Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrina by Julie Freed

And then the dream breaks into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream. ~ Nora Ephron

A house and marriage “violently” disintegrate. Left alone to raise an infant in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while her husband lives it up in Miami Beach, Julie is surrounded by the rubble of her life – “stripped bare by love and loss.”

What happens when you lose everything?

This story is about choices, strength, divorce, Hurricane Katrina, alcoholism, a mother’s dream, life changing bridges, flawed diamonds, rebuilding, and a baby girl named Genoa.

Julie shares a remarkable story with humor and tenderness. The strength and resilience of the Gulf Coast shines through as does the love and purity Julie finds in this memoir. Experience the vulnerability, hurt, love, loss, anger, intimate reflections, authenticity, and ultimately the freedom as Julie’s shocking story unfolds.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

Julie Freed tells the story of the ravages of Mother Nature and human nature in her memoir, Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane KatrinaDespite the raw and painful memories, Julie writes beautifully and eloquently.

From page one, I am hooked and Julie continuously draws me deeper and deeper into her story. Using flashbacks and emotional imagery, Julie shares the depth to which she loves her husband and how her life with him and their daughter has grown based on dreams held since their courtship. Hurricane Katrina becomes the perfect metaphor for the demise of their marriage.

Her family had only recently moved to New Orléans when reports of the potential for a hurricane begin over the news. Friends help Julie prepare not only for her survival but that of her still toddling daughter. In the midst of preparing to flee ahead of the hurricane, Julie receives an email from her husband requesting a divorce.

However, Julie’s strength and reserves muster themselves to the front and the preparations move forward. Julie’s focus is her daughter and all precautions are taken to ensure Genoa’s safety and good health.

Despite all that accosts her in a short period, Julie Freed amasses endurance, grit, and spunk to defeat everything attempting to tear her down. Her family is loving and supportive throughout but to clean up the rubble and assess the state of her affairs, Julie must leave her daughter behind at her parents’ home. A difficult decision in an already difficult time.

For anyone experiencing loss of any kind, Julie Freed’s memoir is an encouraging read. Julie’s own return to peace at the end of the storm and massive cleanup is a guidepost for others.

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

Today I’m pleased to give Julie Freed’s book, Naked: Stripped by a Man and Hurricane Katrinaan exceptional work, a 5-star rating.

More about Julie Freed:

Julie Freed found in rubble left by Hurricane Katrina
Julie Freed found in rubble left by Hurricane Katrina

Award winning author, mathematician, mother, professor, and lover of the sea and the changing tides of life.  Naked was selected as Best Memoir of 2014 Bronze Medal by Readers’ Favorites, honored with a review from theSouthern Literary Review, selected as a Staff Pick at Anne Patchett’s Parnassus Books, just nominated for the coveted Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2015 nonfiction award, and earned over 80 five star reviews on Amazon.

Dr. Julie Freed was raised in New England. She kept moving south with each degree, married and ended up on the serene Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  With degrees in the sciences and a doctorate in mathematics, research and learners of all ages are her passion.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 she rebuilt life and home on a stronger foundation. Julie lives with her husband who is terribly comfortable in his skin, two strong willed daughters, a slippery frog, a feisty dog, three kayaks, a boat, and endless dreams of doing more and helping people.

Connect with Julie here: TwitterGoogle+PinterestFacebook, and Julie’s Blog.

(Image, bio and links via Julie’s website)

Purchasing the Book:

You can buy a copy of Naked at any of the following bookstores: JulieFreedAuthor.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Disclaimers:

I received a copy of Naked from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are solely mine.

I am an affiliate of some of the book retailers listed above. As such, if you buy from one of them, I may receive a small percentage of the sale. This distribution in no way impacts the price you pay for the book.

Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After the Suicide of My Daughter by Nina Bingham

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis

When Nina Bingham lost her fifteen-year old daughter to suicide, she thought her own world would end. But what she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.

