Book Review: Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

Holding Her Breath: A Novel

Image of Holding Her Breath: A Novel

Author: Eimear Ryan

Release Date: May 17, 2022

Reviewed by: Claire Fullerton As it Appears in the New York Journal of Books

Holding Her Breath is a generational story written in descriptive language with steady pacing. . . . an engaging, sensitive story set in Ireland, sure to resonate with readers far and wide.”

A compelling look at coming-of-age concerns beneath the taboo of generational mental illness, Eimear Ryan’s debut novel, Holding Her Breath, is the story of a young Irish woman coming into her own by pursuing the buried truth of family secrets.

It is modern day Dublin, and overwhelmed university freshman, Beth Crowe, has mishandled her sports scholarship. Once lauded a natural athlete in swimming, Beth remembers, “At one point in her adolescence, she realized that the adults in the club were describing her in nearly supernatural terms: unreal, savage, unbelievable.” Possessed of the discipline of devoting her youth to “getting up at dawn for training, slipping into the water again after school; her world became narrow but deep. It was only when she stopped, abruptly, that she realized how tired she was.”

After her self-imposed sabbatical, she returns with her own practice out of love for the sport.  Ryan pinpoints Beth’s affinity with water: “It feels illicit somehow, being alone in the water. No coach towering over her at the pool’s edge, saying surely she can do better than that. Now she does as she likes. After a hundred laps she feels calm and rejuvenated, her body pinging with the tremors of exercise.”

Now with a focus on psychology, the taciturn Beth is paired in college housing with the gregarious Sadie, who takes her to a campus book event and introduces her to poet and university professor, Justin Kelleher, a class lecturer on the widely acclaimed poet, Benjamin Crowe, who happens to be Beth’s deceased grandfather.

When a relationship grows between Beth and Justin, Beth is optimistic. She “never thought she could be one of those people to whom things actually happen. Every moment of drama or triumph in her life has taken place in the pool and been rendered less impactful for the hours of repetitive practice that preceded it. She is not used to things happening out of the blue.”

An hour away from campus, Beth’s mother Alice lives with her elderly mother Lydia, the widow of Benjamin Crowe. The fame of Benjamin Crowe is the stuff of legend kept under wraps by Lydia, who won’t part with her husband’s coveted archives, nor reveal what she knows of events leading to his death, a mystery that casts a wide shadow upon Beth and Alice, as well as passionate Crowe scholars.

Because Beth is hesitant to pursue the subject with the formidable Lydia, she asks Justin what he knows of rumor surrounding her grandfather’s death. When Justin mentions a never-published Crowe biography by author Julie Conlon-Hayes, he says, “It’s a story among us Crowe scholars. Now, how much is true, I don’t know. She was friends with your grandparents, so she had great access . . . But then Ben died, and Lydia squashed the project.” Continuing, Justin says, “Because of the nature of his death, we are all the time searching his work for clues and explanations. But perhaps we should consider the poems simply on their own merit.”

When Beth asks her mother what she knows of her famous father’s death, Alice skirts the issue of mental illness. “I was told Dad had an illness that made him confused, which in turn made him fall into the sea. I didn’t connect the dots.” On the tight-lipped comportment of Lydia, Alice says, “Her intent was to preserve, as she called it, the honor of the family. She didn’t want anyone poking around in Dad’s memory, and she never spoke publicly about his death.”

Sensing that the mystery at the center of her family lineage would help Beth better understand herself, Beth visits Sadie at her family’s rural home in Portlaoise, and the girls set out on an adventure to visit the elderly Julie Conlon-Hayes at her home in West Cork, in hopes of learning her side of the story concerning the events that led to Benjamin Crowe’s death, which took place in the area.

Stopping cliffside along the road to Julie Conlon-Hayes’ home, Beth “closes her eyes and tries to put herself in her grandfather’s place over thirty years ago. She pictures him barefoot, his toes gripping the earthy edge of the cliff. Crouching, tucking his chin to his chest, pointing his palms to the water. Except it couldn’t have happened like that.”

Holding Her Breath is a generational story written in descriptive language with steady pacing. Author Eimear Ryan captures youth’s perseverance in the search for one’s place in the world, and weaves in mental illness’s nuances while unravelling long guarded family secrets. It’s an engaging, sensitive story set in Ireland, sure to resonate with readers far and wide.   

Buy on Amazon

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Eimear Ryan’s debut novel Holding Her Breath is published by Penguin Sandycove (Ireland/UK) and Mariner Books (US).

Her short fiction has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The Stinging FlyThe Long Gaze Back (New Island) and Town & Country (Faber). She is a co-founder and editor of the literary journal Banshee and its publishing imprint, Banshee Press.

