Monthly Archives: October 2015

THE BOY ON THE WOODEN BOX

“Not even the scariest of fairy tales could have prepared me for the monsters I would confront while just a boy of ten…or the hero, disguised as a monster himself, who would save my life.”

Book Cover Layson as a young child racing barefoot through meadows, skinny dipping in the river and pulling childish pranks to pass the idyllic early days of youth.

This high spirited and curious child moved from his mountain village to the big city of Krakow when he was eight years old.  He easily made friends with Gentile and Jewish children his age.  Surrounded by the deep abiding love of parents, and the freedom to explore his new urban world that now Originalincluded indoor plumbing and streetcars, Leon could not have imagined or prepared for the evil heading his way.

Leon in factory

Leon in factory

Leon, the young Jewish child, unskilled and uneducated, incredibly survives against all odds, to be a witness to the horrors of the Holocaust.  For forty eight years he couldn’t believe anyone would be interested in his story. When the movie, Schindler’s List introduced Oskar Schindler and his heroic efforts to the world, Leon knew it was time to reveal his deepest secrets.

Leon on list

Schindler’s List 289 Lejzon, Lieb (Leon Layson)

“Oskar Schindler thought my life had superstickies recommendvalue.  He thought I was worth saving, even when giving me a chance to live put his own life in peril.  Now it’s my turn to do what
I can for him…This is the story of
my life and how it intersected with his.”

What makes Leon’s story so special is the care he has taken to tell us what it was like to be a little boy, separated from his parents sometimes for months, forced to live an unimaginable life.  This courageous child never gave up.  And he would be the first to admit just plain lucky.

When most people think of the Holocaust they envision humiliated, tortured and dehumanized Jews packed into cattle cars. They picture rows upon rows of emaciated and poorly clothed bodies stuffed onto wooden barrack bunks. You don’t dare look deeply into their vacant eyes to see their memories and lost lives. You can’t begin to understand where they find their strong will to live one more minute, one more hour, and one more day.

As the world regained control in Europe, the battle sounds receded and the crematoriums stopped spewing souls to the sky, questions were asked.  Why didn’t the Jews fight back?  Why didn’t they see this coming and prepare ways to save themselves and their families?  What was life like for those that survived trying to find out what happened to those closest to them?

1965 Schindler reunited with Leyson and wife

Schindler reunited with Leyson 1965

Leon takes us gently by the hand and tells his story in his own words.  It is not an easy story to read but written carefully and truthfully without overly graphic scenes. There is no good way to describe brutality, murder, starvation, and random torture.  Many, however, will be surprised by the number of times he told of tiny ways the downtrodden lifted each other’s spirits or showed the courage to resist.

Little Leyson also shows us that we can never forget but we must go oleonn living.  He and his parents moved to the US.  Although he was not an American citizen, was drafted into military service during the Korean War.  Using GIs bill benefits; he obtained a college degree, found the love of his life, and enjoyed over 30 years as a high school teacher.

But he never forgot…

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The Green Pen by Eloy Moreno

Green pen

Click this icon for Mick Leach’s review of the Spanish edition

Green pen bio

Open Road Integrated Media (ORIM) released the Green Pen in English in September 2015.  I was intrigued by the following description on NetGalley.com and I was thrilled when my reading request was approved:

“The plot of the novel is that of life itself; a sensitive and intelligent portrayal of the every day. Witness the ups and downs of a marriage through the eyes of a young husband and father whose obsession with a lost and found ordinary green marker leads him to what is essential in life.”

When I finished reading, I remember thinking, just like the 80s Wendy commercial questioned, “Where’s the Beef?”… signbot green pen

I did a word search of the book on my Kindle. Amazingly, the word pen only popped up twice!  How can anyone be called obsessive when the only time the narrator uses the word “pen” at the end of the book?

WELL!  Thanks to the Goodreads review of the Spanish edition by Mike Leach, the mystery is solved.  The translated story skips a very important portion of the story!

Hball_point_pen_greenere’s what you need to know about the green pen, and after you read it, you are good to go with the English translation.  Trust me; the story will make more sense. You’ll know what I am talking when you meet Sara and Rafa.

The story turns round the green gel pen in question.  The narrator loses pens (office colleagues borrow them) so he buys a green one, as no one else would have such and he could easily find it again.  When it goes missing he obsessively starts looking for it, and as he does so poking into or otherwise hearing about the personal lives of his colleagues, taking up lots of time.

MY REVIEW

Our unnamed narrator writes in his diary, ”

I’ve been thinking about old times, childhood times, times I still hold onto like a treasure.”

The narration begins with memories of his precious vacations with his family and best friend, Toni. The story is so well crafted; I swear I am there with them.  Why the family would chose to vacation in La Mancha, a high arid plateau is beyond me.  When the boys decide to build a shelter to escape the inescapable sun, I think, make room for me!

I much preferred traveling with the boys to the Abats’ mountain house in the Pyrenees.  The large starry sky, endless adventures in the woods and hours of wilderness exploring filled their days.

Sadly, our narrator remembers when those wonderful days stopped and we feel his loss.

Anyone over the age of 12 knows that the day will come when childhood ends and the rest of your life begins.  Something happens and unexpectedly you know you are no long immortal and invincible.  A day will start just like any other day.  Cruel fate snaps her fingers and just like that…it’s over.

“Not once did we sense what was going to come crashing down on us- how cruel words could sometimes be- that afternoon.”

This quote from the diary is prophetic in so many ways; especially now that I told you about the missing green pen back story.  Keep that in your mind as you wander around in his.

Our narrator is separated from his wife and child and alienated from his best friend.  He can’t get through a day without recycling everything that has happened to him trying to make sense of why his wife left and what has gone wrong in his life. What can and should he do about it all?

He picks up the green pen, and starts out with the first entry,

It’s been months that I’ve been planning to write down all that happened in 2002, when I was reborn.”

And he starts that change when he leaves his unsettled life and heads to the Pyrenees.  He has arrived

“to a point that signified the rebirth of a life, my life”.refuge

Long distance backpackers can really relate to his plan; heading to the hills is far cheaper than therapy. There have been moments in my life that nature has cleared the playing field in my mind and I have been able to rethink a problem that seems to be impossible to tackle or solve.

Our troubled husband has placed himself on a high mountain trail and challenges himself physically and emotionally. He finds strengths within himself that he didn’t know existed.  His daily routine has stripped him to the basics, freeing his mind to dig deeper and retrieve a personal route to a new life; back to love happiness and friendship.

Highly recommended.

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