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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

Review of RANGE OF MOTION by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This gentle exquisitely written book caught and held me from beginning to end. It is a profound reflection on the things that matter most in friendship, in a marriage, and in the commitment to hope at a time of indescribable pain and grief. The story seems to dwell lightly within itself, but under the light and beautiful touch lies a vast ocean of feeling, pulling the reader inexorably and deeply into the lives of its characters.

I can only thank Elizabeth Berg for sweeping me out of this year of Coronavirus obsession and seclusion, and gifting me with such a wonderful reading experience.

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Almost a full year

So a year of missing blogs has stumbled by. What happened between January2020 and January 2021?

The world disappeared into swirling fading patterns of repetitions as day followed day. Three weeks stretched into three months, and then more, and more... I was still alive, still breathing, sleeping, eating, but the Coronavirus greedily swallowed all the joy of anticipation, delight, social interaction, leaching all belief in possible change. Days spread out in great blanks of space, leading nowhere except to another day of blank spaces. Conversation dwindled to a minimum. Where would this take us?

The coronavirus has swept through every aspect of our world, bringing fear, change, solitude and lassitude in its wake.

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December flew past in a blur of pain and sleepless nights. I did not have the heart to write a blog. I just hoped the days and nights would carry me past the dates that tear scarlet scars on my heart.

Time passed, and now I see with horror that we seem to be tumbling into an apocalyptic mess, thanks to the warring words of our president. Iran seems to be responsing with caution and deliberation, clearly more adult, but will it end there? Striding to the brink is a dangerous game. One false step, one trip, and it's over the edge we go.

The weather has been unseasonal, not to say downright weird. Days of freezing cold and rough wind have been followed by balmy days more suited to May than January. Much as we are all loving the gift of warmth and sunlight, I heard a lone sparrow in a leafless street tree calling again and again for a mate, a sweet trill again and again, clearly unable to understand that two days ahead lie intimations of bitter chill, and many months to go before the spring.

Book events have been coming together, and are offering challenging and stimulating moments where anything seems possible. I find I can do so much less than I used to within the hours of a day. It makes me feel old and powerless.

I no longer know how to include images into my material. Everything changes, and the general assumption is that everything changes for the better. I am learning that this is not always so. I am going to have to re-learn how to program the finer points of my blog so that I can free my mind to write without going into paroxisms of frustration because I have forgotten how to transfer my words to the page.                                                                                                       

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Hibernation Fever

November is breaking records. We crept cautiously out of October into November this year, reveling in the gift of a mild streak of several days that made us feel pleasantly autumnal, crisp days, and the sun's continued warmth day after day, light rain, skies a mixed splatter, grey with streaks of blue. Suddenly, as if the heavens had turned a crank, a deep freeze crashed into our euphoria, battering us overnight with wind, snow and frigid temperatures.  My granddaughters in college in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and upstate New York sound both alarmed and energized. I called them to make sure that they were adequately protected, resisting the urge to send them an avalanche of warm clothing they probably don't need. Always a little stressful to navigate the difference between being a parent and rising to be a grandparent, so full of love, but no longer quite needed.

As for me, I am battling an overwhelming urge to hibernate, to snuggle deep into covers and pillows, drift into semi-conscious denial of the fierce arrival of another winter. As the month has progressed, we fell back into a gentler clime. The winds hurled big gusts at the trees, robbing them of the last bronze leaves and leaving them swirling in the air and on the street. It's a strange autumn. So many dissonant stridencies swirl around us like the swirling leaves. Politics and violence dominate the news. All over the world, leadership is changing, and the change is to less civility and more rage.

Yes, hibernation would be the answer if it were only possible. I could close out the raucous dealings of a world in strife and the sudden bursts of memory that strike such pain in my heart. Such a difficult time of year. Two years ago we were a family, entire in its celebration of my 80th birthday, and a month later we were broken, losing a part of ourselves forever. I cannot find peace.

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Golden Days


The Players Club

The past three days have been smoky grey, sunless, and speckled with a rain so light that it seems almost an illusion, Suddenly there are puddles in the street and a wet film everywhere. And I have been watching in wonder street trees definitively turning to gold, some of them rich with a deep coppery gold like resounding bass notes in this orchestra of beauty. Others seem sprayed with captured bits of sun, light luminous gold scattered between gleaming wet branches. Leaves that have stayed a dusky green are thick, and seem ready to stay where they are, no matter what the weather has in store, but with each day a thin golden carpet has been steadily filling in across the damp grey streets, turning the streets of Manhattan to gold despite the insult of machinery, the crush and hurtle of cars and bicycles, the steady tread of people on the pavements.

I try not to think of the winter that is to come.

Meanwhile, I had my first event for Footprints on the Heart at the Players Club. It was a wonderful moment, people gathering and listening as I read from my first novel, and then letting me know how much they liked the sound of it and coming over to the sales table to buy the book. May the word-of-mouth begin!

