Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


What are the legacies that outlast war?

23e8d548b431a8370101c479685e1ee6My novel, The Munich Girl, is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was Hitler’s mistress, and later wife, Eva Braun.

But its themes are really about two realities that matter a great deal to my heart.

The first is the experience of reunion with and “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter in our life. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so. That privilege also allowed me to see that the benefits of achieving this inner reunion always extend far beyond our own small selves. MunichGirlWebAd

The novel’s second and particularly fascinating theme, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in the process of how our inner reunion occurs, often in highly unexpected ways.

As a child in Germany, and when I returned to visit as an adult, I heard little about the years of the Second World War — mostly just “thank God it’s behind us.”

Yet, similar to characters in the story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. 11072937_833787143357991_5837640068723456300_n

They found the way to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering.

And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

I believe that the example in their lives applies more than ever in our world, and that we’ve barely tapped into the spiritual gifts and lessons they offer. 11695795_500214500133570_7923245893122866371_n

As Elizabeth Sims, novelist and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest noted in her kind comments about the novel:

“Love can manifest itself in enigmatic—and unexpected—ways.”

And, as one character in the novel observes:

“Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good.

So that there can be good things again.”

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of The Legacies That Outlast War at:



Life, love — and a little Hitler

A growing number of book reviewers and bloggers have been giving The Munich Girl their reading time lately, bless them.

I didn’t think I would like this book when I read what it was about,” reader Marie Duess writes in her review at Amazon.  “And I will admit that I felt somewhat uncomfortable while reading it from time to time because I was actually fascinated with it and enjoying it–but how could I? It was about Adolf Hitler’s mistress/wife. Aren’t we supposed to hate her? Hate all things Hitler?”

Marie echoes what a number of readers surely experience when faced with the prospect of a book about Hitler’s mistress, and eventual wife, Eva Braun. eva-braun-scottie-1

“I believe that this book will be one of my more controversial book reviews; not because of the rating, but simply because of the fact it deals with Eva Braun, yes, the wife of that German swine,” writes reviewer and book blogger Svetlana at her Svetlana’s Reads and Views blog. “I was a bit nervous beginning to read the book because I wasn’t sure how that German swine would be portrayed; would he be portrayed in a way that would make me upset, or would he be portrayed in a way that is accurate? ” She notes that to her relief, this isn’t his story at all, but focuses on the lives of its three women, and also “why and how women give themselves up for men’s ambitions.”ebmonogram1

Reviewer Chris Lovegrove picked up on this, too, along with something few reviewers have mentioned yet — the fact that the novel “revolves around symbols which underscore the significances that humans attach to life events. There is Eva’s monogram of an intertwined E and B resembling both a butterfly and a vierblättriges Kleeblatt or four leaf clover; the latter’s often regarded as emblematic of faith, hope, love and luck, the former a symbol of metamorphosis.

Eva_mk_R1B-1“Then there is the poorly executed portrait of Eva by an admirer, a painting that has been in Anna’s mother’s possession since the war. Photographs recur over and over as vital links with past lives (they also punctuate the text); fire appears as if a kind of baptism to a new life; and dreams form another leitmotif, seeming to blend the past and future as dreams so often do.”

Chris Lovegrove’s review goes straight to the book’s heart in so many ways, including that “essentially though this novel is about love; and it’s also about coming home. And of course sometimes the two can be the same thing.”

Find his insightful review at:


and Svetlana’s good thoughts about the book at:



The cup is … refillable


Georges De Feure, “Ferme au bord du Zuiderzee, 1910.


Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life and less attached to it.

~ Ram Dass


11892078_1011069658923828_8122238579020981986_nWhatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair.

Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows.

You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path.

Be grateful! It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want, thank before having what you want.

 ~ Shams Tabrizi


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Just an ordinary Munich girl



What led me to write a book about Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife), Eva Braun?

It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role she had played finally came to light:

“Why her, just an ordinary Munich girl?”

I had a chance to ponder these questions again during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.  The IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. MunichGirlWebAd

An extra treat there this year (and there were many) was hearing CBS Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles as keynote speaker. Her blend of insight and humor lingers and encourages me, still. It was right in line with IWWG’s focus on the development of our  “inner ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events, and emotions”. If you’re a woman and a writer, check out: http://www.iwwg.org.