She is a sports columnist with the Irish Examiner and has written about women in sport for The42.ie, ImageStranger’s GuideWinter Papers and elsewhere. She is currently working on a book about camogie. She lives, writes and plays in Cork city.

Join Us This Monday, 2nd May!

Tina Hogan Grant Says:

Join me every other Monday at 5:00 PM PST (8:00 PM EST) for a Cuppa & A Natter (Live Chat) When I sit down and talk with fellow authors.

Monday, May, 2nd, author Claire Fullerton, will be joining me

There will be giveaways. Watch us live to be entered.

Claire will be giving away an author signed copy of her novels, Little Tea, and Mourning Dove.

You can watch the live chat on my Author Page –

https://www.facebook.com/Tina.Hogan.Grant.Author

Or my Facebook Group – Read More Books –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinahogangrant

Or on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfx3dqE8Uo9jFMycaa2JQjQ

Claire’s Bio

Claire Fullerton is the multiple award-winning author of 4 traditionally published novels and one novella, which appears in the book, A Southern Season: Scenes from a Front Porch Swing. Her work has appeared in 4 anthologies and numerous magazines, including Celtic Life International and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Malibu, California with her husband, 3 German shepherds, and one black cat. She has recently completed her 5th manuscript and is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.

Tina Hogan Grant:


Award-winning author Tina Hogan Grant was born in England and moved to the States in 1979. After moving to California, she became a commercial fisherwoman and spent ten years fishing off the southern coast of California with her husband Gordon. After retiring from fishing, they moved to a small mountain community in CA and spent the next ten years building their dream home, doing most of the work themselves. Grant enjoys writing suspense romances, stories with strong female characters who know what they want and aren’t afraid to chase their dreams. Favorite quote: “There’s no such word as can’t ” When Grant is not lost in her world of writing she enjoys riding ATVs, hiking and discovering new trails, and going on long road trips. Grant’s book Better Endings won a gold medal award for Best Fiction Adventure 2020 And The Reunions won a Gold medal award for Best Fiction Adventure 2021 Grant has had apperances on FOX NEWS Bakersfield, Bakersfield NOW NEWS, HOMETOWN -KVPA Radio Santa Clarita, Voyage LA Magazine and The Mountain Enterpise Newspaper. Keep in the loop with Tina and receive Davin The Sabela Series Prequel for FREE by signing up for her newsltter https://www.tinahogangrant.com/newslettersignup.

We hope to see you this Monday at 5pm Pacific Standard Time of Tina’s Facebook Page!

https://www.facebook.com/Tina.Hogan.Grant.Author

Or my Facebook Group – Read More Books –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinahogangrant

Recommendation for a Fantastic Writer’s Workshop!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'ialjeng The Path to Publication: the Query Letter and the Synopsis Workshop Byoи ApoeldMhsdhen0 Tuesdays January 25 and February 1, 2022 7:00 p.m. CST Johnnie Bernhard Instructor CATHOLIG LITERARY ARTS Where Nrite Spirit Register at www.catholicliteraryarts.org'
Johnnie Bernhard

Register Here! https://www.catholicliteraryarts.org/Johnnie Bernhard

Johnnie Bernhard

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard’s passion is reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in national and international publications, including: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Southern Literary Review, Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally. Her first novel, A Good Girl, is a 2017 finalist in the national Kindle Book Awards, a Pen/Bingham nominee, and shortlisted for the 2015 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. It was chosen for panel discussion at both the 2017 Louisiana and Mississippi Book Festivals. In 2018, A Good Girl was nominated by the Institute of Mississippi Arts and Letters for Fiction of the Year and accepted into the Texas Center for the Book permanent collection. Her second novel, How We Came to Be, was released in 2018. It is a finalist in the 2017 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. Chosen for panel discussion by the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival and the Mississippi Book Festival, it has received stellar reviews, including being named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine and listed as a 2018 Summer Reading List choice by Deep South Magazine. It was awarded the Summerall Book Prize by Lamar University in 2019. Johnnie’s third novel, Sister of the Undertow was named a book of the month by the international book club, The Pulpwood Queens. It was a featured novel for panel discussion at the 2020 AWP and chosen as Best of the University Presses, 100 Books by Literary Hub and the Association of University Presses. Johnnie was selected to be a speaker for the TEDWomen 2020: Fearless series. 

