Several months ago, I brought Enchanted by Alethea Kontis in anticipation of reading shortly after I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Barnes N’ Noble event in Orlando, Florida. Needless to say that life intervened and I didn’t crack open the book until this past week.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long. I have been waiting for a book like this. A book to spark the imagination of both myself and my students. I told them about the book shortly after I started reading it and now they are eager to read it.
So let’s get to the good stuff.
Enchanted is the tale of Sunday Woodcutter who lives in the magical kingdom of Arilland where fairies and fairy tales are woven into everyone’s lives. Sunday is the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter and being the youngest of the youngest has left her feeling like she is the leftover child in the family. She and her other sister are each named for a day of the week by their mother, Seven Woodcutter.
Each sister takes on the attributes of the day on which she was born. Kontis weaves the stories of the Woodcutter family together seamlessly hinting at the mysteries and secrets that all families have. They may live in a magical land where talking animals are common place, but they have real problems and concerns.
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
From the beginning of this enchanting tale (punt intended) to the last line, you are taken on a journey through everything you think you know about classic fairy tales isn’t just turned on its head, but pulled into reality. And it all begins with a lonely girl named Sunday sitting by a well and reading her journal to a frog named Grumble who will become her friend. But what happens when that friendship turns into love?
The blending of classic Fairy Tales and modern humor carries the reader to a new realm where the Princess and the Pea meets Cinderella, the Frog Prince and reality head on for the win.
Visit her website and you can find out more about her and her books.I promise you that you won’t regret it. You can also purchase the books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble
Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other retailers.
Addicted. I am officially addicted to Leanna Renne Hieber’s writing. I have no problem with this addiction and intend to do nothing but feed it over the coming months.
If you love reading, I would suggest that you also develop this particular addiction. She has seventeen titles available on Amazon. Seventeen delightful things… a few that are out of print as a result of the publisher going out of business. The good news is that her new publisher, Tor, is releasing her lost titles soon. I can’t wait.
I felt in love with her book, The Eterna Files, from the very first page. I wanted to know immediately how Clara Templeton was going to fair in her quest for immortality, not for herself, but for the leader of our beloved nation. Clara’s quest begins in the wake of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln and continues to England’s Victorian Age and an assignment from the Queen Mum herself. Clara’s counter part Harold Spire has been appointed by her majesty’s command to purse the Eterna project. Both are bound by their honor to do what they think is right.
Hieber has a wonderful way of creating rich historical worlds that draw you in and keep you enthralled. You want to know what is happening with both teams as they search for the answers to death. Tragedy has stuck both teams and each believes the others to blame. It is difficult to image the days when America and Great Britain were enemies, but it is barely a hundred years after the revolution and both countries are hunting the same prize. It is easy to see how both would see each other as the enemy and not the ally that they are today.
If you love a mystery, Gothic fiction and an all around good story, you need to read this book. And everything else by this writer, Leanna Renee Hieber.
If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook. Her new novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon.
Well, dear readers, I once again have a Kindle thanks to the generosity of a friend (Thanks Mr. Scott). I have finished one book and am half way through another one. In the morning before work, I am sitting down with my coffee and reading as I finish my breakfast. It is a relaxing way to start the day. I admit that leaving my books has been pretty hard this week, but to work we must all go.
Entera Files by Leanna Renee Hieber ~ A week in and I wish there was more time in the day to read. Unfortunately, there is this little thing called work that gets in the way. From the days after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the streets of London, this story continues to delight and intrigue me. I can’t wait to see where it goes. The language is beautiful and the imagery amazing.
Here is the description of the book from Amazon:
London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire’s chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.
The Demise of Foxy Jack (Adventures of X Pirates of Book 1) This is the latest book by Edward Medina and I can’t wait to read it. Medina writes with the zeal of showman and the talent of Shakespeare. You can find an excerpt on his blog, Just Sayin’. The Demise of Foxy Jack follows up where the Murder of Crows left off. The second installment of the new X-Pirate series is coming out soon and I can’t until the next one and I haven’t even read this one, yet.
