STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery
I devoured my pre-publication copy as a classical music lover, and one who had an immediate connection with my wife the moment we met some refer to as a soul-mate. Megan Edward’s creative writing shown by spectacular descriptions and themes followed by a phenomenal ending makes a powerful combination. This review is but a skeleton of a much greater whole spanning the lives of two lovers in high school through many years of professional life, marriage, an ugly divorce and many vibrant surprises. STRINGS combines these with a unique classic musical instrument: "The Violin of Angels." We are soon greeted with an unusual love that survived extreme hurdles. Ted Spencer, a rich boy fell for a cleaning lady’s daughter, Olivia de la Vega. They played Lancelot and Guenevere in Camelot at a private school called Haviland with interference from his family who thought he deserved better, and much fickle fate thereafter. His mastery of the violin admitted him to Julliard but separated them when his parents interfered making her doubt his love as one of the many “strings” that obstructed their romance.
Olivia, a stunning beauty, and talented actress, introduced Ted to a different world of Celtic harps, a music festival, and hippies instead of the upper crust of society in which his parents sheltered him. This helped free him from the rigid control his parents and Classical music teachers stressed. At his home his Dad produced a sparkling diamond he had cut for Ted when he married someone acceptable. Soon Ted announced he wanted to marry Olivia and was going to Julliard, not Yale as his father wanted. Taking two cigarettes to lite, he handed one to Ted and informed him if he did, that was the last thing he would receive from him! His parents ensured Olivia would leave the scene by lying that Ted had a girlfriend he planned to marry and had a diamond ring for her. Naturally, she failed to show at a time Ted asked for her to join him at their secret shelter and disappeared.
As fate would have it, Olivia found work in Television and soon became a talented actress in Los Angeles, married, and named her daughter, “Theodora.” Meanwhile, Ted developed his violin expertise at Julliard, played at Carnegie Hall, and became Concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic. Fast-forward nineteen years when Olivia met Ted at a concert where he played Paganini’s “Last Caprice in A major,” his audition piece for Julliard, “he consigned to his heart along with memories of Olivia too melancholy to open.” Later when she visited during a contentious divorce, he bought a tiny porcelain ballerina that pirouetted before a mirror to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as a present for her seven year-old daughter, Teddy.
After another hiatus, Ted met Sophie Reinhardt who helped his career take off while they lived together noting her “pale blonde hair swirled in soft unruly curls to her shoulders” while “her confident grey-blue eyes met his gaze.” Divorced five years, she was free and helped his career blossom during their extended affair. So successful his career became from their liaison, he bought an eight bedroom three story home with four fireplaces at Westchester County in Sleepy Hollow next to his Rockefeller neighbor!
Soon Olivia’s letter from Malibu re-connected them. Her husband of ten years had died leaving her the entire contents of his study which contained an extraordinary violin: Joseph Guarnius…1742 HIS! She asked him to appraise this gift since he had become a violin expert and exclaimed, “It wasn’t the amazing Violin that made his head damp, but Olivia returning to his life!” When she arrived he set up his fiber optic camera. The remainder of the process unfolds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery revealing a violin, The Merino Rose, worth millions. Ted generously made a bequest of this gift to Teddy for her future. The spectacular ending on a beach at sunset, waves crashing, the sand turning gold, and the wind blowing in Olivia’s hair, left this reader in tears with Ted’s final words: “You and I have a symphony to finish.” Readers will want to order a copy to fill in the amazing details of this extraordinary and unforgettable fictional romance novel.
BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam with 300 marines. He resigned, turned peace activist, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)
The Light Where Shadows End : A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW, A War Hero’s Inspirational Journey Through Death, Recovery, and a World Without Home by r.g. cantalupo (He uses no capitals in his name on the cover: New World Publishers, paper, 2015, 171 pages) A member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the author took part in the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigations where he confessed to committing crimes and atrocities. A Radio-Telephone Operator (RTO) with the 25th Infantry Division in 1968-69, Cantalupo (a nickname, actually H. H. Gregory), served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V and three Purple Hearts. He describes himself as a war criminal who fired white phosphorus mortars and called in napalm bombs on civilians using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention. He returns to the scene of his action in 2015 “to survive my looming suicide… to Trang Bang where Nick Ut photographed the ‘Napalm Girl’. That was also where he ordered villagers to lie down while they destroyed their village and where Lonny, Baby, San, Devil and I lay dying not for God, or flag, or country, but simply because we were “the chosen”, draftees offered up from poor black, brown, or white families by an upper-middle-class draft board that didn’t want to take sons from their own.
