On the eve of World War II, two sisters embark on a journey that changes everything.
William Morrow Paperbacks (July 27, 2021)
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In 1937 two estranged sisters are sent by their dying grandmother on a European trip to deliver messages to people from their grandmother’s past. I was transported to Paris, Venice, and Vienna through these pages. The authors are wonderful writers, highly skilled at drawing readers into the times and places they write about. The sisters travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the Hindenburg, which indicated that the ending was going to be dramatic. But the inner journey each sister takes is more impactful. They learn what it means to be a family, even when the family looks different from what they imagined.
I liked the format, alternating between each sister’s point of view with a few chapters from their grandmother’s point of view as she waits for their return. The voices were distinct and effective at showing their different personalities and reactions to events. There is a love interest for each sister but the authors do not take the easy way out with either. The sisters do not instantly fall into a man’s arms because of the romantic setting, even though they are told many times it could happen. I love how talented, strong-willed, but not impulsive these characters are. This story explores the importance of relationships in the midst of challenges, dangers, misunderstandings, and mishaps. You’ll enjoy this one!
Inspired by her father’s historical recount and stories shared with her during her youth, The Road We Took: Four Days in Germany 1933 is the epic tale of an American Boy Scout who discovers by coincidence four desperate Jewish citizens attempting to escape Nazi Germany.
September 2nd, 1933
Mr. Darcy: Hello Buster! My name is Mr. Darcy, I work for the US Federal Government, Customs Division, and I will conduct your interview today. You’ll have to tell me even before we begin, I see by your passport Buster is not your real birth name. How did you come by that name? And, how old are you?
Buster: Buster is a nickname given to me by my mom, after the barber gave me a Buster Brown haircut. You know, the image of the boy used in advertising to sell shoes? His haircut reminds me of someone putting a bowl over his head and trimming what exceeded the rim of the bowl! And indeed, I had a haircut like that once, at age 3. My father howled with laughter when he saw it. At that point, he started calling me “Buster” and it stuck. My legal given name is Raymond Davis Wellington III. You can see why Buster is so much easier! My age, I just turned 17 three days ago.
Mr. Darcy: As you know, I’m a Customs Agent, and it is my job to interview passengers of the SS Bremen returning from Europe, especially Germany. Our government is interested in what you saw while traveling through. It’s my understanding you spent four days in Germany, is that correct? Can you tell me why you were there to begin with?
Buster: Six weeks ago, my Boy Scout Troop #814 from Rochester, New York began our journey through Europe with our destination being Godollo, Hungary. We were travelling there to attend the 4th Boy Scout World Jamboree. We camped in the Royal Forest on the grounds of the Hungarian Monarch’s estate for two glorious weeks. We camped, fished, played soccer against a number of foreign teams. Thanks to Wolfie, we won all of our matches. He’s a brilliant player. A natural for the sport. Wolfie was one of the best parts of the journey, finding him in Vienna while we were on our way to Godollo. After the conclusion of the Jamboree, we headed to Germany. The port of Bremen to be exact, where our ship docked, our ship back to the US.
Mr. Darcy: Can you tell me more detail about what you witnessed while in Munich?
Buster: Mr. Darcy, no disrespect meant, but there is only one way to describe what happened in Munich.
Mr. Darcy: Go on.
Buster: All hell broke loose. To begin with, after the jamboree, our plan was to first return Wolfie to Munich, his father would be waiting for him. However, when we arrived, that wasn’t the only thing waiting for him. Then to make matters worse, there was a huge parade taking place right in front of our hotel. There were tanks and trucks and thousands of foot soldiers marching.
Mr. Darcy: This is what is of particular interest to me, the parade. Tell me about the troops. According to The Treaty of Versailles, Germany could not re-arm but apparently, the treaty was of no effect. There is one force behind this-Can you tell me who led this armament, who was behind this parade and show of force?
Buster: That’s easy-Hitler and the Nazis. The troops, the number was astounding. And the way they marched, I believe they call it, “goose-stepping”. With thousands and thousands of troops marching like this, their boot heels hitting the pavement in synchronicity, it sounded like a canon going off with each step. And there were hundreds of tanks, and trucks. My father told me, “It was as if the treaty of Versailles never existed.” On top of this show of force, there were Nazi Youth, thousands of them, all marching the same way.
Mr. Darcy: Tell me about the citizens, what was the reaction? Also, this boy Wolfie, was he a German boy?
Buster: Every building hung a Nazi banner, you know, the swastika, and the people lining the streets all had armbands and held flags of the Nazi symbol. It was like they were all in a trance, cheering and shouting in approval, smiling and chanting. Even small children! Like they were drugged. Wolfie was supposed to join the Hitler Youth, it was the law. All boys of a certain age had to quit other groups and join. But he didn’t.
Mr. Darcy: Why not?
Buster: Well, he wanted to remain in the Boy Scouts to attend the Jamboree even though it was forbidden.