Want to add my book to your pile, Blood Child? It is available on Amazon. What’s on your reading pile? Come one, don’t leave a girl hanging…
The hardest thing for people to believe about me is that I am actually shy. The powerful voice I use on the stage or in the classroom isn’t a constant in my life.
This evening, I had the great opportunity to listen to and meet with two fabulous ladies, Leanna Reneee Hieber and Alethea Kontis. They were bright and answered questions from the crowd and were both incredibly personable. They took their time and talked with everyone that was there. But that voice of mine wasn’t there.
I was just in awe of these two women who are working authors. They are in many ways living the dream that I hope one day to achieve.
Tonight they gave me hope and four more books to add to my reading list. A writer always needs a pile of inspiration. Tonight, they also earned a loyal reader.
They also reminded me how grateful I am to have the support that I have in my life. It wasn’t always there in a tangible way. So please believe me when I say that I am so incredibly thankful for all of your support. It may not seem like much to like a page or write a comment, but it can mean the world to the person receiving it. It does to me. At the same time, I can’t let myself get caught up in the numbers game (counting each and every like and share).
As of today, Blood Child has sold 49 copies, which might not sound like a lot, but coming from the point where I honestly believed that I would never write or publish a book; it is awesome.
Just like the women who I met tonight, I am going to continue being nice, working hard and getting myself out there. I will be working on the last one.
Em and her brothers were born and grew up at the New York Bathory estate. Their births all took place in the house itself, attended by a midwife and a physician in a room built specially for the receiving of Bath heirs. Their father, Count Atalik Hedrick Bath, insisted on having access to all four children. As a result, they would be homeschooled so he could guide their education. This guidance included beatings if they did not perform up to his expectations.
Beginning at six o’clock each morning, Monday through Saturday, their daily lessons included Latin, Greek, arithmetic, literature, history, music, and science. They took a break about eleven for lunch and athletics, returning to their studies no later than two. All the Bath children were excellent equestrians, among other things. The youngest boys, Andras and Sandor, were accomplished fencers as well as fraternal twins. Mihaly, the oldest, was a skilled marksman who had turned down the US Olympic team. His father would never have let him out of his sight long enough to train, so why entertain the idea?
Atalik wanted his children under his complete control. His mind was the only mind allowed to influence them. The various nannies, tutors, and coaches over the years never said a word about the abuse the children suffered. Money lined pockets and sealed their lips.
On Sundays the family, along with the stepmother of the moment, would head into town to attend the First Methodist Church of Wanaka. It was a forty-five-minute drive that took place in complete silence. Atalik insisted that the time be used for reflection. Once there he would lead the family to the front row, never speaking or greeting anyone along the way. They would retreat in the same manner back to the estate and spend the rest of the day in yet more silent contemplation. Often the children would read passages of the Bible to their parents in the evening. Atalik would then give his own unique biblical interpretation, sometimes lasting for three or four hours, depending on the quality of the liquid fuel he ingested during his personal contemplation time in his study. A Ms. Emma Cathill was fired from her position for suggesting that it wasn’t right for him to get drunk on a Sunday. Her firing was one of the few that didn’t result in a mysterious accident or disappearance two or three months later.
The presence of the eerily stoic family unnerved the rest of the congregation to the point that when Em was ten years old, they were asked to leave. The Bath family was infamous in the small community even before the massacre. Interviews I had conducted prior confirmed the family’s banishment. The current minister hadn’t been a great deal of help, but his secretary, a lovely woman named Glenda, had all sorts of juicy information. The story was pretty much the same except for rumors about an affair with several of the ladies on the church board. The last lady reported to have been disarmed by Atalik’s charms had been the former minister’s wife. Each of the women had approached him seeking a donation for one committee or another and always ended up receiving more than just funds.
Margret Mitchell Hanopy was one of those women. She had been married for twenty-five years to the chief of police in Wanaka. Never strayed a day in her life, and looked down on any woman who spent just one moment longer than she deemed necessary with a man who was not her husband. Her pride made her the perfect target, and she fell hard and fast for him. For a split second, she thought he might leave the wife du jour for her. Her breakdown was public and cost her husband the next election. Not surprisingly, someone more suitable to Atalik’s needs was elected the next go-round.