In a wonderful memoir workshop led by author Maureen Murdock, I had a chance to ponder some of those “subtle interconnections” as I reflected again on that Eva Braun question. In one workshop activity, I wrote: “What a paradox that she often spoke very directly to — even scolded — her tyrant of a lover, yet also ceded her entire life to him. crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-Braun

“Who knows which of her unnamed roles was really the more significant, in her time? The buffer she sometimes provided for others around him? The diffuser of tension she so often was, or the soother of circumstances that others undoubtedly came to rely on during the self-will-run-riot mania of a self-appointed despot?

“She seems such an emblem of what so many women do, have done, throughout the ages. Not able to enact their own potential in a direct and visible way, they must resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.”

In Eva Braun’s case, that invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

f942aa87bc9784474cbe5fa1c5b1915aIronically, because she was considered so insignificant, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly protested to the contrary — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life.

One he never would have had without her.

A question that still lingers for me is, did she?

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here:



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Goodreads Giveaway for The Munich Girl


With fellow author, Kelly DuMar at the annual summer conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.

Enter to win —  Goodreads Giveaway:

About the book: The Munich Girl


Runs August 22 through September 14.

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Thank you, Let Them Read Books blog



Blogger (and gifted cover designer) Jenny Q. kindly included a guest post of mine at her Let Them Read Books historical-fiction blog last week.

The post’s theme came back to the same focus I find so much response about The Munich Girl does:

“The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: ‘Why Eva Braun?’

“The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or ‘redeem’ her, or how she is perceived.

She simply makes a fine motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that. 42590298_5_l

“She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices — choices to serve good — when she could.

04_The-Munich-Girl_Blog-Tour-Banner_FINAL“She also made ones that served neither herself nor others very well. Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive? Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? These are themes I wanted to explore.

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nMy thanks to Jenny, and to commenter Eric, who has read The Munich Girl and describes it as a story  “about the human spirit, survival, friendship, love, betrayal, discovery and denial.”

You can find my guest post at the Let Them Read Books Blog:


More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War:


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Meeting The Munich Girl

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Eva Braun in the late 1930s.

I’m meeting some awfully nice book bloggers this month as a result of my participation in a blog tour.

First up was Dianne Ascroft, an author originally from Canada, now in the UK. Her novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, the story of a German boy’s journey to manhood in war-torn Germany and post war Ireland, is now in my reading pile as eagerly anticipated reading.

Dianne hosted my novel in an interview, Meeting the Munich Girl, in which she asks creative questions. Here are a few that deal very directly with the experience of writing historical fiction:



How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

PER: As closely as possible when it came to information from the WWII era and the years that preceded it in Germany. As my husband says, if the characters ride a train on a certain line at a certain time of day, there had to really be one. There’s a lot of factual information in The Munich Girl and I’ve heard from readers that it can be hard to know where the factual leaves off and the fiction begins. It’s easy to know where: in the emotional lives of the characters, including those people that history remembers. That’s where my own attempt to read between the lines of daily life watched for the signs of interior life I could recognize and convey as the story revealed itself. 10846002_10203363939206472_3788798479688539486_n

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

PER: This was one of the most delightful parts, for me, as I spent extended spans of time in various locales in Germany that are a part of the story. Also, in the time I spent poring over Eva Braun’s photographs and films, I got to know both the interiors and exteriors of the settings as they appeared during the 1930s and ‘40s. A fun element of research was what has become, for me, a growing collection of vintage postcards that show scenes from that era in many of the settings of the story.


Eva Braun and friend’s at Hitler’s Berghof. Image courtesy of ThirdReichinRuins.com.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

PER: I love stories where there’s a balance that hints at what a world with equality might look and feel like. This novel has a lot more scope for female characters. At its heart is a friendship between two women, one of whom was a megalomaniac’s mistress, and the effect their emotional intimacy had in each of their lives, and in the lives of those who came along in a next generation.

You can f ind the rest of Dianne’s interview here:

Meeting The Munich Girl