Grandmothers

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I never knew my paternal grandmother. She died of pneumonia when my father was eight. He didn’t really tell me much about her until later in his life, so it wasn’t until I was already in my late thirties that I discovered she was Jewish. For some reason that rather vital piece of information had been kept a secret within the family. That’s so often how it is with families – by the time it gets to you the original reasons for secrets and ancient grudges and broken alliances are all lost in the murky mists of time and forgetfulness.

There is very little on record about who my grandmother was. The photograph I have is the only one that was ever taken of her, as far as I know, and I didn’t see it until my father began to talk about her, and describe who she was for him. He was the youngest child in a large family, and her death had a profound effect on him which resonated throughout his life.

One of his older sisters was married with a daughter about his age, and when their mother died she took over the task of parenting him, as their father could only cope with his brother Dick who was about a year older than him. I think my father lost touch with his deepest identity at that point, and spent the rest of his life trying to rediscover it.

He spoke of his mother as a kind and gentle woman, who was often unwell. As a result of an accident when she was much younger she only had one functioning lung, so it’s not surprising that pneumonia saw her off eventually. When I became seriously ill with pneumonia myself some years ago, eighteen months after my father died, I finally realised how terrible a death that must have been. It’s like drowning inside your own body. For years I’d had a persistent fantasy of drowning, as powerful as a memory. It made me ponder about time, and how unstable it sometimes seems.

My father told me that when he was a boy she used to talk about heaven as a place in the sky, high above the clouds, and that after she died he used to imagine that she was there, transformed into one of the twinkling stars he could see at night – always looking down on him, and though remote reassuringly still present within the universe. That must have given him great comfort, although by the time I was born he had revised his belief system somewhat and turned instead to a more humanistic atheism.

I somehow always knew without having been told about his lack of extended mothering, because I sensed the Abandoned Lost Boy in him – a projection I brought with assiduous regularity to a number of intimate relationships in adult life, with varying degrees of resulting disaster. You cannot rescue Lost Boys, so I came to realise, and if you don’t watch out you become a candidate for their projection of Abandoning Mother. Still, we live and learn.

When the photograph of my absent grandmother eventually emerged from wherever it had lain hidden for so many years, I searched in her image for something recognisable, something I could glean about her character to relate to. I could see in her features the genetic inheritance I carried and had passed on to my children and grandchildren. It’s true that we always find what we are looking for, and perhaps if I hadn’t known the family connection it wouldn’t have seemed so obvious. Although that pose I see in her photograph is uncannily like the one my father so often struck when he was ruminating over something, and I realise that, quite unconsciously, I do it too.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be her, to live in the age she did when being a Jewess married to an Irish Protestant was something not to shout about, to bear all those children and manage a family in what nowadays would have been considered poverty, to be physically compromised in a time when there was no National Health Service and far less understanding about how to avoid and survive diseases that so frequently turned out to be fatal. I contrasted my non-relationship with her with the one I had enjoyed with my maternal grandmother, which was rich with intimacy, laughter and affection right up to her death at the age of 86, and for the first time I appreciated what I had missed.

And yet… we carry our parents and grandparents within us, not simply in our genes, but in what has been introjected from our relationship with them. So I’m wondering whether she is like the dark side of my moon, the unknown aspect of the feminine, the part that is secret, hidden away, loaded with so many untold stories, struggling to survive and doomed to death by drowning. But of course she is also the part that continues to shine her tiny light in the fathomless dark of the night sky, promising the reassurance of eternity.

Review of ‘Amazing Grace’ by Robin Chambers

Amazing Grace by Robin Chambers

Robin Chambers hooked and reeled me in with the first book in his Myrddin’s Heir series ‘A Wizard of Dreams’ and immediately after finishing it I bought the second, ‘Amazing Grace’, eager to find out what happens next. I can see that this will be the pattern until I have caught up with all Gordon’s adventures in time, outer and inner space, the Land of the Forever Young, and the worlds of fairy, myths and legends. It promises to be a long haul, thank goodness, and I’m looking forward to every minute of it.

