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Thursday, September 6, 2012
A Celtic Myth
1:52 pm edt
While I haven't been in a number of years, I love the seashore.
I love sitting in wet sand, with cool waves rippling over my feet and legs, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the screeching
of sea gulls, the smell of the salted ocean. I am drawn to sea shanty tales, mysteries, and legends—especially
those of the Black Irish, who, according to my father, claim their heritage from the Selkie (seals). I first heard this myth—or is it?—as a six-year-old from Dad during
a seaside vacation. He softly whispered it into my ear while sitting next to him on the beach as we watched a full moon rise
over the ocean.
Based upon this legend is a beautifully lyrical film released on VHS in 1995 by Columbia Tristar
for its Family Collection. The Secret of Roan Inish is one of my favorite
movies, which I am about to watch again for the twelfth time this afternoon curled upon the sofa, being stricken with a dastardly
end-of-summer cold. What drew me to re-watch it was reading an equally, if not more so, beautifully lyrically written novel,
The Salt God's Daughter** by Ilie Ruby. My posting for today is my review
that also appears on authorexposure.com, which is also sponsoring a giveaway contest for a
hardcopy of the book:
Once in a Blue Moon, a hauntingly lyrical novel touches the
essence of your innermost soul. For me, it is The Salt God's Daughter by Ilie Ruby—read during
the full Red Moon of August—a thoroughly captivating, powerfully moving work of strikingly beautiful literary merit.
Ruthie and her older sister, Dolly, are the daughters of Diana, a woman of the mystical 1960s who consults full
moon cycles in The Old Farmer’s Almanac as she roams California coastal
highways with her physically homeless children in Big Ugly. Diana struggles to find a lost love and assemble a “normal”
life for her family as they journey on complex roads of life, finally landing at Dr. Brownstein’s beach hotel. When
young Diana dies, the two sisters of Jewish heritage fiercely cling protectively to one another, transitioning into womanhood,
first at the Bethesda Home for Girls and then back at Dr. B’s Wild Acres, where Ruthie becomes its caretaker and caregiver
of aging residents. She falls in love with Graham, who, like her father, only appears during full moons and, after the birth
of their daughter, Naida, mysteriously disappears. Naida has a webbed foot, an uncannily attraction to the ocean, an ability
to commune with three “sister” sea lions”, and a desperate desire to find out where—and what—her
father really is.
Ruby deftly entwines Jewish-American tradition and culture with Celtic mythology, transcending
what could have been a humdrum, feminist romance into a complex, mystically moving, spiritually uplifting novel. The Scotch/Irish
legend of sea lions shedding skins each full moon to become human is integral to the plot set on California’s coast.
Are Ruthie’s father and Graham such creatures? What draws Naida so strongly to the ocean in beautifully written scenes
that wash over the reader like refreshing sprays of cooling, salt-scented waves? Why is her foot webbed, earning her the nickname
“Frog Witch”? From whom did she inherit “Second Sight”—her grandmother or her father? And, in
her all-consuming quest, does she find him?
Lyrically written, Ruby’s major and minor themes fluidly ebb
and flow like undulating ocean tides on sun-drenched beaches in this taut, multi-leveled novel of women transitioning from life into death; childhood into adulthood;
youth into old; physical into spiritual; mother into daughter into mother. Characters and themes whirl together in vast, mysteriously
multi-faceted deep seas of love; tightly knit together, wending, meshing, and symbolically connecting throughout this thoroughly
gratifying and pleasurable read. The Salt God’s daughter, however, requires careful thought and concentrated effort to capture, savor, and fully
appreciate each subtle and delicate nuance in this prime example of literary mythical fiction at its finest.
Best enjoyed by mature audiences, this novel
is the greatest end-of-summer read—preferably enjoyed poolside or
sitting on the beach with bare feet cooling in wet sand. Keep your towel handy—it’s a tear-jerker.
The Salt God’s Daughter isn’t on the best seller lists by Harvest
Moon, I’ll be both surprised and disappointed.
** © 2012 Ilie Ruby. 336-pages, hrdbk. Soft SkullPress/COUNTERPOINT, Berkey,
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
1:41 pm edt
I met Peg Hess-Fennell, the author of the inspiring I'm Alive For God's Sake**, over a Thanksgiving Day no-holds-barred game of Scrabble©.
She had just completed her second round of chemo-therapy for pancreatic cancer and was very optimistic about her prognosis,
spreading joy and hope to everyone in the room. While we played, we chatted and joked about nothing specific, everything in general—the normal
superficial chit-chat two people have when they first meet. When we discovered our mutual interests, among other things, of
writing, books, and dogs—as well as sharing the same quirky sense of humor—we both knew we'd be good friends.
That was a few years ago. FrankieBernard was still small enough to carry in my arms, and I was still struggling to balance
earning a living with becoming a writer. As she predicted, Peg and I did, indeed, become close, very close; almost as if we
During the course of our brief friendship, Peggy offered unselfish encouragement in all my endeavors.
She offered sound advice about issues in both work and life; was supportive of my early retirement; patiently listened to
the entire script, including the songs, of my latest children's musical; read each and every one of my children's books (she
liked them all!); and was the first to read this Literary Blog. Regardless of its topic, she took the time to write a comment
or send an email, sometimes leaving a "you go girl!" voicemail. She put up with FrankiB's antics; shelled peas with
me at the kitchen sink while we shared "sisterly" confidences; signed me up for the "Three Minute Retreat"
emailed daily by Loyola Press; played a wicked game of Scrabble; laughed at my jokes; celebrated the New Year with champagne
and Chinese food; and offered unconditional love to everyone in her life. All the while dealing with cancer and its subsequent
effects and secondary illnesses.
In her stunningly stark, sharp, and honest memoir, written after surviving cancer
surgery, Peg recalls her initial thoughts and feelings how she first found about having cancer, imbuing her motivational story
with her great determination and strong faith that sustained her not only through surgery, but through every aspect of her
life. As she states in the introduction:
When cancer became the focus of
my life, something else was growing in my heart and mind; a much deeper and clearer realization of a simple reality as I opened
my eyes each morning. I’m Alive.
Someone died during
the night, but it wasn’t me. I am alive today. How will I use this gift no matter how small my sphere of influence?
God has created us to be His hands, His arms, His smile, His caring, His body
on this earth. May we use this day whether we are sick of well; alone or interacting with others.
May I not waste today. I am alive for God’s sake.
True to her wish, Peggy did not waste a single day. She and her husband, Dan, travelled extensively
around the world, visiting many places they were before, many more they wanted to see together for the first time. A strong-willed,
forthright woman, Peg was not one to be intimidated or daunted by any aspect of life. She encouraged everyone around her to
"get up, go out, live life". She reminded me of "Auntie Mame" who said, "Live! Life's a banquet and
most...are starving to death!" encouraging family and friends to prayerfully and joyfully live the profound gift of life.
I'm Alive For God's Sake is not only a recounting of a physical phase of her life that sought to bring
healing, but is also a poignant part of her own spiritual journey—an uplifting, inspiriting, encouragement not only
to those who are dealing with cancer, but to anyone who faces any life crisis—physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
Sadly, though, Peg passed on this past Sunday, finding peace, surrounded by her loving family.
in her book, I hope, will live on to provide, as she did to all who knew and loved her, hope to all who read it.
She was a great friend, sister, and inspiration in my life; much loved and admired by all who knew her. She will be
** © 2009 Peg Hess-Fennell. Self-published through CreateSpace. 67-pages;
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.