Johnnie Bernhard
AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR
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SISTERS OF THE UNDERTOW

“Johnnie Bernhard pierces the soul of sisterhood, revealing the poignant paradox that familial love does not always come naturally, but it always comes. Sisters is a heart-wrenching yet triumphant story about conquering your fate and learning to play the cards you were dealt.” 
Galveston Monthly

“Johnnie Bernhard has become one of the South’s finest writers. Sisters of the Undertow is a book you can’t and won’t put down, a story of sisterhood, love, and loss.” 
–Allen Mendenhall, Southern Literary Review

HOW WE CAME TO BE

“In How We Came to Be, Bernhard delivers a poignant exploration of life as a modern American woman. This complex story examines the many emotional layers of relationships, mothering, sisterhood, and the eternal search for self-worth in a society obsessed with the superficial. Within these pages, readers will experience love and loss, grace and redemption, forgiveness and faith. A heartwarming read that proves family comes in many forms.” 

–Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY Bestselling Author of Perennials

A GOOD GIRL

“One of the great pleasures of reviewing books is that of discovering rare jewels, especially those written by up-and-coming Mississippi writers. One of 2017’s best will surely be A Good Girl by author Johnnie Bernhard, who as much as any writer since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, offers a breathtaking tour of the human heart in conflict with itself, desperately searching for grace and redemption in the face of unremitting loss.” 

–Jim Frazier, The Sun Herald

A Good Girl is a raw, real and relatable gift to the soul on every level. Ms. Bernhard’s writing is so descriptive, reading this book is truly a visceral experience. One can not help but reflect on their own family legacy and life journey. Prepare to be rivetted by this heart- breaking, yet healing story about family, self discovery and learning how to love.” 

–Eva Steortz, Vita Creative and The Walt Disney Company

Book Introduction: Boop and Eve’s Road Trip by Mary Helen Sheriff!

Boop and Eve's Road Trip: A Novel

Book Description:

Eve Prince is done—with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather together the broken threads of her life in order to search for her.

When Eve’s grandmother, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, finds out about the trip, she—desperate to see her sister, and also hoping to alleviate Eve’s growing depression—hijacks her granddaughter’s road trip. Boop knows from experience that healing Eve will require more than flirting lessons and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, Boop is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failure that her sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age. She knows that sharing the secret that’s haunted her for sixty years might be the one thing that will lessen Eve’s growing depression—but she also fears that if she reveals it, she’ll lose her family and her own hard-won happiness.

2020 American Fiction Awards Winner in Coming of Age
2021 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist
2021 Eric Hoffer Category Finalist
Buzzfeed’s 12 Most Anticipated Books of Fall
Popsugar’s “The 21 Most Exciting New Releases Hitting Bookshelves Throughout October”
Parade’s “Highly Anticipated Books of Fall”
Frolic’s “Ten Books Perfect for Your Book Club”

“A touching intergenerational romp through the coastal South.”
Kirkus Reviews

Endorsements:

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip will touch your heart. A beautiful and emotional story of sisterhood, family, and friendship. From the first page, Mary Helen Sheriff’s lush and lyrical writing draws you in. Fans of Patti Callahan Henry and Kristy Woodson Harvey will adore this debut.”

–Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Last Summer

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip is warm, witty, and wise, with characters I loved and characters I loved to hate. Filled with twists and turns and many a bump in the road, this trip is a delight from beginning to end.”
–Han Nolan, National Book Award-winning author of Dancing on the Edge

Meet Mary Helen Sheriff

When I was a kid I wanted to be a model, an actress, a teacher, and a writer. Lack of height, smoking good looks, and talent lost the first two of those professions for me, but I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the latter two.

I’ve spent 14 years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals. 

During this time, I’ve also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. I even spent several summers immersed in an MFA program in children’s literature at Hollins University (which I suppose isn’t exactly dabbling).

I’m taking a break from the classroom to concentrate on my writing. My debut southern women’s fiction, Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, was published on October 6, 2020

Great E-Book Deal!

Ebook on sale for the first time ever! Boop and Eve’s Road Trip was just nominated for a Zibby Award for best opening sentence: “Boop loved her daughter to the moon and back, but Justine had a way of sucking the joy out of a room faster than a vampire bat.”
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Mary Helen Sheriff on WordPress!
Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys August Book Club Selection!
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Book Introduction: Stones Corner Turmoil by Jane Buckley.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08TMX13YZ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orla Kelly Publishing (January 25, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 25, 2021

Book Description:

Caitlin McLaughlin is just like any other teenage girl: during the week she works at the Rocola shirt factory in Stones Corner, Creggan where she has become secretary to her boss’s dishy nephew James.

At the weekend she likes music and trips into the city with her best friend, but this is Derry 1972. A simple trip to the shops can lead to life-changing injuries or death and staying at home can be just as dangerous when the British Troops raid house to house .