I was leg-wobbling nervous and could hear my voice wobbling along with my legs, demonstrating (at least to me) how nervous I was to stand on a stage and present.

But the microphone was perfectly placed, the podium the right height, and the audience so receptive that I soon lost my panic and began to enjoy myself, and the comments that followed lit a glow in my heart that echoed the gold-dappled fall landscape that thrilled me on the ride home.


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The cry of the writer

Please post your review on Amazon or Goodreads

I need patience. I have none. Thoughts flitter in and out of my mind like fireflies against the window panes of the country house in June. Yes, I know. FOOTPRINTS ON THE HEART is receiving a magnificent bouquet of early 5-star reviews, but now when I click anxiously onto the site, there are only the ten that were there last week. Why haven't they spawned more and more of themselves? Folks tell me they have bought the book. Some say they have read it, and having read it, they love it. They will post a review. They will suggest it to their book club. Be patient! Be patient!

But I am almost 82 years old. I am living the opening chords of the dream I had for myself when I was nine years old. I knew in my heart that I would carve stories from nothing, I knew with such certainty that I would find the words to dazzle the world, that I would be a writer when I grew up.

I grew up and was blessed to live my life among writers, amplifying their work to the best of my ability. I loved their books. I loved my work. But now they fly on their own, and it is my turn. I am a writer, now. I am a novelist, but the fans and their laudatory words swirl about and vanish. Will you write another, they ask? I say I am waiting to see this first child of my mind reaching an amplified readership, being recognized by my peers. I may not have time for a second book. Mind or body may fail me. I am almost 82 years old and filled with an anxious energy to see my dream fulfilled. No time for patience. I need it NOW.

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My first novel, Footprints On The Heart, has flown out of my reach, winging its way out into the world on wings of the internet to reach out and touch strangers in ways I cannot imagine. It's a little like sending a child off to school for the first time. Will others see the wonder and appeal of this brainchild of mine? Will they read past the first few words and have heated opinions about the characters and the way they behave? Will my readers want to read to the end? Will they laugh and cry where I intended that they should? Will they tell friends to read it and recommend it to their bookclubs, will they feel that the characters will always be present in their hearts, or will they shelve the novel with a sigh and never look at it again.
So many questions and no answers. Just a pulsating silence around my novel's publication.

When I was nine years old I decided that I would become a writer one day. I was a big fan of Enid Blyton. I was a voracious reader who galloped eagerly through any novel that came my way. Taking the bull by the horns, I actually wrote to Enid Blyton and sent her a story for her magazine, Sunny Stories. She wrote back to say that Sunny Stories had ceased to be, but that I should keep writing. I took this to be a message from the gods, and I promised myself that I would keep writing. I could not imagine a life without the stories that glowed in my imagination and filled my dreams.
When I grew up and became a responsible adult, I realized that a paying job was next on the agenda. I was fortunate enough to be able to make books my life-work, books I loved, books written by others I admired, books I was able to help out into the world. And those books filled my dreams and my imagination. And I still knew deep down that one day I would become a writer.
Time passed, and I became a grandmother. I felt impelled to start writing about my unusual childhood growing up in Egypt, to reach out to my grandchildren and give them a piece of their past that they would never be able to imagine if I didn't write about it for them. I wrote in the corners of my life, stealing time, until, with time, I actually had a book, and my memoir, Sipping From the Nile, My Exodus from Egypt, was born.

To my surprise, I had become a writer. But my first love had always been fiction. I wanted to share a story with the world. I  wanted my words to sing all the songs I would never sing, and touch the hearts of people I would never know, and live on well after I left this world.
So I am at last who I was always meant to be. At 81 years old, I have published my first novel. I am sharing thoughts and words that matter to me through the lives of characters as real to me as the living people in my life. I know their innermost hearts. I know who they are. Their story is out in the world.
And there is another story waiting in the wings, if I am given time to write it. The characters are already knocking at the door, asking to be released.

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Looking Back 57 Years




How is it possible that an entire lifetime has gone by since we stepped out of the beautiful little round synagogue in Geneva Switzerland on July 15th 1962, as man and wife. We had nothing planned except to be together forever and ever.

We had known each other vaguely as children in Cairo, Egypt - but in a child's life, three and a half years between us was an unbridgeable gulf. I had been in the same class as Serge's younger brother at the GPS School, taught by the same teachers, playing in the same school yard, unaware that we would ever meet again once life took us into new and larger worlds..

The deepening tension between Israel and Egypt flung Serge's family to France where he went to the Lycee Janson in Paris, my parents later settled in Geneva Switzerland after leaving Egypt following the Suez crisis of 1956.

