A woman scribbles with the movement of her pen
is able to change what’s unpleasant
and describes only water that drips below
or birds that sing above
a melody forcing her ear to pay homage
as she writes of sun rays lighting
the earth with yellow, green, blue
all the while avoiding thoughts of the virus
raging outside or asking if the pandemic
will bring humanity to its knees
Even herculean imagination
will not bring the mind to reason
that newcomers mean no harm
mean only to lead
towards better destinations,
maybe, even to a place like Shangri-La.
Could they really be different
than the ones who arrived
lifetimes ago and left their scars?
In the beginning they too were sweet
yet always unknown
were calculations and secret needs
and the eventual picking off
of whatever was left of the flesh
fists thrusting further
to the heart underneath,
the seat of the soul, Trust
which when shaken
is rarely ever the same.
So, imagination remains contained
as caution creeps up the spine
protecting the body from any more incursion
always parrying away to avoid a final blow.
A single event, in our lives, can make us question everything, changing beliefs we thought were permanent and moving the future towards a drastically different direction. The main character in Jonathan Papernick’s The Book of Stone, Matthew Stone, deals with precisely such a life changing event, which makes him question everything. Walter Stone, Matthew’s father and a well-known judge, passes away and leaves his son haunted by his father’s unmet expectations. While Walter Stone was alive, Matthew rebelled against everything he stood for, but after his death, Matthew changes significantly, trying to emulate everything his father was. In his effort to become more like Walter, Matthew starts interacting with his father’s associates who introduce him to new ideas about what it means to be Jewish.
Although The Book of Stone is a work of fiction, Papernick fully immerses the reader into the book’s reality. As characters in the book consider important questions of morality and existence, the reader is also asked to consider the same questions. The Book of Stone is expertly crafted and creates a convincing plot sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats. Papernick’s use of imagery, language, and flashbacks helps to create an ever engaging reading experience. Wonderfully weaved throughout the book, well-researched historical references give the reader greater insight into Jewish history, the Holocaust, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jonathan Papernick is the author of two short-story collections, including The Ascent of Eli Israel and There Is No Other. He is the writer-in-residence at Emerson College. The Book of Stone is published by Fig Tree Books.
How much pressure can a spouse’s loyalty and fidelity withstand? How seriously do individuals take their vows of marriage? How many times can someone help another human being who is clearly lost and has no compass? The answer to these, as well to other questions, are explored in T. Nicole Cirone’s beautifully written novel, Nine Nails.
In the beginning of the book, things are going great for Nicole – she has a rewarding career as a teacher and has loving and close relationships with her family, including with her twelve-year old daughter and her parents who live next door. Nicole finds love in a charming, handsome, and successful man who was once a childhood friend. The couple marries, and everything is perfect.
Though not obvious at first, a troubling pattern emerges. Nicole’s husband has episodes where depressing and destructive feelings overwhelm him. Sometimes, he locks himself in his room. He spends a lot of time at the bar. He becomes abusive and calls his wife names. According to him, Nicole is the cause of his unexpected behavior, and she cannot do anything right. On the other hand, he can’t do anything wrong. Though another woman may have already ended the relationship by this point, Nicole continues to keep her marriage vows in the forefront of her mind, trying to help her spouse through addiction and turmoil. Her love for her husband abides through every imaginable test and speaks to something that is difficult to find, a fixed heart that continues to be able to withstand anything and everything to preserve the possibility of what could be. Will Nicole’s husband be able to change and keep Nicole’s love, or is the marriage doomed to fail?
Nine Nails is gripping and the author’s skilled use of pacing will keep the reader turning pages to find out what happens next. Cirone places us perfectly in scene with vivid descriptions of time and place. Her use of language is equally masterful as word choices are both meaningful and exquisite. The combination of language and craft details are sure to make Nine Nails a favorite book for readers as well as writers. Nine Nails rises to the level of great literature, transcending time and person and focusing on universal themes regarding human love and loss. It is also a cautionary tale from which much can be learned. Nine Nails is definitely a must-read.
Nine Nails is published by Serving House Books and is available on Amazon.com.
Hi Everyone, Please check out my debut memoir, The Borderland Between Worlds which explores issues of immigration, belonging, bullying and mental health. “Not fully belonging anywhere or with anyone is a great burden to bear..but it can be a place of incomparable strength.” The Borderland Between Worlds is available on Amazon https://amzn.to/38RanP5 and Barnes and Nobles: https://bit.ly/2G09M0
Of tears, exclusion, pain
among the darkness
sometimes comes the ray
from lives of tumult
the turning of pages
pen to paper to survive memory
with this, books are made
Yes, death does come for all
for every summer,
there must be a fall
but we always leave
a part of us in the world
and the part of the world
which was loved always stays
in the immortal heart.