Robert Sallis is a private with the Royal Fusiliers recently posted to the city. He’s repelled by the way some of his fellow soldiers behave; wary too of civilian feelings running high against the occupying army. Accidentally separated from his patrol in Creggan, he’s discovered by Caitlin hiding in her family’s garden. He expects the worse but having seen enough violence too close to home, she doesn’t give him away. Instead she prefers to daydream about her charming boss who has made his feelings for her plain.

A Catholic girl from the Bogside and the Protestant heir to a big local employer….In her youthful innocence, Caitlin believes their love can overcome the triple obstacles of politics, class and faith. Meanwhile Robert, newly recruited to British undercover forces, is closing in on a terrorist strike in the heart of the city centre.

If you love a terrific thriller with individual stories that form a cataclysmic ending then this book is for you!

Meet Jane Buckley

Jane Buckley has been an avid reader all her life. She began writing her first novel in 2017, and used
the lockdown period to finish ‘Stones Corner: Turmoil.’

She lives just outside Derry, Northern Ireland an is married with two daughters: Cassie, who lives in Oxford, and Maggie who lives in Auckland NZ. She is delighted with her grandchildren, Charlie and Alba.

Debut author Jane Buckley grew up in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of The Troubles. Stones Corner Turmoil is her unbiased account of people on both sides of the sectarian divide, struggling to live and love against a background of chaos and carnage.

From the Author: I was fortunate enough in my previous career to travel all over the world. Time after time and being brutally honest, I got a little frustrated when I’d be asked over and over again, “So tell me, what are the Troubles in Ireland all about?” I wrote the first in my Stones Corner Series to explain and importantly help them experience what it was REALLY like.

Click on Link Below for a Delightful Video of Jane Buckley live from Derry!

Available on Kindle at Amazon


To purchase paperback copies of Stones Corner please visit :


https://janebuckleywrites.com/shop/p/…

Jane Buckley | Stones Corner (@janebuckley_writes) • Instagram photos and videos

(7) Jane Buckley | Facebook

(20) Jane Buckley (@janebuckley_sc) / Twitter

5.0 out of 5 stars Must read, thrilling I couldn’t put it down

Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2021

This is one of the best books I’ve read. It is a thrilling account that’s based on historical facts that occurred in Derry (Londonderry) during the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s a raw emotional and very well written portrayal of the feelings, experiences and the day to day struggle of the lives of all involved during those times. This book is very important too, as a lover of history this story really puts the feelings behind the headlines and pictures that most only read about in newspaper headlines. If you are looking for an important view on this topic, or a thrilling story you can’t put down then pick up this book now!

Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan


“Written with harrowing intimacy in cadence and phrasing so poetically elegant as to be breathtaking, it sings of perseverance in the face of adversity . . .”

A thoroughly realized treatise on the familial ramifications that haunt us, the beauty in Life Sentences comes from Billy O’Callaghan’s deep-probing gift for nuance. Wielding confessional monologues, O’Callaghan unfurls an epic story woven in three compelling parts that could justifiably stand-alone, yet from the sturdy threads of O’Callaghan’s deft crafting, the reader is invested from the start in this multi-generational story.

Read my full review in the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book…(less)
“Billy O’Callaghan’s work is at once subtle and direct, warm and clear-eyed, and never less than beautifully written. He has a moving ability to express the hopes and fears of ‘ordinary’ people, and he knows intimately the ways of the world. He richly reserves an international reputation. This writer is the real thing.”
~ John Banville, Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea
“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan. The stories in The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind are at once harrowing and uplifting, achingly sad and surpassingly beautiful. O’Callaghan is a treasure of the English language.”
~ Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of four short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), and The Boatman (2020, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)), as well as the novels The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)) and My Coney Island Baby, (2019, Jonathan Cape and Harper (U.S.A.)).

His latest novel, Life Sentences, was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2021 to much acclaim. Read more about it on the Books page.

Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honours, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, the Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

More from the author:

Billy O’Callaghan’s Website: The Author – Billy O’Callaghan

Meet Author Johnnie Bernhard!

Image may contain: Johnnie Bernhard, sitting

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard’s passion is reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in national and international publications, including: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Southern Literary Review, Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally.

Her first novel, A Good Girl, is a 2017 finalist in the national Kindle Book Awards, a Pen/Bingham nominee, and shortlisted for the 2015 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. It was chosen for panel discussion at both the 2017 Louisiana and Mississippi Book Festivals.

In 2018, A Good Girl was nominated by the Institute of Mississippi Arts and Letters for Fiction of the Year and accepted into the Texas Center for the Book permanent collection.