… Raw and honest, she shares her painful past: an abusive alcoholic father, a failed marriage, the rejection she suffered after she came out as a lesbian, and her own brush with suicide. What could have been a story mired in self-pity and misery, ultimately is a story of hope. Nina’s compelling life journey shows how pain and loss can be transformed into strength and purpose. This book is not only for survivors but for anyone facing depression with suicidal tendencies. …

Once The Storm Is Over unapologetically rips apart the façade of coping to show the devastating aftermath of a child’s suicide and how a mother, flawed but courageous, learns to live again. Described as brave, insightful and inspiring, this book is sure to make its mark in the literature of suicide recovery, and be remembered for its profound and healing message.

(Synopsis via Once the Storm Is Over)

Nina Bingham first contacted me about her memoir via Portland Bloggers. At that time, Nina was looking for help in getting out word of her publication of Once the Storm Is Over.

Soon our email exchanges grew into talk of a guest post, perhaps an interview, whatever might help. Check here for my recent interview with Nina.

And then I opened the advance reader copy Nina had provided. I could not put it down.

From the beginning with her quote from Haruki Murakami, I knew this mother, woman, and counselor had a life story to share:

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.

The above synopsis more than adequately summarizes this memoir. I struggle finding words to explain more about what Nina Bingham brings to the page.

But what I know is she is a heartbroken mother ravaged by fear and questions over her daughter’s suicide. She can help others but can she help herself? Many families struggle with these same fears, questions, and doubts following such tragic loss.

Nina is not ashamed to write her truth, and she does so with raw anger, sorrow, grief, and at times a hopelessness that brought tears to my eyes. But her story is so well told there is no doubt it will help others.

I highly recommend visiting Once the Storm Is Over, the book site, between now and late February 2015 when the book launches to gain greater insight into the story and other reviews. Links to connect with Nina are below.

Nina’s memoir is a book you want to read if you have experienced the grief and hopelessness of suicidal loss, or if you have someone in your life who seems suicidal and/or depressed, or if you are a professional working with support groups for such people.

Nina’s story is unabashedly truthful and real. It is believable, and Nina herself is accessible for interviews, talks, and more.

Connect with Nina here:

createyourlife.nina@gmail.com
www.oncethestormisover.com
www.ninabingham.blogspot.com
www.amazon.com/author/ninabingham
www.twitter.com/liv_enlightened
www.linkedin.com/in/livingenlightened

Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place by D.A. Hickman | Book Review

The prairie landscape invites contemplation and reflection, quietly urging us to look within for universal truths. As Hickman points out: only an inner wisdom can help us connect a world of incessant surface activity with a deeper awareness. But no matter where you live, the ideas here will help you discover your place within–returning to it time and time again. We need frequent, meaningful reminders that we are much more than current events, sensational headlines, drama, controversy and conflict, and interminable, often distracting, news bulletins.

On a spiritual level, we are the open space of the prairies, the artistic stretch of silvery blues overhead–in many ways, we are even the curious dance of time.

Our spirits, our hearts, point to a timeless wisdom. Always Returning is an insightful and essential guide.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

When D.A. Hickman published Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie in 1999,she likely did not expect another edition or similar book.

However, as Hickman writes on Goodreads, much had happened when she returned to South Dakota and the prairie in 2008. This return to roots, to culture and lifestyle on the prairie, evidently sparked a hunger to not only revisit her own inner wisdom but to invite and carry her readers along with her.

With this 15th Anniversary Edition, a new title, and a new preface, I decided to join Hickman and never looked back after the first page.

My copy of Hickman’s Always Returning had just arrived when a trip to the ER with my husband was necessary. I hadn’t started the book then and snatched it up as we went out the door. As I waited to learn what was wrong with my dear husband, I began reading. I cannot explain the sense of peace and comfort that washed over me. The writing style is lyrical and provides a seemingly endless look at the prairie, a place no doubt representative to even us city girls when we think of a simpler life.

The view of the prairie is for any reader–city dweller, in the Dakotas, Georgia, New York, New England, or Colorado. Perhaps in a foreign land, military installations, senior or retired living facilities. Or maybe you still live at home with your folks. Perhaps you are among our country’s homeless or unemployed and someone has handed you a copy. Hickman’s book is for all of you.

