Bittersweet Memories

Bittersweet Memories ISBN: 9781933826523, PMI Books a novel by Lynn Osterkamp.

Plot: The protagonist, Anna’s family has strong roots in Helena, Montana where her grandfather, Edmund Weller, found gold in 1883 and began the family that became ranchers, lawyers and politicians. Her father started Weller & Associates in 1940 which she joined in 1966 after graduating from law school followed by her brother Dan in 1970. She went on to become a judge and now is 73-year-old judge retiree caring for her husband Jerry who is quite frail and in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. She has just lost her dearest friend Martha with whom she has been inseparable except for the years they were at different colleges. They had returned, married their hometown boyfriends and began their adult lives, much of which were the mundane activities associated with life of marriage and professional activity – Martha’s family were in banking. Along with their constant relationship, Anna’s children, their spouses and their children, and brother Dan constantly remained in close contact. Unfortunately her sister Sandra became a Nun and would not even speak with her and another brother Ned and gone to the west coast, became a neuroscience professor and also completely lost contact with the family. The loss of these siblings, how and why it occurred and the reactions of family members at the time as well as of a much later period are presented in some detail from their point of view as well as that of Anna who always has indulged in positive, although as we learn, often not quite correct memories. The story culminates in a quite thorough family discussion of the surprisingly positive result of Ned’s extensive use of his training, of Sandra’s ultimate reaction and Anna’s final acceptance of the fact that every family may not be able to attain the beautiful family existence as she remembers pictured on TV for the Walton’s or similarly portrayed groups.

Discussion: The author has set forth a tale that, although somewhat depressing, many readers will find quite enchanting. Her characters belong to a closely knit family but are interestingly portrayed as being quite diverse in their attitudes, actions and reactions and neuroscientist Ned’s device, along with all accompanying details and discussion, presents an intriguing basis upon which to build the tale. Regrettably, knowledgeable hunters and mystery devotees will be disturbed by the number of unanswered questions that arise from this basic element of the story.

3* Depressing but enchanting for many; numerous questions for hunters and/or mystery buffs

Voor Elise, Memories of the ‘Lo

Voor Elise, Memories of the ‘Lo ISBN: 9781457552632, first offered by Dog Ear Publishing, a memoire in e-book by Denise Keustermans and Henry Sienkiewicz.

This is a story “about seven children left orphaned after their parents’ deaths” and their struggles “to find their own paths, paths that went across borders and oceans.” And “They each found their own route without losing sight of one another.” The storyteller’s grandfather was “the eldest of the seven; Elizabeth (Elise) was the fifth in line” and the person around whom most of this story centers. It begins in the very small Belgium town of Kessel-Lo (‘Lo) in the early 1900’s with the hard life of the poorer families, progresses through the brutal effects of WW I and proceeds to her meeting an American soldier. It then follows her marriage and move to a small Texas farm where life not only is brutally hard but increasingly difficult in the extreme because of a dominant mother-in-law and a husband who drinks heavily and is having an affair. Her subsequent activity is presented in some detail along with her constant attempts to maintain contact with other family members, especially with her often responding brother Michael. Vignettes of the grandfather are included as are pieces about the other members of the family. An Epilogue provides bits about the story teller’s husband as well as her children, their activities and that of the grandchildren.

The memoire ends: “Rather than diminishing over the years and across the miles, our connections have deepened. Elise’s children have remained in contact with their cousins. Our ties to the ‘Lo have only deepened, and the families across the oceans are as one. In the words of Elise’s pastor, we have let peace and happiness rule our hearts and we are glad that we could call this lovely woman our mother.” This is followed by Authors’ Notes which for some undefined reason regrettably stop in mid-sentence.

3* 4*Depressing but poignant for readers appreciating mitigating effect of familial ties on hardships.