there was a party tonight.
            I walked to ask my mom’s permission and promised her that I’d be home by midnight. She was loosening the reigns on me since college was around the corner, and I was appreciative of her efforts. I don’t need the car since the party was within walking distance, and I think that makes her feel better.

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             I walk to the party, and as I’m getting closer to the party house, I see the red Kawasaki Ninja out in front of the house. My heart speeds up as I stop walking to take a closer look.  
            “Like what you see?” I hear a deep voice behind me. A deep voice with a northern accent. I turn around slowly and see the most handsome man I have ever laid eyes on. Tall, dark, handsome, and a tattoo on each arm. Piercing green eyes and dark spiked hair. I’m not sure I can speak so I just nod my head. “Do you ride?” 
            “No, I wish I did though. My parents would never allow me to.” I smile weakly.  
            “I’m sure they’re just trying to keep you safe,” he grinned at me. “I wouldn’t want a beautiful thing like you to get hurt, either.”  
             “Maybe,” I smiled. “But one day I’m going to ride. It’s on my to-do list, and there’s never been a list I didn’t finish.”  
            “Gage,” he says as he extends his hand to me.  
            “Skye,” I say as I take it. Shockwaves begin in my hand and spider throughout the rest of my body. Looking into his eyes, I’d say he feels it too.  
             “I’d love to take you for a ride sometime. On my bike, that is.”
             “Before I agree to that, can I just sit on it?” I smile, breaking eye contact with him, staring at the bike.  
            “Of course,” he says pulling his helmet off the back of the bike and sliding it on to my head. “This will complete the look.” I laughed at the weight of the helmet on my head, it felt weird but good. I could worry that there were people around me looking at me and thinking things about me, but I was choosing not to care and to be present at the moment. I sat down on the bike and Gage sat behind me, and I was thrown off guard. “No funny business, I swear,” he said as if he was reading my mind. “I just don’t want you to tip over or lose your balance.”  
            “I appreciate that,” I smiled under the helmet. “This. Is. Awesome. Oh man, I can’t wait to ride one of these, for real.”  
            “Maybe I can take you out on it sometime,” he said as I stood up and took off the helmet.  
            “Maybe,” I smiled handing it back to him. “I feel euphoric just from sitting on it, I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel riding on it. Thank you for letting me check it out.” I said as I turn to walk away.  
            “Hey, wait,” Gage said running in front of me. “Can I have your number? So, I can take you for a ride?” I smirk at him and before I can answer him, I hear someone calling me name, angrily. I turn around to see Brad walking toward me from the backyard.  
             “Skye, what the hell?”  
            “What, Brad?” 
            “What are you doing? Jake said that you were on a motorcycle.” He walks over and eyes Gage but doesn’t say anything else.  

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            “I was just sitting on it, calm down,” I say looking around us, not wanting him to cause a scene.  
             “People are going to talk, you know. And as your boy–” I put my finger up to him.    
            “Not my boyfriend. We broke up. You have no say in anything I do.”  
            “I’ll bet your parents-” 
            “Leave my parents out of this,” I say in a low growl. “I was just checking out Gage’s bike. It’s not a big deal. Go away and leave me the hell alone.”  
            “I will not do that. I think we need to leave.” He said as he grabbed my arm.
            “Let go, Brad. I haven’t even been inside yet.” 
            “I’m taking you home, you clearly can’t take care of yourself.”  
            “Excuse me, Brad, was it? I think the lady said no,” Gage said speaking up. “I’d appreciate it if you took your hand off her arm, though,” Gage said as his jaw tensed.  
            “Who do you think you are?”  
            “I’m Gage, the owner of the bike that you have an issue with, and the new friend of the girl your hand is on.”  
            “Okay, Gage, I think you can leave now, I’ve got it from here.”  
            “Sorry, pal, I’m not going anywhere. At least not until you unhand her.”  
            “What are you going to do about it?” Brad scoffs.  
            “Just let her go, please. So, we can all just go and enjoy the evening.” Brad drops my arm but walks up and gets chest to chest with Gage. Gage is an inch taller than Brad and has a more muscular frame. There is no way Brad is dumb enough to pick this fight right now. “Thank you, Brad. Have a good night.” Gage says calmly and joins me a few feet away.  
            “I wasn’t done with you!” Brad yells as he tackles Gage from behind. I start yelling at Brad to stop as Gage rolls over and connects a fist with the side of Brad’s jaw. They roll around for a few minutes until I hear a police siren. I plead for them to stop, but by the time they do, both of them have been placed in handcuffs. I look at Gage with apologetic eyes.  
            “It was worth it,” Gage mouths to me before being placed in the back of the police car.     
            “What the hell?” Alexa asks as she walks up to me.
            “Now? You show up now?” I ask her. She shrugs.  
            “What did I miss?” She asks as she looks at the police car. She sees Brad outside the police car being questioned and Gage inside the car.
            “I guess we’ll talk about this back at your house. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
            “I can’t leave. Gage wouldn’t be in handcuffs right now if it wasn’t for me. I have to stay.”
            “On the contrary, I need to get you out of here before your parents find out you’re at a party that the cops showed up to.” She was right. I was so close to getting my freedom, I couldn’t disappoint my parents now.  
             I look at Gage and mouth that I’m sorry to him before I walk away never knowing if I’m ever going to see him again. 

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Short Story Contest Feature

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]

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Book Review: Judenrein

By: Harold Benjamin

A white supremacist movement has taken over America. Jews have been rounded up, striped of their property and placed in ghettos. Zack Gurevitz is a former Green Beret with a difficult past who has turned his back on the faith that turned its back on him. Until his help is needed to stop a terror attack set to place his people at risk. He hesitantly agrees to help but finds himself caught up in something much worse than anyone originally suspected.

This dystopian thriller captured my attention from the first chapter and didn’t let go to the last page. The story is fast-paced and will keep you guessing at who can be trusted. The plot is incredibly timely, to the point of almost prophetic, and a reminder that those who “fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it” (Churchill). The writing is incredibly powerful and vividly descriptive. Zack Gurevitz is an interestingly complex protagonist struggling with addiction and a difficult relationship with his faith. He’s not your typical, clean cut, hero which only made me root for him more.

This one goes on my ‘must read’ list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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March Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

April Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

May Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, thriller, and humor. Get my reviews direct to your inbox every Wednesday and check back here for monthly […]

10 Books for Your Summer Reading List

“Summertime and the living is easy” Trying to figure out your summer reading list for time spent by the pool? I’ve put together a list of 10 of my favorite reads to help get you started. These are in no particular order and all come from my Ultimate Reading List. Need more suggestions? New subscribers […]

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