In this second book we come to understand more deeply Gordon and his fascinating alter ego/guardian angel Zack (a character that as a psychotherapist I find particularly intriguing.) We met Grace at the end of Book 1, and in Book 2 she shares the stage with Gordon as his comrade along with Zoe, her own spirit companion – or however else we might define these other worldly aspects of the children. They do defy categorization, which adds to the intrigue! Robin Chambers cleverly manages to keep the story-line rooted in modern everyday life with its moral dilemmas and challenging lessons, while shifting our attention periodically to the world of dreams and other realities – which merge and knit wonderfully together.

Any child (or anyone who remembers their childhood) will recognize the difficult issues that arise, such as finding a way to withstand sadistic teenage bullies already on their way to becoming hardened thugs. Gordon and Grace and their friends Nick and Amanda are given by means of various magic the power to deal effectively and compassionately with many of the everyday problems against which children generally feel powerless. Their mission, fully supported by the forces of Good they encounter, which include a troubled Mother Theresa continuing her work in the spirit world, is to make the earth a better, safer, happier place.

They discover in the course of the book what their own individual special powers are – Grace is an intuitive telepath who can promote healing, and Gordon is… well, Gordon is the most extraordinary boy, destined for great things yet humble with it. How could you not love him for that? We also witness the way their parents come to terms with the powers the children possess, and help them achieve what they need to as well as fully appreciating their gifts. What child doesn’t long to be perfectly understood and accepted in this way?

Once again I am impressed by the psychological and emotional validity of Robin Chambers’ writing. He understands children so well, and is able to teach with a humorous, gentle touch. I learned even more new things through reading this second book, was reminded of some I’d half forgotten, and had my imagination tickled by many of the ideas he introduces. I love the literary references, the wordplay and the humour, as well as the alternative worlds he plays with, which all manage to seem utterly believable within the context of the story. His books are so entertaining and clever, and at times touchingly insightful, and keep me gripped to the very last page and beyond… which is why I’ll be reading the third in the series, ‘The Quality of Mercy’ very soon.

You can buy Amazing Grace on kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CKKTSG0

Robin Chambers

Find out more about Robin Chambers and the rest of his books at his Authors Page on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Robin-Chambers/e/B00CYLM20O

Review of ‘Dying for a Living’ by Kory M. Shrum

Dying for a living

By the time I’d reached half way through ‘Dying for a Living’ I was already quite in love with Jesse Sullivan. She is my kind of heroine: feisty, headstrong, and entirely her own person: a loner with a dark, enigmatic past and an ambiguous sexual orientation. She also doesn’t suffer fools, and has an impatient disregard for rules.

She has good reason to be cautious. In an unlikely yet utterly believable alternative universe she is one of the limited but increasing numbers of Necronites, born with a genetic condition that means they cannot die – unless their brain is completely separated from their body. By a fluke, it has been discovered that they can take on the death of another person and subsequently be revived, over and again, apparently never ageing.

This ability was initially exploited by the military, and then utilised by an organisation that supposedly safeguards their interests – as long as they continue working as death replacement agents when each new assignment is given to them. The United Church (an amalgamation of all religions) is orchestrating a fierce campaign against Necronites – ostensibly because they are an abomination against the natural order of things. But who is responsible for the sudden spate of Necronite murders? There are ways to destroy them, and someone has made it their mission to hunt them down and kill them all. This is the basic premise on which the book rests. What follows is breathtakingly absorbing.

Kory M. Shrum’s skill as a writer is such that I entered this fabricated paranormal reality without a qualm or a backward glance. Her attention to dialogue and characterisation is masterful. The people in the book are immediately real people with strong identities, interacting with one another in sometimes unpredictable ways – just as real people so often do. As a result the storyline kept me on my mental toes throughout the admittedly sometimes confusing convolutions of the unfolding conspiracy drama.

Once I was thoroughly hooked on Jesse and ready to understand her more deeply, the complicated back story began to emerge, opening up more questions as fast as it answered them. As I began to approach the final denouement I was preparing myself to be disappointed at leaving Jesse’s world, with still so many threads left hanging – but by a happy coincidence on the very day I reached the end of final chapter the second book in the series, ‘Dying by the hour’, was launched. I went straight to Amazon and bought it.

You can find more about Kory M. Shrum and all her books at http://www.amazon.com/Kory-M.-Shrum/e/B00IQWJLLI

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