Wisdom, however, isn’t a surficial phenomenon it must be discovered within–always on a deeper and deeper level. (Preface) 

The writer makes it clear that your prairie is found deep within your being by means of becoming deeply aware of our surroundings and all that is ours to behold and experience.

The more pages I turned the more pages I wanted to explore. What I most enjoyed is Hickman’s contrasting of the slower nature of the prairie with our tumultuous culture of social media, get it done faster, be everywhere pace in the 21st century.

… [P]rairie wisdom is about learning to look, really look, at life in a way that spotlights the inconsequential, peers under and below the shiny, glittery surface of things, delves into the dusty corners and invisible crevices in an effort to understand the truth of the matter, indeed, the heart of the matter. (At page 15)

Not once does Hickman imply that the prairie is preferable over any other place; she simply points to its differences. And in so doing, she highlights the inner wisdom and beauty of finding our place and within it our wisdom.

In the chapter titled “Borrow It, Don’t Buy It,” Hickman brings us to a crucial need in all our lives–mutual respect within community. Today we are a have it all, have it now society. Buy, buy, buy is shouted from every media source in the land. Hickman suggests a refocusing on a new direction toward the time once again when “less is more.”

Either way, borrowing, because it seems convenient, friendly, and fun, or borrowing out of necessity, can keep our need for material possessions in perspective. Regardless of where you reside, of where you have come to know the wisdom of place, develop close friendships that allow for a healthy give-and-take. The mutual respect, the warm feelings of cooperation that develop, will ensure a happier tomorrow for us all. (At page 187)

As I turned the last page, I experienced a mix of emotions–well-being, sadness, hope, and yes, my own place of wisdom. Always Returning is a book I will always keep close by to return to again and again.

My Recommendation:

Always Returning is truly a book providing a map to the heart, a map GoogleMaps, Bing Maps, and Mapquest cannot offer. Hickman shows us where to plant our hearts and nurture them so their growth extends beyond us on to others. If there is hope for peace on this earth, that hope may just be found in prairie wisdom.

This is a book for the enjoyment of readers of all ages (young adult and up), of all faiths and spiritualities, of all lifestyles, of all cultures. I highly recommend it as a gift book whose recipient will be blessed over and over again.

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

Today I’m pleased to give D.A. Hickman’s book, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Placea stellar work, a 5-star rating.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet D.A. (Daisy) Hickman:

I’m an author, a poet, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio, a sunny, creative space for kindred spirits. If you visit my online writing studio, you’ll discover intriguing posts from my Studio Guests and my author blog, as well. Just go to SunnyRoomStudio.com. I’m also a spiritual thinker who believes in the journey itself. When we explore new terrain with each life experience, the adventure is profound.

Writer D.A. (Daisy) Hickman
Writer D.A. (Daisy) Hickman

From the cover of Always Returning: “Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound, level.” Some book details … the 15th Anniversary Edition of “Heart Resides” (William Morrow) was published as ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place in 2014. The second edition includes a new preface and other relevant updates, but by and large, the material in this book is increasingly relevant. I greatly enjoyed writing Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie. I have always been a student of society. There is so much to be learned by simply being aware of our surroundings, our lifestyles, and our assumptions.

The wisdom in my book originated on the American prairie, specifically when I stepped back to look at the place and its people at the turn of the century from a sociological and spiritual perspective. Indeed, an organic and lasting wisdom has evolved over the ages in a place known for hardship, but great beauty, as well.

Read more here …

Contact Daisy via:

Email contact: sunwriter (at) sunnyroomstudio (dot) net Twitter @dhsunwriter Facebook @ SunnyRoomStudio

(Image and bio via Amazon)

Book Details:
Publisher: Capturing Morning Press
Available: October 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9908423-5-4

AVAILABLE on Amazon (paperback & Kindle) and via other online bookstores in various eBook formats and also in paperback.

Bookstores or libraries can order directly from IngramSpark.

