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Yet another harrowing read has emerged from the ruins of Nazi Germany: White Rose Black Forest (2018) by Eoin Dempsey. From the first paragraph to the last, high drama ignites questions, teases out near misses, and displays murderous violence. Grave concern for the survival of nurse Franka Berger and John Lynch, a wounded American spy wearing the captain‘s uniform of the Luftwaffe, heightens the suspense.

What gives this novel substance, though, is Dempsey’s incorporation of the White Rose—a 1942 resistance movement made up of University of Munich students and their philosophy professor. For eight months they printed and distributed pamphlets informing the populace of Hitler’s true agenda, until caught and many executed by the Gestapo. Among them was blonde, blue-eyed Franka, only spared because of her Aryan features and the prospects of her birthing children to support the Third Reich’s Thousand Year Millennium.

And the wintry Black Forest, a large mountainous region in southwest Germany, serves as a volatile character: Its blizzards, ice storms, moonlit nights, and freezing temperatures tense the plight of the pursued and their pursuers.

Donovan’s judiciously selected images and terse dialog imprint this riveting story upon his readers. With Franka and John, we identify with their bone-shuddering cold, exhaustion, hunger, and thirst; with them, we recoil from the Gestapo’s cunning.

In my perception, the noteworthy merit of White Rose Black Forest lies in activating psychic wars within our depths, where Gestapo-like insanity lurks, searching for lapses in consciousness.

In my present circumstances, vigilance is key.

 

Since its 2004 inception in Baltimore, Maryland, Chronic Pain Anonymous has offered a heartening response to sufferers around the world who embrace the gentle discipline of 12-Step recovery. Social media and word of mouth spread this spiritual approach to the afflicted, often shunted from one doctor or health care practitioner to another. Experience subsequently led to the inclusion of chronic illness as it, too, exacerbates mental, emotional, and spiritual disorders that worsen physical pain.

Fifteen years have passed, with anonymous members reflecting upon their cumulative knowledge; from these efforts emerged Recipe for Recovery – A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous. Its founder Dale L. articulated its premise to read: “…based upon faith, humility, and the ability to turn over problems of our life to a greater power, without trying to control or direct the outcome.”

This guidebook is necessarily slim to accommodate the limited energies of its readers. The recipe motif works well: a list of Ingredients (virtues) critical to working each Step opens each chapter, followed by the Description (photo of the desired product), the Directions (the work involved) followed by Questions (to be written), and What It Looks Like (members’ practice of the Step). Of necessity, the words are sparse, though not without affording a spiritual wallop.

Daily meetings, via phone, Skype, and Zoom continue forging this spiritual fellowship through which Higher Power transforms psyches: Life is still full, despite physical affliction.

A member since September 2017, I depend upon this gentle discipline, underscored by daily phone contact with my sponsor. Within each twenty-four hours, I remain largely content as I wait out my time.

 

 

Readers can move an author’s hand to further flesh out a significant character depicted in one of her books. This happened to Heather Morris in her historical novel, The Tattooist at Auschwitz (2018). Within the wake of this New York Times Best Seller, millions of emails asked about Cilka, a close friend of Gita, another Slovakian Jew in the Nazi death camp.

Subsequent research afforded minimal information about Cilka Klein (1926-2004), fluent in six languages, outstanding for her physical beauty, and wise beyond her sixteen years. Not only did she survive nightly rapes by two senior commandants, not only was she responsible for the women in Hut 25 before being gassed, she survived until the camp’s 1945 liberation by the Soviet Army. However, her new interrogators judged her a collaborator and sentenced her to fifteen years of hard labor at the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia.

 Here, Cilka’s Journey (2019), the novel begins, embellished by Morris’s secondhand research. Sparse prose engages her readers’ involvement as we follow Cilka, hardened to the core, her senses jaundiced, bereft of any vestige of the feminine. Yet, she adjusts, carefully, among her new captors and hut mates. Despite starvation diets, ragged clothing, long and brutal winters, despite death claiming overworked victims, Cilka’s presence empowers those around her to feel, even smile. Years pass. Occasional laughter trips the nightly gloom in their hut while crocheting threads torn from bed sheets into wall decorations.

Central to Cilka’s psychic transformation are a woman doctor, Yelena Georgiyevna, and Alexandr, another inmate. Through them, Cilka envisions a personal future that softens her into the loving woman she was destined to become.

Cilka’s Journey is a significant read for those involved in the Sacred work of transformation, one day at a time.

 

 

Available on Amazon

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