Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Through European Eyes

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I have a chance to be in Europe this spring, and it has made me extra aware of the response of European readers to The Munich Girl

Susanne Weigand, a reader in Germany, writes: “I am German and both my parents have lived through WWII and it was something we often talked about in my family. And in my time at school we were taught a lot about the war and Nazism. Later I read a lot of articles and several books about this dark period of German history.

11892173_893470930739513_6113866801293912567_n“But for some reason I always shied away from learning more about Eva Braun, probably because I couldn’t understand why a young woman would willingly devote herself to a man like Hitler. So when I learned that Phyllis Edgerly Ring had written a book about her I became very curious.

“I like the picture that the author has drawn of Eva Braun, her pride and her ambition, her insecurities and loneliness, her devotion and heartbreaking friendship and the story of her life.

“But, and this is more important: This book is offering so much more. The story of three women (and only one of them is Eva) and how their lives crossed and intertwined. The story of a family and their complicated, but heartwarming connections. And even a love story I enjoyed. (And I seldom enjoy love stories, mostly they are too cheesy and sweet.)”

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Eva Braun, second from right, with members of her mother’s family.

Book blogger and reviewer Anne writes: “Growing up in the Netherlands, where every first week of May is basically dedicated to WWII, and with parents who were both born during the war (my mother even before Germany invaded Holland), I thought I was pretty well-informed on the topic. I studied History for two years in which, again, a lot of WWII was covered. Then I started reading this book and realized I still only know so little.

“I think I already knew who Eva Braun was when I was around 8 years old, but I never actually knew the face and the story behind the wife of Hitler. I always imagined she was a stern looking lady, with dark brown hair (maybe due to her last name as well) and a riding crop in her hand. Someone to match Hitler perfectly. Now look at the cover of this book. That’s actually Eva Braun.

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Eva Braun, near Berchtesgaden, 1940s.

“The Munich Girl tells us the story of three women: Anna (the main character), Peggy (Anna’s mother), and Eva Braun. … The story is told from three different perspectives: Anna’s life in 1995, and Peggy and Eva’s life pre- and post-wartime. There aren’t only fifty plus year old flashbacks, but also flashbacks within 1995 itself: before and after a plane accident (this is no spoiler because the book starts with Anna looking back at the accident) Anna is involved in.

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Chapel in Berchtesgaden – David Campbell photo.

“This book describes a journey towards finding out who Eva Braun was as a person and how that reflected on the lives of Anna and her mother. … I sometimes forgot I was reading a novel instead of a biography. Even though relatively little is known about Eva and her relationship with Hitler, extensive research and filling in the gaps with fiction make Eva come alive as if she has only died recently, instead of almost 71 years ago. …

It’s safe to say that Eva suffered from fear of abandonment. As Anna, later on in the story, says about her life with [her husband] Lowell:

It’s as if I have always felt, somehow, that I had to do the right thing, so he wouldn’t stop loving me. Wouldn’t leave.

I think this is what applied to Eva as well (and is actually a pretty big similarity when it comes to the relationships between Anna and Lowell, and Eva and Hitler).

Adi had given her a life she would otherwise never had known. She would not betray this generosity, or relinquish the honor of being one of the few who had this trust.’

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Page from photo album of Eva Braun.

Week by week, I watch in astonishment, and gratitude, as readers in many parts of the world receive the story of The Munich Girl, and offer their insights about it.

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70Find more about the book here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27914910-the-munich-girl#other_reviews

 


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Love like an inheritance

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“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you

like an inheritance,

and have faith that in this love

there is a strength and a blessing so large

that you can travel as far as you wish

without having to step outside it.”

~  Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

And then, there’s cake, too.


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Thank you, e-Books India

Ring Phyllis

Photo: Diane Brown

 

I was honored to be interviewed by e-Books India recently. It was fun to reflect a bit on the process that led to the publication of The Munich Girl.

Since writing and supporting authors is a big focus for this publication, I was asked such process-oriented questions as whether I approach writing by following structures and writing rules or write in a free flow way, and whether I have preferences about time of the day for writing, or particular settings in which to pursue it.

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Photo: Penny Sansevieri

“I definitely write in a free-flow way when I am capturing down a story. It is seldom in chronological order, at least not until certain segments begin to form themselves into pieces that show a relationship to each other and begin to reveal the story’s wholeness and coherence.

“It is a highly intuitive process for a long time, until enough takes shape and my inner editor can begin to apply both structure and logic.

“For the generative part of the process, I seem to work best in a very public environment like a coffee shop, in the early half of the day.

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Photo: Jane Crisi Tufts

“By the time I enter the revision aspect of the work, which I love (and I often go back and forth between the two in the rhythm of the way I work), I need to work in a more private, retreat-like setting, also in the early half of the day.

“I’m a true ‘morning person,’ rather like a farmer.”

 

Find the interview at:

http://e-booksindia.com/an-interview-with-author-phyllis-edgerly-ring/

 


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Grateful for A Literary Vacation

crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-BraunSeventy-one years ago this month, Eva Braun’s world, and life, were coming to their end as Germany succumbed to defeat and ruin.

From a bunker under Berlin, the 33-year-old, who had spent nearly half her life with Hitler, wrote her final letters to her younger sister, Gretl, and longtime friend, Herta.