978-0-9908423-5-4 (print)

978-0-9908423-7-8 (eBook)

Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound level. — From a NEW PREFACE by the author

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Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. I only recommend products and services that I know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl | Memoir by Carol Bodensteiner

Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner
Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner


Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven – a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

 I have only to close my eyes and breathe in to remember the smell of a field of new-mown hay, flex my fingers to remember the feel of a calf sucking as it learned to drink, open my ears to the sound of my mother smoothing over a cooking mistake. Then I remember my dad sitting on the feedbox petting a yellow tomcat and I want to go sit by him again and talk about the work that has yet to be done. (Epilogue, Loc. 2921, Kindle version)

My Thoughts:

For some 33 years now, I have listened to my husband and his siblings reminisce over memories of their growing up on a cattle farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. I often wondered if their experiences were unique.

You see, I grew up a city girl in Nashville, TN, a far cry from Iowa or Washington. My memory banks hold no recollection of ever setting foot on a dairy farm during my childhood or even as an adult.

To date, I have taken my acquired family’s stories at face value, believing each farm would have its own unique set of stories with no semblance to another farm family’s set of stories.

Carol Bodensteiner, in sharing her memories in this charming memoir, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, has proven me wrong. So wrong in fact I was guilty of running to my husband and suggesting he remember a certain story about calving or planting or haying and then reading aloud to him Carol’s story of similar experiences.

Carol’s gift of storytelling is rich, distinct, and nourished with truth. Each vignette she shares draws the reader in to experience it with Carol, her sisters, and their folks. Whether it is a family or farm story, a story drawn from community at school or church, or a story of certain relatives or friends, a tapestry of a simpler life on the farm when time moved more slowly and memories were more easily cherished is woven thread-by-thread until you feel transported to the Bodensteiner farm.

This isn’t to say that growing up on the farm was always easy for the Bodensteiner girls. Carol shares easily the difficult times as well as the good. She does not shy away from letting her reader know that life was not always smooth, losses were hard, and the weather could change the success of a crop or the success of a cow giving birth to a healthy calf.

Carol ended her epilogue with the quote shared above, but I have another favorite that speaks clearly to the writer’s ability to draw in her reader. It is found in the prologue:

This land of my childhood releases sweet, long forgotten memories and brings me back home. Home to the farm. Home to my family. Home. (Prologue, p. 3, Kindle version)

What reader would not want to turn the page to explore this farm, meet this family, and discover home?

My Recommendation:

Fans of memoir, farms and farming, simpler times, and stronger community will fall in love with Carol Bodensteiner’s Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. Each chapter or vignette can stand alone, and I think they would be lovely read aloud to children teaching them of a disappearing lifestyle on which our country once depended upon.

Meet the Author:

Carol Bodensteiner, Author
Carol Bodensteiner, Author

I’m a writer inspired by the people, places and culture of the Midwest.

In my memoir, “Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl,” I share stories about growing up in the middle of the United States, in the middle of the 20th Century, a way of farm life that is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.

“Go Away Home” – my World War One-era novel published in 2014, tells the story of a young woman who wants to make her own decisions and decide her own future at a time when rural women saw limited options. As she pursues her dream, she comes to realize that to get what you want, you often have to give up something else you want just as much. GO AWAY HOME is a SILVER MEDAL winner in the Historical Fiction – Personage category of the Readers’ Favorite International Award competition.

I am privileged to have my writing included in a number of anthologies.

You can also find me here:

Website & blog – www.carolbodensteiner.com
Twitter – @CABodensteiner
Facebook – facebook.com/CarolBodensteinerAuthor
Goodreads – goodreads.com/author/Carol_Bodensteiner

Book Details:
Publisher: Rising Sun Press
Published: October 18, 2010
Paperback and e-book available
ISBN: 978-0-9797997-0-9
ASIN: B0047GNDYI

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Some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase from the affiliate. Any funds received go toward maintaining this site. We only recommend products and services that we know or trust to be of high quality, whether an affiliate relationship is in place or not.