Em didn’t step foot in the village of Wanaka until four years later, when her father’s car stopped to get gas before taking her to college. One of her stepmothers convinced Atalik it would draw unwanted attention to the family if she didn’t attend school. It was a good thing that online school wasn’t big at the time; otherwise, Em might never have been allowed to leave home.
At nineteen she was tall, shy, and awkward, but smarter than any of her future classmates hoped to be. She slipped into the store to get a soda to wet her dry throat. When Atalik discovered her absence, he strode into the store and dragged her out by her hair. The soda was still on the counter when they sped away. Em said she thought it would be OK, given the freedom she would enjoy at school.
A police report was filed; however, the case was never pursued. The owner of the gas station confirmed this version of events. He also admitted to altering his account after receiving a check from Mr. Bath, or Count Bathory, as he insisted on being called. The check paid for his son’s entire college tuition.
The count liked to pay for things. He found it far easier to give someone who had nothing a check than to waste other resources on that person. His charisma in the beginning was not strong enough to talk a dog into a walk. It would grow and grow over the years, but the easiest way to get what he wanted remained through purchasing it. The title he tossed around was also purchased from a relative, despite it having no meaning in this country. Em renounced it upon receiving her inheritance. It was her way of distancing herself from his legacy—a legacy that Em assured me was going to be far bloodier than her infamous ancestor. I inquired how that could be, since the Countess Bathory had a death toll estimated to be close to six hundred and fifty.
It was then that I received a history lesson. She explained that the Blood Countess was only convicted for eighty deaths, and reports of her bathing in the blood of virgins were added later after Bram Stoker published his famous tome. The countess, like most of the aristocracy of her day, disciplined her servants harshly to prevent any sort of uprising and to maintain total supremacy. The countess excelled at keeping those she considered hers in line; the occasional death was not uncommon. The death of a peasant was not considered a capital offense. It was only when the countess began to discipline the daughters of minor nobles that any sort of fuss was raised, and that was only after her political usefulness had been depleted by the crown. Her objection to paying her share of the crown’s debts owed by her and her family was also a factor in her being brought to trial.
Still, the countess hadn’t acted alone. She had a little gang of cronies who carried out her will and in some cases enforced it without the countess ever having said a word. They would end up betraying their mistress at the trial, saying she ate bits of her victims’ flesh. Their testimony would serve as the basis for bloody tales in the future. Then, as now, people wanted to cash in on whatever was popular to make money. It worked, and the infamy of the countess grew while her cronies disappeared into the fabric of history.
If I didn’t believe her, I could read her translation of the countess’s diary. She would happily give me a copy.
The diary mentioned in the trial had been lost or, more accurately, misplaced by the countess’s castellan, Imre Vasvary. He was in charge of her affairs after her arrest and managed her personal papers as well as her husband’s. Her beloved count had died in service to the emperor. It was his death that truly spelled the end for the countess. Emperor Matthias II sought to take control of the vast holdings that had been created by her marriage to the count. Vasvary lived for many years after his mistress’s death and served her son, Pal (Paul), and the other Bathory children until his death.
Atalik found the diary on one of his trips to Hungry. It had been authenticated using letters written by the countess, but it had never been released to be authenticated by the academic community. Atalik didn’t want to share his prize with anyone. Emily opted to keep it a secret because its release would do nothing to repair the tarnished reputation of the countess and would also bring the connection between Bath and Bathory into the public’s eye. One branch of the family choose to change the name shortly after coming to the U.S. It was common for new arrivals to change difficult names or in the case of the Bath family make a break from the past.
While the journal was recovered, the final resting place of the Infamous Lady was never found. It was reported that she was buried at the church at Cesjthe in 1614, only to be moved three years later to the Bathory estate. The crypt there and at a family estate in Nyirbator had been opened at various points; neither contained her remains.
The manner in which Atalik Bath passed from this life to the next was just as mysterious as his infamous ancestor. Atalik died in his home, attended by no one. He, like the Countess Bathory, was found dead at two in the morning after complaining that his hands were cold the night before. His death certificate listed the cause of death as heart failure. Atalik was just sixty-four years of age.