I had attended boarding school in Brighton, England and college at Westfield College of London University. I loved London. I loved living in Europe. I loved my large boisterous very connected family, now all scattered throughout Europe. The possibility of the Americas never crossed my mind, although a fortune teller had foretold it.

We each had other plans when we met again as adults in Switzerland in March of 1962. We were in our twenties, Serge on a business trip from New York for IBM World Trade. I, certain I would never marry a man from the Middle East. But in three weeks of periodic walking and talking, a little eating, a little dancing, a picnic, a visit to the Chateau de Gruyere, we joyfully committed to spending the rest of our lives together far from our families. All that mattered was to be together. We knew we would work it all out if we were together. We knew that was all that mattered.

We were right. No amount of planning could have prepared us for these past 57 years. We explored our youth together, had so much fun together, had good times and difficult times, and had our children when we were little more than children ourselves. No-one was around to dispense advice or to inflate disputes. There was no social media, no smartphones, no email, no easy phone connection to those we loved. Each crisis overcome brought us closer together. Life was not always kind.

So forgive me if I take a look back and dispense some advice strange to the ears of the meticulous young planners of today: The heart speaks truth. Don't plan. Don't waste time waiting for the timing to be perfect. To be exactly right.

Plunge. You'll find the way to get it right.

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Message across the Decades


My parents

Joyce and Guido Mosseri on their honeymoon in Aswan, Egypt


My parents, Joyce Smouha and Guido Mosseri, were married in Alexandria, Egypt, on February 21, 1937. They were both readers, and I remember that they had a cupboard in their little sitting room in the big house where I grew up, where they kept the special books they loved, and over time shared with their children. One of those books was BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, by Dorothy Sayers.
Time passed, and the Suez crisis of 1956 saw a dramatic change in the fortunes of the Jews from Egypt. Those with Egyptian passports were expelled immediately, forced to surrender their passports and claim to Egyptian citizenship. Those with foreign passports left too, but somewhat less precipitously. Of 80,000 Jews in Egypt, within a year or two, most had left. Only an aging handful remain, intent on staying out of the public eye.
We were among the more fortunate. We had Italian passports, and in 1957, we left our home and Egypt forever. My aunts settled in Rome. My parents in Geneva Switzerland, until my mother joined my brother and myself in New York after the death of our father in 1969. Books and possessions followed my mother to New York, some broken, some lost, in this new transition.
Imagine my wonder and amazement when I received a message from a publishing colleague with whom I had long lost touch. He had seen my Facebook post that my memoir, Sipping From The Nile, was in a promotion for 99c. on Amazon, for the entire month of May.
"Were your parents Joyce and Guido Mosseri?" He asked. And then went on to tell me that his copy of Dorothy Sayers' novel, BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, bore an inscription to them, from gift-givers unknown to me, in Alexandria, dated February 21, 1937, their wedding day. He sent me a photo of the inscription, and I saw my mother's distinctive handwriting.

If only books could talk!

Way beyond the call of duty, the kind publishing colleague has sent me the book. I will treasure it.

So there is a message here, but I can't quite decipher the code. Except, perhaps, that the love of books transcends time and place, and that this book has somehow brought together some of the disconnects in my life, blending beginnings and endings.

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The Terrible Month of May

The exuberance of early daffodils

The drabness of winter trees seemed to echo the drabness in my heart. And suddenly this week, almost overnight, the city  exploded into young green, lacy delicate leaves shivering in the chilly breezes, casting a hazy bloom over every street tree,  everywhere showing off apple blossom, quince, redbud and cherry blossom, punctuated by the bold gold of forsythia and daffodils, the massed red and yellow tulips in tiny flower beds of brilliant color, surprising the eye and the heart.

I am a lady in waiting. I have to effect a few small changes on the finished FOOTPRINTS ON THE HEART, as I await creative surprises from the jacket designer. The anticipation is making it hard to get through every day, but I hope that something will flower on my computer soon, and that I will love her ideas. I am tackling the ever-demanding and never-reducing piles of mail and documents that each require something of me, as they float in, day by day, a relentless tide of mess and obligation.

May will hurt. Alan's birthday was May 18th, and before that I must navigate Mother's Day. His was usually the first call, and he never forgot. He lives on vividly in my heart, that beautiful baby with a mass of dark hair, a gorgeous smile, and an irresistible chuckle, who became that big man with the kind and generous heart, the ever-present humor, and the wonderful enveloping hug.

May will also bring joy and laughter to us, as my nineteen-year-old granddaughter Anna from Seattle arrives from college with her beautiful youth and energy, to park herself with us for a month while she works at her daily summer internship in a midtown company. Dinner will blossom with tales of the day's experiences, discussions of what to wear if she is going out, and how she will get to and from everywhere safely. I can hardly wait. Anna is also the irresistible magnet for my other nineteen-year-old granddaughter, her cousin Sarah. The two of them will stir the air like music, and usher us back into youth for a brief stint of happiness.

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