Her second novel, How We Came to Be, was released in 2018. It is a finalist in the 2017 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. Chosen for panel discussion by the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival and the Mississippi Book Festival, it has received stellar reviews, including being named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine and listed as a 2018 Summer Reading List choice by Deep South Magazine. It was awarded the Summerall Book Prize by Lamar University in 2019.

Johnnie’s third novel, Sister of the Undertow was named a book of the month by the international book club, The Pulpwood Queens. It was a featured novel for panel discussion at the 2020 AWP and chosen as Best of the University Presses, 100 Books by Literary Hub and the Association of University Presses.

Johnnie was selected to be a speaker for the TEDWomen 2020: Fearless series.

Johnnie’s Third Novel, Sisters of the Undertow is making waves in the literary world,

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Sisters Kim and Kathy Hodges are born sixteen months apart in a middle-class existence parented by Linda and David Hodges of Houston, Texas. The happy couple welcomes their “lucky daughter” Kim, who is physically and mentally advanced. Following several miscarriages, Linda delivers “unlucky” Kathy at twenty-nine weeks, ensuring a life of cognitive and physical disabilities. Kathy enters public school as a special education student, while Kim is recognized as gifted.

Both sisters face life and death decisions as Houston is caught in the rip current of Hurricane Harvey. Kim learns the capricious nature of luck, while Kathy continues to make her own luck, surviving Hurricane Harvey, as she has survived all undertows with the ethereal courage of the resolute.

Sisters of the Undertow examines the connotations of lucky and unlucky, the complexities of sibling rivalry, and the hand fate delivers without reason. 

Image may contain: ocean and water, text that says 'Available on Audible, iTunes & Amazon Johnnie Bemhand "One sister beautiful, brilliant, and fearful of love. The other ordinary appear ance, learning disabled, and open- hearted. Itwill take Texas-sized hurricane move the parometer this relationship. well- paced, urgently narrated tory about the powerful under- tow sibling uck and love -MINROSE GWIN, author of The Accidentals Sisters of ANOVEL the yudertow'

Fans of audiobooks! Johnnie Bernhard’s latest novel is out today for your listening pleasure. Narrated by Emmy Award winning book narrator, Theresa Bakken, Sisters of the Undertow will appeal to those who love stories about sisters, families, and the human struggle to fit in. Theresa’s voice is smooth and carries you right into the story. Come download your copy. A 2020 Pulpwood Queens Book Club selection and published by Texas Review Press.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Johnnie Bernhard, people sitting, table and indoor

Like Ted Talks? Listen to Johnnie Bernhard here!

The Human Story | Johnnie Bernhard | TEDxLenoxVillageWomen

(1) The Human Story | Johnnie Bernhard | TEDxLenoxVillageWomen – YouTube

Image may contain: Johnnie Bernhard, text that says 'TEDxLenoxVillageWomen 11.21.2020 Johnnie Bernhard The Human Story'

SISTERS OF THE UNDERTOW has been chosen for the Texas Center for the Book Collection, State Library Austin.

Below: Ginger Smith, Johnnie Bernhard, Yours Truly, Kim Moon at The 2020 Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas.

Image may contain: Ginger Smith, Johnnie Bernhard, Claire Fullerton and Kim Kunkel Moon, people smiling

Johnnie’s 2nd, world-class novel: How We Came to Be

No photo description available.

Here’s my book review of How We Came to Be:

How We Came to Be is a triumph of order from chaos as told in the most accessible first-person voice I’ve had the good fortune to come across in ages. I was under narrator Karen Anders’ spell from the first because author Johnnie Bernhard came out swinging by gifting the reader with this engaging novel’s premise by the third page. Karen doesn’t look good on paper. She is a fifty-year-old, high school English teacher living in Houston; a divorced, single mother facing empty-nest syndrome, well aware of her dependency on alcohol, but nowhere near ready to quit. Why should she? Karen’s life is a mess. One would think this is a recipe for a down on its heels story, but the reader is captivated by Karen’s tell-it-as-it-is persona and—dare I say it, identifies when Karen summarizes her circumstances by confessing, “I’m hating every moment, but pretending I’m having the time of my life.” When I got to this line, I knew I was hooked.
We all have that sardonic friend who manages to smile through the egg on her face. This is Karen in a nutshell, and she keeps on keeping on, trying for the upper hand, while her adopted daughter, Tiffany’s first three months away at college become a study in bad choices, of which Karen has no say beyond putting out the fires. Karen’s dilemma is a common one and raises the question of how to be an effective single parent without chasing her daughter away.
In the meantime, back at the empty nest, Karen knows she must forge a life beyond the rat-wheel of predictable sameness centered on her Houston high school’s schedule. In an uncanny act of timing, Karen’s world is widened when she is befriended by WW11 Hungarian refugee, Leona Supak from across the street, and an unlikely alliance is formed that challenges Karen to grow. Having been single for decades and barely hanging on, it probably isn’t the best time for a man to come into Karen’s life, yet when Matt Broussard pursues the surprised Karen in an Austin bar, she thinks, maybe?
How We Came to Be is a brass-tacks, contemporary story without a moment of campy pretention. The events are cause and effect, but the story is what goes on in the likable Karen’s head. She is not so much a victim of circumstances as she is a neophyte at growing into her own. How We Came to Be is the story of a woman drowning in deep waters, who has the sense to learn how to swim.
I applaud author Johnnie Bernhard for her wizardry in crafting this perfectly paced story in a voice so unique and compelling. This is a book to read and return to. It is perfect for book clubs because there is so much in it to discuss!