EBmem9ivgqZ_DGGHKgWhco68gShe writes of preparing to die (she would commit suicide alongside Hitler eight days later), and her bewilderment at how things were ending; about dreams she’d long held, which weren’t ever going to come true.

Within a span of less than 36 hours, she would finally realize her longed-for dream and marry Hitler, then she’d pay the greatest possible price for that when she took her life beside him two days later. 424

I want to thank Book Blogger Connie Turner of A Literary Vacation blog for hosting my guest post about elements of the story in my novel, The Munich Girl, and how they relate with events that many in Europe — and the world — will be remembering over the next two weeks.

As the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day comes around almost three-quarters of a century after the guns in Europe were finally silenced, they remind us that what remained in the ruins was the task of rebuilding civilization, yet again.

 

Find the Guest Post here at A Literary Vacation blog: http://aliteraryvacation.blogspot.com/2016/04/guest-post-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring.html

 


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Some story behind the story

IMG_4080My thanks to videographer Maxen McCoy and to Exeter’s Water Street Bookstore for preserving my recent author visit for posterity –

waterlogoI’m especially grateful for the welcoming circle (well, irregular oval) of attendees that shared the evening with me, along with your great thoughts, reflections about The Munich Girl, and questions that helped the discussion dive into some of the novel’s deeper themes.

Thank you, Stef Kiper and Water Street Bookstore, for the real friend you are to readers and writers, and thanks to Maxen for  filming, and for offering me the chance to share an interview, as well.

Find the video of the March 23 author event here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LENxN8W379k


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Contemplation’s timeless echo

10649728_762622947167332_7985358488271189707_nThe young tree of my life was planted in a culture constrained by many limiting beliefs.

It believes there is not enough for everyone, that having is being, and that age is an ending.

It believes that it owns space, and place, and most often feels owned by time.

Friends from cultures close to the natural world remind me that, truly, it’s the reverse. Burg-Mauer-Wertheim

Whatever we may think, we are one with space, “owned by it,” as it were. But in the matter of time, the invention of our minds, we are free to take ownership, and choose.

In reflecting about space, and how to direct one’s time, artist Mark Tobey said:

“The dimension that counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. This inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of the balanced mind… and the search for an equilibrium is essential—to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space.”

And where is that balance to be found? In what longs for us to hear it, and to become the ear with which it is heard, as the wise visionary knew: 11224461_916383441781595_1541377696389172599_n

“Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.”

~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 

 


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Another view: Through readers’ eyes

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Publishing a book is a gateway to the unexpected in countless ways, as well as a nonstop curve of learning and discovery.

One of the most delightful parts of the experience is the way it reconnects you with people you know, and opens the door to a whole world of making new friends.

Reader Mary Spires and I met years ago at a writer’s conference but I haven’t seen her since she traveled half a world away and back. In her review at Goodreads, she called The Munich Girl “a story of love, power and the meaning of family” and wrote: “Readers see 1930s and ’40s Germany through the eyes of young women growing into adulthood. In the midst of increasing chaos, they fall in love, develop allegiances and make sacrifices. While family secrets unfold to the next generation, we see how their support for one another has allowed each to play out her role in a period of transition. These themes cross barriers of time, nationality and political persuasion.” munichgirl_card_front

Reader Linda Marie Marsh approached me very politely after I’d held a giveaway for the book and she hadn’t managed to be one of the winners. I’m so grateful that she proved the maxim: “If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no,” and, in her courteous courage, opened the door to a friendship that the book and I are so grateful to have.

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70“I KNOW it’s quite early in the year,” she wrote at Goodreads on February 1, “but I will say this anyway. The Munich Girl will be one of the best books I read this year … The author has taken and blended a mix of stories and created a whopper of historical fiction — well-kept secrets, unknown family ties, true friendship, and an ease of flowing back and forth in time — from the 1930s and ’40s to the present day. I have always wondered why Eva Braun Hitler was assumed to be a blonde ditz and historically shoved aside. Phyllis Ring uses words to make a page-flattened person become whole, become real, and gives us a 3-dimensional woman who had brains, beauty and just happened to fall for the charms of a sociopath. Yes, I loved that aspect, but there was so much more to the ‘what if’ novel. I devoured it.”

EvaHertaNA242EB27_39DReader Cynthia Minor is another book friend of the heart with whom I’ve been connected through the virtual world, and through a wonderful writer named Donna Baptiste. In her thoughts about the book, Cynthia wrote at Goodreads: “It is difficult to know where the ‘real’ ends and the ‘possible’ begins. Reading The Munich Girl was like taking a journey to another place and another time. … The story weaves itself across continents and decades, and is a beautiful image of the way our lives are not only connected to those we know and share life with, but with those in our past, whom we may or may not even be aware of. 424

“As the author states: ‘One could look at another’s life and judge or envy what it seemed to show. But things were almost always more complex than they appeared.’ This was and is still true, of everyone we meet.”

What a privilege it is for this writer, that the pathway of a book and its story leads to meeting so many thoughtful souls.

Find the Goodreads page for The Munich Girl here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27914910-the-munich-girl#other_reviews

 

 

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