He describes his boot camp training droning into him like a mantra: “They are gooks, dinks, commies, savages, nothing resembling us, nothing close to human. And, it worked-when I was shooting at a cardboard man, when I was stabbing a dummy to death with a bayonet, when I was on the edge of terror--it was the only voice I heard. But four months in Vietnam had changed me. The kids along Highway 1 chanting “G. I. Numba One” as they begged chocolate bar or cokes looked no different than the kids from my tenement—Asian versus black, or Puerto Rican or Pollock or Jew—hungrier maybe, more desperation in their eyes, but under the grime and stink, they were no different than the kids I grew up with carrying hopes and fears and dream. And so I heard a different voice—my own… How long does it take to kill a man-- from inside? …How long before I was no longer a man but a rifle. A bullet, and I inside a soulless body?
After his good friend Lonny is killed when he makes eye contact with an enemy soldier who is badly wounded and groaning in the Elephant grass, Cantalpo raises his rifle: "I put his head in the crosshairs, held my breath, and put my finger on the trigger guard. I didn’t squeeze the trigger. I couldn’t. Not anymore. Lonny was dead. Nothing I could do would bring him back. Not killing this soldier. Not killing the whole fucking North Vietnamese Army. Lonny was dead. Shot in the throat and chest by his own men. Friendly fire. Friendly. As if killing was somehow friendlier if done by your own men. And who was to blame? The soldiers on the perimeter who opened fire from fear of being overrun? The C.O. who sent us out? General Westmoreland? Nixon? Kissinger? The Pentagon? The Army? The rich? The whole fucking US of A? My mother? My war-hero father? Yes, everyone was to blame. Everyone carried Lonny’s blood on their hands. I lowered my rifle. I was done. I was done with killing, done with death, done with war. For a long moment, the wounded soldier held my eyes, then he turned and slowly crawled away."
He recounts his horrendous injuries from a mortar exploding a few feet away that hurled his body into the dark sky and then crashed down leaving him covered in warm blood and a nurse nicknamed “Peaches” helped him through hours, days and weeks of care with whom he says he seriously fell in love. “And then I rose. Above my body. Above my life. Is this my soul parting from my flesh, my spirit rising toward eternity, flying through the tunnel of white light toward people I loved? I rose in darkness, in shadow, the body below me—my body—graying to a shade, the medic slowly dimming to a hazy silhouette. I rose, but my wounds did not fly away on angel’s wings, nor did I see my mortal life bleeding into light as if I were eternal. I merely slipped in and out of a world filled with fire and burning pain—“
A film crew from Vietnam TV International recorded his anguish following his journey toward reconciliation meeting with former members of The People’s Army against whom he fought. They share the truth of where the People’s Army hid in tunnels awaiting to attack and use a map to describe each of their locations in battles. After awkward embraces and they shake hands and say goodbye through the pain such a meeting engendered. The war’s legacy in Vietnam, Cantalupo says, includes “leaving hundreds of thousands of unexploded bombs to kill more children,” as well as “fourth generation birth defects and genetic mutations caused by our massive spraying of Agent Orange.” That situation “will not allow for my reconciliation. This was the most profoundly moving memoir I have read on Vietnam showing how a man changed from a war criminal to a sensitive human being aware he was lucky to have survived and gained an inspiration and an awakening that changed his life.
BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)
After eight years of writing and research, Nicole Waybright finished her memoir, Long Way Out that tells the story of her coming-of-age struggles while deployed as an officer on a U.S. Navy destroyer. Waybright reports the psychological critical moments that she experienced when she discovered she was not cut out for a naval career during her five-year military commitment. Her book sets forth the factual detail based on her service as an officer in the Surface Warfare (SWO) Navy when the initial group of women was stationed aboard naval ships. This intense offering gives the reader a view into a deplorable and tragic account of an egregious executive officer criticized by her seniors when removed from command for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her crew. Nevertheless, she was the first such United States female to command an Aegis destroyer and was infamously known as the female “Captain Bligh.”(Female Naval Officer saluting an Admiral in the Surface Warfare Group)