With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It’s been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn’t pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she’s drawn–reluctantly at first–into a circle of friends.
There’s diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers’ spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place.
As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit–a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John’s death threaten Cate’s newfound peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms’ stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.
I’m not usually easily swayed by covers – a consequence of reading on a kindle, I think – but I fell in love with the cover of Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen as soon as I saw it. The book description drew me in further – along with the cover quote from Jacquelyn Mitchard, whose books I’ve always enjoyed. And when Ariella proved to be one of the nicest authors I’ve dealt with, it was immensely frustrating that I just couldn’t fit in the reading.
Sweet Breath of Memory is published by Kensington Publishing (distributed by Random House) on 28th June, and is available for pre-order though Amazon in the UK and US. I’m delighted to welcome Ariella as my guest on Being Anne…
In Sweet Breath of Memory, the protagonist ponders, “…how smells trigger dormant memories and bridge the past. And how we so often allow those bridges to rot through. Or burn them outright.” I’ve come to appreciate the evocative nature of scent after spending time in my home’s memory room – my name for a space filled with boxes of ordinary looking things that can resurrect the past.
The box that drew my eye this weekend exhaled a breath of trapped air as I lifted the lid. My gaze caught on a cream-coloured National Trust bag that held a glass container with a cap the color of new growth. I fingered the raised font:
Lily of the Valley
by Norfolk Lavender
before pulling off the cap. The bottle appeared empty but maybe – just maybe – it held an echo of that flowery scent I remembered so well.
Incredibly, it did.
As I inhaled, time telescoped and I was back at medieval Ightham Mote – not the gift shop where I’d bought the cologne, but inside the house that inspired historical novelist Anya Seton to write Green Darkness. I’d discovered that tale of forbidden love (between a monk and a young girl), reincarnation and murder, when I was a teen. An insatiable reader of Victoria Holt, Norah Lofts, Mary Stewart and the American Seton, my heart had often traveled to England. It would be twenty years before I made the trip myself. I’ve done so many times since, but that first visit with my mother and sister was painted in primary colours. Canterbury, London, Hever Castle, Chartwell, Sissinghurst. And Ightham Mote.
Such is the power of that cologne bottle that it called to mind our special trip to that moated manor house. In my mind’s eye, I saw the cobblestoned courtyard alive with birdsong and the hum of insects. And I felt my family about me as I completed a journey begun so many years before.
The girl who’d read Green Darkness understood that storytelling turns the everyday magical by stopping time and keeping reality at bay. She’d seen how great fiction entices us to lift our gaze from the ground beneath our feet and seek the promise of distant horizons. And she’d dreamed – oh how she’d dreamed – of the day she might call herself a novelist.
Thank you Ariella – from an equally insatiable reader of those wonderful books in my youth. Ariella’s blog tour continues – do visit some of the other stops:
About the author (from Amazon.com)
A native of Bergen County, New Jersey, Ariella now lives in New England but her dream self resides in County Mayo, Ireland. The daughter of a school teacher/librarian, she doesn’t remember learning to read, only the frustration when her older siblings could and she couldn’t.
Ariella graduated with honors from Barnard College, Columbia University, and attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a Visiting Scholar. Her three years in that city were magical. She holds a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School where she served as Associate Editor of both The Journal of International Law and Comparative Studies in Society and History.
Sweet Breath of Memory is Ariella’s debut adult novel. Her debut Young Adult novel is currently on submission.
Ariella believes in the healing power of coffee, cannolis, Vivaldi and cat purrs.
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