Mr. Darcy: We have information that states anyone in opposition to the Nazis, any kind of objector or political adversary, anyone that is Jewish would face severe treatment, even death, did you witness this?
Buster: Oh, yes, yes indeed. It’s difficult for me to discuss. My father can speak of that in detail, you know he works for The State Department as Counsel, right?
Mr. Darcy: Yes, of course we do. Can you tell me one last thing about your journey, sum it all up?
Buster: To begin with, I feel like my eyes have been opened to a hatred I never knew existed. I guess you could say I’ve led a sheltered life up till this point. I’ve never seen brutality such as the kind I witnessed, and not just one incident. It was happening all over Germany, and my father told me about the instances, the events we didn’t see. To think that a man can dictate who can live and who can’t. That a person would have such hatred for Jewish people, the infirmed, anyone that didn’t match the German image and identity astounds me. I can’t understand it.
Aren’t we all just people, with the same thing running through our veins? This trip made me aware of so many things and I’ve undergone a change as a result. I will now watch out for the younger scouts in my troop, making sure they never have to go through what Ricky and Walter went through. Such life changing abuse. And then, there’s Maddie. Beautiful, gifted Maddie. Because of her, I will never judge a person based on their background, their religion, or any kind of disability. I’ve learned the Nazis murder people that aren’t like them. They want to take over the world and spread their poison throughout the world as we know it. We cannot let that spread or our world as we know it will be destroyed.
Mr. Darcy: Wise words, Buster. This concludes our interview. Your father is next. Thank you.
Cathy has spent over 40 years as a professional chef after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She was the first female Executive Chef for the Servico Corporation, where she served The Philadelphia Eagles, The Philadelphia Flyers and The Philadelphia 76’ers. Over the course of her career, Cathy capitalized her creative talents as a restaurant owner and partner, conceptualizing and creating brands for three successful startup businesses, Food Works, in Pittsford, New York, The Bagel Bin in Penfield, New York, and The Nick of Thyme in Brentwood, Tennessee. It was at the Nick of Thyme that Cathy developed long standing relationships within the music industry. Her clients included Donna Summer Sudano, Naomi Judd, Wynonna Judd, numerous Christian and country music artists, world-renowned wine collectors Billy Ray Hearn and Tom Black. After the sale of her business, Cathy cooked for and traveled extensively to movie locations with actress and activist Ashley Judd and her husband, three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti. She continues to cook privately for exclusive clients and friends.
When she is not working as a professional chef, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking for her family and special friends, taking photos of nature and food, gardening, watching open wheel racing, watching movie classics from the golden age of cinema on TCM, and chasing her two cats, Princess Poopie Peanut Head and Tout Suite. The Road We Took is Cathy’s first novel and partially conceived from her father’s journal of daily writings and documentations along with the narratives and tales he told Cathy as a young girl. https://www.cathyalewis.com
This article originally appeared in the Morning News in Haxford, England on Thursday, June 30, 1910.
An Interview with Pignon ScorbionBy Billy Arthurson
Our Chief Police Inspector, Pignon Scorbion, has been in town for just under two fortnights, yet in that short amount of time he has solved three baffling mysteries and apprehended the criminals responsible for those misdeeds. He has achieved near instantaneous recognition and celebrity with Haxford’s residents for both his prowess in solving difficult crimes and for his bespoke colorful linen suits and unique custom-made black and white shoes. I met with him recently to learn more about his background, his methods, and his unconventionality.
Chief Inspector, you cut quite the arresting figure around town. I wonder if you’d tell me about your attire.
I find that the clothing worn in England in this day and age by the male members of our population is rather tedious and dull, with the hues of the garments they sport being drab and generally uninspired. It is not surprising to me that it is so, as the coloration of mammalian animals in general lack bright colors thereby allowing them to blend into their environment and be less prone to being observed and attacked. I, on the other hand, have no issue at all standing apart from the masses. I welcome being distinguished from the commonplace and the rabble as I find it to be beneficial that the good citizens whose existences that I safeguard can easily detect my presence.
My suits are fashioned by one of the finest couturiers in our fair land who has precisely followed my instructions to a fault in using only the finest linens and wools, tailoring them to fit me in a manner that leaves little gap between the fabric and my skin, and utilizing colorations that do set me apart when I am out and about. Each pair of the black and white shoes that I have now been sporting for well over two decades are crafted by an exceptional souter in Liverpool whose singular abilities, I am certain, will one day be recognized throughout the land and doubtless beyond the Continent.
I have at times been referred to as a fashion plate, and I vastly prefer that designation over being described as one who sports dowdy or uninspired clothing. Most fortunately, because of the athletics that I regularly participated in until quite recently, my frame can still support a close-fitting style of a wardrobe without it appearing to be inappropriate for a gentleman of my years.
Where did your tendency to be unconventional stem from?