Atalik’s methods of research were unorthodox; he used psychics and thieves. Psychics were used to locate leads genealogists couldn’t, and thieves were used to steal artifacts buyers wouldn’t part with, sometimes even resorting to grave robbing. Everything was verified by a separate set of genealogists or psychics, depending on how the information was originally obtained. The results they yielded were still questionable, but Atalik was confident his money had bought him the truth. A lack of confidence was never his weakness—perhaps a tragic flaw, if there had ever been an ounce of goodness in him.
Emily’s father was far more discreet than the countess ever had an occasion to be. People didn’t die; they simply vanished or died with a reasonable explanation as to the cause. Atalik’s abusive nature intensified after his banishment. He had always been a sexual sadist, but the number of former employees increased exponentially afterward. Court records from his five divorces confirmed that all of his wives accused him of various degrees of sexual deviance. All but one of them recanted their accusations after receiving a generous settlement.
Marcella Bath, Emily’s mother, died in a car accident prior to any agreement being made. Her parents claimed that Atalik was responsible, but no connection was ever found. They died in a house fire six months to the day after they had buried their daughter. They would never see their granddaughter.
Em agreed to give me the names and contact information for some of her tutors growing up; she wasn’t sure they would talk to me, but there was a chance, now that her father as well as the New York statute of limitations on child abuse had expired. She produced two of her father’s scrapbooks, which contained photographs and notes on his sexual encounters with two of the tutors.
The first scrapbook documented five years of his relationship with Martha Vane, the Latin tutor. The first page contained a copy of her resume and a photograph of Ms. Vane. It was black and white and faded. She looked like June Cleaver, with her permed hair and a carefully tailored suit. Before turning to the next page, Em finished her glass of wine and returned to the kitchen for the bottle. I finished my glass in one swallow after seeing what those pages contained.
“You looked at these?”
“Yes, of course.” Her tone was oddly down-to-earth, but she didn’t offer to explain.
“All of them?”
“Yes, all twenty-seven.”
I nearly choked on the next sip of wine. “Why in God’s name would you look at all of them?”
“To prove to myself that it wasn’t just a bad dream. My therapist said I needed to confront my past in order to stop living in it. So yes, I looked at every single page and photograph.”
“Are there pictures of you?” My words stumbled out of my mouth, trying to shake the images of bodies tangled. The reality that some of the young faces staring feebly back from the photos were Atalik’s own children. He had molested his own kids, taken pictures, and then lovingly created twenty-seven albums. “But why keep them?”
“Proof that my father was insane. That my siblings and myself were victims not complicit in his crimes. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean they were innocent as adults, but I know in my heart they weren’t evil like him. As we continue, my brothers’ innocence must be maintained. I can’t bear the thought of their memories being dragged through the muck. They deserve better.” Em’s eyes watered, but she didn’t start to cry. She took several deep breaths and regained her composure.
“Is this why you didn’t have them buried with your father at the estate?”
“Yes, but my father isn’t buried there either.”
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The interview I had lobbied over six months for just turned on her heels and walked back into the shadows of the house, leaving the door wide open and giving me an excellent view of her curves. My appreciation for them was short-lived, since cool air slapped me as I hesitated on the threshold, trying to take in the house’s details. The ten-foot walk from the car had broken me out in a sweat, making it difficult to concentrate. It wasn’t even May, and already Florida was managing to melt British tourists and small yippy dogs into smelly, sticky puddles. Since I was British born myself, it was only being raised in the United States that kept me from disintegrating.
As I watched the current Countess Bathory return, it occurred to me that she was nothing like her infamous blood-bathing ancestor. She had no aura of power or authority. She was, in fact, a wino, judging from the bin overflowing with bottles on the front porch. Albeit, an incredibly attractive one.
Technically, she wasn’t a countess, having renounced the title but keeping the money she had inherited along with it. Only people in fairy tales give up both, and usually for love. As far as I knew, Ms. Bath was single.
Nothing about Emily Bath made sense. She was richer than Donald Trump and had more degrees than Neil Degrasse Tyson, yet she lived in a tiny orchid-colored house in a mismatched Orlando neighborhood. She taught high school—not even a regular high school, but an alternative one for students who had been kicked out. She could have done anything and willingly chose to work in high school hell.