Image may contain: Johnnie Bernhard and Minrose Gwin, people smiling

And Johnnie’s first novel, A Good Girl:

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I have found Johnnie Bernhard’s book to touch a powerful chord in my heart.  Masterfully written with deep insightinto the journey of family and forgiveness, I’m a better person for having read this book. – Cynthia Garrett , The London Sessions & The Mini Sessions (airing regularly on TBN Network), Author ofThe Prodigal Daughter
 

One of 2017’s best will surely be A Good Girl by Johnnie Bernhard, who as much as any writer since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, offers a breathtaking tour of the human heart in conflict with itself ,desperately searching for grace and redemption in the face of unremitting loss. Bernhard’s sentences are filled with the stuff of what blues and country music singers refer to as “soul” and “high lonesome.” -Jim Fraiser, The Sun Herald, March 12, 2017

A Good Girl is a raw, real, and relatable gift to the soul onevery level. Ms. Bernhard’s writing is so descriptive, reading this book istruly a visceral experience. One cannot help but reflect on their own family legacy and life journey. Prepare to be riveted by this heartbreaking, yet healing story about family, self-discovery and learning how to love. -Eva Steortz, SVP, Brand Development, Twentieth Century Fox



Book Description of A Good Girl:

A Bible’s family tree and an embroidered handkerchief hold the key to understanding the past as six generation Texan, Gracey Reiter prepares to say goodbye to her dying father, the last surviving member of the Walsh-Mueller family. The present holds the answer, and the last opportunity for Gracey to understand her father’s anger, her mother’s guilt, and her siblings’ version of the truth.

The Walsh-Mueller family begins in Texas when Patricia Walsh leaves the famine of nineteenth century Ireland, losing her parents and siblings along the way.  She finds a home, love, and security with Emil Mueller in a German settlement near Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast.  They begin their lives on a small cotton farm, raising six sons. From the coastal plains of Texas, five generations survive hurricanes, wars, The Great Depression, and life, itself.  

An all-encompassing novel that penetrates the core being of all who read it, A Good Girl pulls back the skin to reveal the raw actualities of life, love, and relationships.  It is the ageless story of family.

One of the highlights of 2020 for many writers was watching this!

For more about Johnnie Bernhard, please visit the author’s web site at http://www.johnniebernhardauthor.com

All of Johnnie’s books are available wherever books are sold!

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

The Southern Literary Review!

JASON KINGRY INTERVIEWS CLAIRE FULLERTON, AUTHOR OF “LITTLE TEA”

SEPTEMBER 15, 2020 BY JASON KINGRYLEAVE A COMMENT

JK:  Thank you for doing this interview about your new novel, Little Tea.  I’ve read that you’ve lived in Minnesota, Memphis, Ireland, and now in California. What were these transitions like, and how have they affected your writing?

Claire Fullerton

CF: The transitions ushered in forward momentum, in that living in different locations expanded my understanding of the world. The insights were cumulative as opposed to immediate and mostly having to do with an ephemeral sense of things pertaining to a combination of the environment and its people. I suppose the idea of cultures is best perceived from the outside looking in, so to speak. Being in it but not of it gave me an objective view that continues to affect my writing.

JK:  What would you call “home” about each of these places?

CF: The idea of home is tied to the way I feel centered in an environment and has everything to do with harmonizing with a frame of reference. Nature affects everything about a location and I’m a great walker. I think the best way to get the feel of a place is on foot. I believe people create their idea of home through their relationship to the environment and their loved ones in it. My idea of home has to do with long-term investment and an anchored compatibility that operates on many levels.

JK:  Did being an “avid journal-keeper” help you to become an avid novelist?

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CF: Definitely. Keeping a journal for as many decades as I have woke me up to the fact that I’ve been a writer by nature all along. Writing has been part and parcel to my way of being in the world. I interpret the world by writing, and the practice has spawned an intimacy that  translates to the nuts and bolts of how I write novels. 