That trait that was handed down to me by both my mater and my pater, although more so from the latter. Father did not conform to the norms of his times, and never allowed the scorn or derision of others to influence his decisions or actions. While he was initially ridiculed for the venture that that he initiated in which he hired out dromedaries to those wishing to traverse Egypt’s desert sands, he persevered in his belief that such an enterprise would be profitable and was proven correct. The same can be said for his excursions into the selling of chocolates and sailing from his native country to the lands at the far shores across the Atlantic Ocean. He never embraced the ordinary, nor shirked from taking risks. He was an individualist and through and through.
Mother was not quite as bold as he, but for all the years that I spent domiciled in their abode, she stressed upon me the importance of one thinking for themselves and espoused the belief that an individual need not conform to the commonplace to succeed in their life. She, like Thelma Smith, attired herself in costumes unlike those that the vast majority of her female contemporaries had clothed themselves in. She implanted in me the beauty of individuality and the richness of expressing the distinctiveness of one’s persona.
You are obviously quite skilled at detecting and solving complex enigmas. Have you ever been contacted to do so for Scotland Yard, especially now that they are in their new quarters and have expanded their force?
Rather than residing in our capital city, I much prefer the essence of the English countryside where the air is fresher, the people less jaded, and where I can devote greater attention to fewer crimes. It is in this environment that I am able to have more of an impact on, and truly better safeguard, the residents who I am sworn to protect. Additionally, as you have already observed, I am an individualist, and that is not a trait that sits well with, or is encouraged by, the Met.
I have been asked to assist, and lend my singular talents in observation and deduction, to investigations that were conducted by the Yard, both when I was but a constable in Chamfield and in my last chief inspector position prior to locating in Haxford, and I did so with productive results in both instances. However, my interest lies in serving the citizens of lesser-populated hamlets and towns than the major metropolises of our country.
Additionally, having now been reunited with Calvin Brown and greatly enjoying the company of the enchanting Miss Thelma Smith, I am rather pleased with my current situation in this locale, and envision myself remaining here for quite an extended period. After all, where else would I find such an interesting and capable group of associates as assist me in the barbershop? And, lastly, I would be remiss if I did not also comment on the pleasure I derive from your presence and the support and benefits I receive from your excellent chronicling, Billy Arthurson.
You have mentioned to me in a prior conversation that you regularly travel to London to attend the theatre. What type of performances do you most prefer?
I have a penchant for ones that contain music, first and foremost. That was fostered on me by my parents, as it was a passion of theirs, and I was initially captivated by that style of theatre by their gift to me on the occasion of my twelfth birthday. They brought me to an early performance of the marvelous HMS Pinafore by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The music, the scenery, the environment, and the staging were unlike anything I had witnessed up to that point in my life, and it left me with a hunger to have that experience on a more regular basis.
Since that time, I have attended every major production of the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, with The Mikado, being the one I treasure the most. Others that I cherish are Clarke and Slaughter’s Alice in Wonderland, Monckton and Talbot’s The Arcadians, and The Proflgate, which I attended at the very opening of the Garrick Theatre. I do also attend and enjoy – albeit to a lesser degree – those plays that are bereft of a score, with my singular favorite being The Importance of Being Ernest by that great dramatist, Oscar Wilde.
Do you keep any animals as pets?
While I would enjoy the companionship of a foxhound, beagle, or a paisley or bull terrier, the hours I keep, and the daily routine of my position are not conducive to maintaining a tail-wagger. Felines have never truly appealed to me as I possess more than enough independence for one household, and other manner of fish, amphibians or warm-blooded creatures do not inspire me to possess one as an accompaniment to my life. Possibly at such time as I no longer am active on the force, I might consider augmenting my existence and quarters with a four-legged, obedient friend.
When you are not engaged in enforcing our laws, what diversions do you enjoy?
I do rather enjoy a fine brandy, as does Calvin Brown I might add, and I engage in a game of chess whenever Arnold Hill and I have schedules with matching periods of inactivity – which is much too infrequently. My former spouse, Katherine, provided me with an appreciation of art, especially paintings done in oils, and as a younger lad I was an accomplished hooker in the sport of rugby. I consume as many books as I am able on as many varied subjects as I can find – and in that regard, Miss Smith’s bookshop is a treasure trove – and lastly, I do particularly relish a well-cooked repast, especially a succulent Yorkshire Pudding and hearty Sunday Roast.
Rick Bleiweiss started his career in music as a rock performer, producer of over fifty records, songwriter, and record company senior executive, and worked with Clive Davis, Melissa Etheridge, the Backstreet Boys, Kiss, U2, Whitney Houston, the BeeGees, and other industry legends.
Since 2006 as a publishing company executive, he has acquired works by bestselling and award-winning authors including James Clavell, Gabriel García Márquez, Rex Pickett, Leon Uris, and Nicholas Sansbury Smith, among others.
In his latest creative endeavor, Rick has crafted the Pignon Scorbion historical mystery series—blending his love of the past with the twisty deliciousness of a whodunit.