The interior was incredibly modest, if not a little old-fashioned for a thirty-something heiress or anyone in her thirties. The floors creaked with each step. There was no TV in sight, just bookshelves and seating. All the furnishings looked like they were hand-me-downs from someone’s long-deceased grandparents. The sofa engulfed me in patterned floral pillows. The countess smirked as I struggled to right myself. At least she had a sense of humor.
Still nothing about the home spoke of the mounds of wealth she had; it was all understated and sadly normal. I expected more—craved it, to be honest.
Emily Erzabet Bath was the survivor of a modern-day murder mystery. Nine years ago she and her three older brothers spent the weekend at their late father’s estate for his funeral in upstate New York. Her brothers died, along with twenty other souls.
The manor had been drenched in blood, literally. It dripped off tables, pooled in puddles on the floor, and had unartfully spattered the walls. The first officers on scene inched their way around the edges of each room as they searched for survivors. They weren’t trying to preserve evidence. No one wanted to step in that much blood. It was inconceivable that anyone could have survived the carnage. Pieces of victims were carried out bit by bit for nearly a week. The local police chief was one of the dead, along with his wife, so state police were immediately called in. They in turn called the FBI. It was a forensic nightmare. It took years for them to sort everything out, and then the picture that the evidence painted didn’t make any sense.
People were found at nearly all the exits, but no one made it outside before being killed. No one tried to call for help. All the phones at the estate were working, yet no one used them.
The officers who found Emily broke into her room after following a blood trail, only to find her cloistered in the back of the closet beneath a bunch of old musky coats stained with her blood. The combination of the smells—musky fur, stale blood, and human excrement—remained with the two men. Their stomachs emptied upon seeing Emily broken and begging for help with her eyes. Ten years later, even mentioning her or her condition made the two turn green. They thought she was dead until her bloodshot emerald eyes opened. She was severely dehydrated, with deep bloody scratches that had turned her flesh into ribbons; her wounds would seep blood for days after her rescue, confounding the medical staff. It was months before she was released from the hospital.
Emily allegedly had fled to her room and remained there the entire weekend. She couldn’t explain how she had gotten there or what had happened. Her story just didn’t hold up. Many believed she was at least partially responsible for the deaths of the twenty-three people in attendance. Maybe she really didn’t remember? It was possible, but why did she hide instead of calling for help or attempting to leave the estate? There were more questions than logical answers in the bloody tale of Emily Bath. The tabloid media had attempted to keep the story alive, supposedly to get answers, even after the relatives of the deceased pleaded with them to stop. A couple of lawsuits, combined with the complete unwillingness of law enforcement officials to contribute to the macabre circus surrounding the case, finally brought things to an end after about three years.
Now, as the ten-year anniversary approached, interest in the case was reemerging, making this interview priceless. And I was the man who landed it—the first and only person to speak to the reclusive Ms. Bath on the record. Persistence, charm, and just a bit of cyber stalking had won the day; being unemployed finally had a benefit.
No evidence was found linking Emily to the deaths, according to the investigator’s report in my satchel. No evidence was found linking anyone to the crime. The report had cost a pretty borrowed penny. Now I was wondering if the expense had been worth it. She was just so ordinary. So painfully ordinary.
Emily returned from the kitchen carrying two glasses of deep-red wine. When I started to protest, she informed me that I would need it.
“Mr. Clark, please…humor me.”
“All right, Ms. Bath. Do you mind if I record this conversation?”
“Not at all. I would appreciate a copy. Also, my attorney, Mr. McNeal, would like you to sign this disclosure agreement prior to us continuing.”
“I don’t think my editor would approve any agreement that limits or restricts the content of the article.”
“Let’s be frank, Mr. Clark. You don’t have an editor. And you haven’t had one for the last six months. Your freelance opportunities have dried up, along with your hope and savings.”
I wanted to protest, but she was telling the truth. I had been let go from the Times six months ago. Budget cuts or some other bureaucratic nonsense was the official reason; sleeping with my editor’s grandson was the true cause of my separation from the nation’s foremost paper.