JK:  I’ve always lived in the South. I’ve always been a large, bearded man, and I’ve always had to excuse the fact that I’m a “cat person.” I see in your bio that you live with one black cat. Are you superstitious? Do you consider the cat yours or your husband’s, or does the cat belong to you both?  Are you a cat person as well? Tell me more about the cat.

CF: I live with one black cat named Le Chat and three German shepherds! La Chatte is definitely my cat because she chose me as her center of gravity. She is a medium-length haired, solid black, yellow-eyed bundle of communicative joy who gets pushy when it’s time for me to brush her, which is every evening before I go to bed. It is a two-brush ritual: one for her body and one for her kitten face, which she presents side after side with such rapturous, princess preening that I laugh every time. La Chatte has the run of the house yet chooses to camp out on the daybed in my office. Our shepherds never tire of investigating La Chatte, but by all appearances, the shepherds bore her. And I wouldn’t say I’m particularly superstitious as much as I’m aware of the mysterious unknowable that walks hand-in-hand with my ever-changing assumptions of reality.  As for cats, I’ve always thought if you’re going to be a cat, then there’s something perfect about being a black one.

JK:  You thank a lot of southerners at the opening to Little Tea. Do you have an affinity for Southern culture, especially as it pertains to the outdoors?

CF: I appreciate Southern culture and am forever trying to define it, which is ridiculous because it’s made up of nuance. I recently had a conversation with a Hollywood actress who prepared to play a Southerner by studying my Southern accent. I was patient with the process until it occurred to me to cut to the chase. “What you have to understand,” I said, “is that it’s not about mimicry; being Southern is an attitude, so let’s start there.”  So, an emphatic yes, I have an affinity for Southern culture, and as it pertains to the outdoors in Little Tea, I wanted to capture Southern boys in the prime of their swaggering youth who know how to hunt and fish in the Delta. There’s an art to this, a science, a way of awe-struck communing in the region with a type of reverence seen not so much as sport as the exhilarating pursuit of challenge. I’ve always respected this about Southern men who hunt. They have an admirable relationship with the great outdoors.

JK:  Having written your entire life, more or less, did you ever think that you would have such a following as you do?

CF: From my perspective, writing is a search for similarities. In my own way, I am comparing notes on this business of life with my readers. I’m aware that my novels are open for interpretation, but therein is my humble gift to the reader. Readers are intelligent creatures and it is my great honor to earn their attention. There’s no way to accurately gage the number in whatever following I have, but suffice it to say, I am grateful for each.

JK:  It seems that you started your writing career with poetry. Was there a natural progression into writing novels?

CF: I wrote poetry and kept a daily journal up to and through the time I lived on the west coast of Ireland. I lived in Connemara, which is delightfully rural, and when I returned to the United States, I revisited my journal and realized I had a unique story. It was the year 2000, and although I’d never attempted even a short-story, I burned with passion to depict Ireland as I found it. It seemed to me many Americans had a romanticized impression of Ireland, and it was important to me to share that I found the people of that storied island magnificently salt-of-the earth and wary, suspicious of outsiders but able to mask this by appearing to be the friendliest lot on earth. I wanted to tell about it, and in so doing, I realized that writing poetry was my foundation. I can’t say it was a progression because to this day, I keep both balls in play.

JK:  You’re involved with so many publications—I don’t think people view authors in general as particularly “busy.” Would you like to correct that notion?

CF: I love this question. I’ll begin my answer by saying I consider everything having to do with being an author a labor of love. That’s the good news. I do it because I love to and am fond of saying with writing, there is no there to get to; only the process in and of itself. That said, once one is in the game, so to speak, the arena expands. I liken my writing life to being a many spoke wheel wherein the spokes aid and abet the hub, daily. If I’m not in the process of writing a novel, I’m promoting one that’s out, and let me say now, the best part of it all is answering questions such as the ones you’ve asked here because I actually stop and think it all through. Thank you for the joy of this interview and let me debunk the myth: I’m thrilled to report I’m busy!

JK:  There’s something very specific about the canon of Southern literature that is wholesome, haunted, antiquated and compelling. Do you have a theory of what that might be?

CF: It’d be so satisfying to say something brilliant here, but let’s leave that to Michael Farris Smith and Ron Rash. I love both Southern authors so much I can’t even speak. My answer can be found somewhere between Southern heritage and the South’s sultry climate. It’s that and what I love most about Southerners: they definitely know who they are. Southerners wear their identity like a badge of honor, and rightfully so.