In my defense, Philip was twenty-one, and I had no idea that he and my editor, Ashley, were related. She wasn’t amused to find us cuddling in the afterglow on her $1,500 sofa. It probably didn’t help that I was also sleeping with her and was too intoxicated to notice where I had passed out. In the paper’s defense, I was only great at my job when I was sober, and I was rarely sober. Drunk, I was just OK. Sad, but true; I could do my job intoxicated and get away with it for the most part.
Looking over the agreement, I was surprised to see that it didn’t restrict what I wrote—only that I share any new information I found with Ms. Bath and her attorneys, as well as proofs prior to publication. If I had an editor or had been attached to a company, I would have had them research it before signing, but I didn’t, and Emily had called my bluff.
“Why do you think I have access to information that you don’t have?” I asked.
She sighed, reaching for my satchel. Before I could protest, she pulled out the investigator’s report and tossed it on the ottoman.
“You purchased that from Detective Anderson two months ago. My sources weren’t able to get a full report. They didn’t think to approach him directly, a misstep on their part.”
Her smile was the first hint that she wasn’t entirely innocent; I didn’t think she had killed anyone, but that still didn’t make her guilt-free. She just didn’t seem capable of mass murder. Still, everyone is guilty of something. It just might not be illegal. “Of course, your copy doesn’t include all the crime scene photos. I am willing to share if you sign.”
“Touché, Ms. Bath.”
“Sign and you can call me Em.”
I shook my head as I signed it, just to be dramatic. The wine was beginning to look more and more appealing.
“Anything else, Em?”
“No, the floor is yours. Let the inquisition begin.”
I had to glance down at my notebook to be sure where to start. Em had thrown me off more than the past six months without meaningful work. Or maybe it was everything that was riding on this interview going well. I was pretty sure Ashley had started to use her connections to blackball me when I didn’t appear to be suffering enough to satisfy her. Even Cat Fancy’s editor refused my calls. Pulling off this story would make me instantly marketable again.
Looking at Em, I realized she could have been her ancestor’s twin, except she was most definitely curvier. She had the same delicate almond-shaped eyes, china-doll skin, and brunette hair so dark; at first glance it appeared black. She leaned back into the plush sofa as if she were having a conversation with an old friend. Smiling, I began…
Five hours, two bottles of wine, and ten pages of notes later, I departed the tiny orchid house, making it back to the hotel as quickly and safely as possible. Luckily, I had experience driving during these conditions. Becoming inebriated in the course of an interview is never recommended or suggested, but Em had been right; the wine was necessary even for this seasoned drunk. I knew I could count on the recording to help me where my notes trailed off. Experience had taught me well to always have a backup plan.
Blood Child is being released on February 13th, 2015. Friday the 13th.
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The first time I read this book, it held me captive, curled beneath my comforter until it was done with me. Recently, it was released under a new publisher and with a new cover. Dusk and Summer kept me prisoner for a second time this afternoon.
The novella published by Pinto in 2008 is a deeply personal metaphysical journey that we are guests on. The beginning of the novella brought out the English teacher in me; I wanted to make some corrections. It seemed to me like he was using to many words when fewer would have allowed the tale to flow more evenly. Don’t allow the rocky beginning to turn you off. It has a purpose and if you let it, it will take a hold of you. Pinto is a gifted storyteller knowing which elements of the story to share and which to hold back.
If you are tempted in novels to skip the forward and go straight to the meat of the book; don’t. You will miss some much needed information about the author and how this book was birthed as well as the love behind it. All books in one form or another are born of an author’s heart. This one came from a love grown and nurtured over decades between a father and a son. It is also about letting go and following the wishes of a love one.
There is a villain, one that I have had personal experience with, cancer. It claws and rakes families with misery. Some survive, and others goes through what the Pinto family did. They sit day after day with their love ones doing everything they can to make it though the next day, hour or minute with their sanity in tacked. Hoping and praying for miracles that never come. Searching for meaning.
This is a book about one man’s search for meaning; about a son looking for a way to fulfill his father’s last wish and finding strength in his father’s life and death.