JK:  You draw exquisitely on your tendency to “see the world from the outside in.” At what point did you recognize this as an ability?

CF: This circles us back to your first poignant question. It was moving at age ten from Minnesota to Memphis—disparate cultures, I think, that gave me my first taste of being an outsider. It was an indelible experience, profound to the point that I think it impacted my character. I will tell you that considering yourself an outsider isn’t a bad thing at all. To me, it’s a vantage point from which to celebrate, a perch from an aerial view to intuit all that’s unique in people, places, and things. This, in a nutshell, is why I write!

JK:  Thank you very much for this interview!

CF:  Fabulous questions! Thank you.

Mourning Dove

 

I want to share my latest news with you about my third traditionally published novel,  Mourning Dove, whose release date was June 29, 2018.  I am happy to share the news that just yesterday, Mourning Dove won its 7th book award. Above is a Mourning Dove video to show you sliding images of those 7 awards.

I went into the writing of Mourning Dove wanting to write about two subjects: the social mores of the Deep South as exemplified in the setting of the old guard, as its known, and the dynamic between siblings. What fascinates me the most about siblings is the idea that they come from the same history, are cut from the same cloth, yet often turn out differently. The question of why this is led me through the writing of Mourning Dove, and although I have never said this publically ( and probably never will) I wrote down three themes to guide me through the book, otherwise written without an outline. The themes were this: the search for home, the search for identity, and, very loosely, the search for God, as in finding some semblance of understanding as to who’s really in charge, along with the question of what it is that shapes a person; whether it’s nature or nurture?

And with regard to the South with all its traditions, history, and rife population of characters peacock proud to call themselves “Southern,” I thought it best to show the South through the eyes of two siblings named Millie and Finley Crossan, who were born in the North, and come to the South as outsiders during the formative stage of adolescence so they could view their environment without a filter while trying to fit into  the culture.

The sibling dynamic is a significant one to those of us lucky enough to be born to it. We learn who we are in relation to those closest to us, and when it comes to siblings, I believe there is a certain type of mirror imaging at play that helps to define us. I’ll say this about siblings: they never let you forget where you came from.

Mourning Dove’s book description says this:

“An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South.” Kirkus Book Reviews

The heart has a home when it has an ally.
If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.

But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?

Here is one poignant reader review of Mourning Dove:

“Style and substance are the two necessary ingredients any book must have. This book exemplifies both. I was charmed and delighted by the author’s descriptive abilities. Her use of language, metaphors, turns of phrase kept me turning each page. She can make a table sound interesting.

 

I made this book trailer to give the reader an idea of the setting of Mourning Dove.

I hope you enjoy watching the Deep South as I know it!

 

 

https://www.clairefullerton.com

 

 

 

 

 

Just Released: The Flying Cutterbucks by Kathleen Rodgers.

Kathleen Rodgers’ The Flying Cutterbucks is a wonderfully unusual, romp of a realistic ride through the tension of a presidential election. Author Kathleen Rodgers takes a firm stance and keeps it real with well-drawn women characters you won’t soon forget. Memories unfold, the past haunts and ghosts are laid to rest in this intricately woven story set on the outskirts of Pardon, New Mexico to such a nuanced degree that you’ll feel as if you’re there. A celebration of strong, resilient female characters, The Flying Cutterbucks roared onto my Kindle device and kept me riveted.

Beach party

Book Description: Decades ago, Trudy, Georgia, and Aunt Star formed a code of silence to protect each other from an abusive man who terrorized their family. One act of solidarity long ago lives with them still. With the election of a president who brags about groping women without their consent, old wounds and deep secrets come alive again, forcing hard truths to be told and even harder truths to be left to the dead.

On the outskirts of Pardon, New Mexico, Trudy returns to her mother, Jewel, to navigate an old house filled with haunting mementos of her father who went missing in action over North Vietnam. As she helps her mother sift through the memories and finally lay her father to rest, Trudy will do her own soul searching to say goodbye to the dead, and find her way along with the other women in her family, and through the next election.

About the Author: Born and raised in Clovis, New Mexico, Kathleen M. Rodgers is a novelist whose stories and essays have appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. 

Seven Wings to Glory, Rodgers’ third novel, deals with racism and war and won an Honorable Mention for War & Military in the 2017 Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards and was shortlisted for the 2017 Somerset Awards. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has garnered multiple awards, including the 2015 Gold Medal for literary fiction from Military Writers Society of America. 

Rodgers is also the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times.

She and her husband, Tom, a retired USAF fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, reside in a suburb of North Texas with two rescue dogs. After raising two sons, she  became a grandmother and is at  work on her fifth novel.

https://kathleenmrodgers.com/