"Things should not end this way, but you have to, my love, I swear I must. Do you remember that first night we fell in love? Do you remember the night we conceived Leah ?
We both wanted a child, because we were transforming the madness and despair of our lives into a hopeful thing between us. When you and I were fine, Jack, we could ignite the whole world with our bodies and make it perfect.
I did not tell you why I left you, you and Leah, Jack, but I'm telling you now. Madness again. And this time, it's too much. The lady is back. The lady with gold coins, the one I told you about when we were kids. When I was a child, she only came to look at me, to take pity of me, but this time she came back cruel. This time she was talking to the Germans, she was spitting in my face because I was Jewish. As a little girl, Jack, I could not stand what my parents had lived. Their suffering touched me as nothing else has ever touched me. I awoke each morning with their mute sorrow, their war with no word could explain. The pain was inside me
I bore their pain in me, like a child. I fed on it, I enjoyed it, I let it run through my veins like fragments of glass and crystal. I never had the strength to take on the terrifying story of my parents. What they endured tortures me, moves me, makes me helpless.
The gold coin lady is now claiming me, Jack, and I cannot resist her voice.
The camps call me, Jack... I have to follow the voice, and when I jump out of this bridge, Jack, I'll just join the hungry and broken bodies of six million Jews into the pits.
The bodies of my father and mother lie among these massacred Jews, and they did not have the chance to die. I will be the Jewess who offers her emaciated body to make the soap that will wash the bodies of the Reich soldiers. It's crazy, Jack, but it's a reality. What is most true in me, and I beg your pardon.
But, Jack, Jack honey, my good Jack - how can I leave you, Leah and you? How to talk about my love for you two to the lady with gold coins? But she does not want my love, she wants my life. Her voice is so persuasive, in her brutal sweetness, she knows her business well. She knows that I cannot love anyone when my country is the country of falsification, obsession, tears, broken people.
It's the best, Jack, the best for me. When I leave, please tell me about Leah. Tell her all the good times. Love her for both of us. Find the mother in you, Jack. She's here, and she's a good mother, and I'm counting on you to honor her and raise Leah with that soft, loving part of you. Do the job I was supposed to do, Jack, and do not let anyone stop you.
Honor me and remember me through the adoration of our child.
And then, Jack, Jack honey, you'll meet another woman someday. I already love this woman, I cherish her, I respect her, I envy her. She has my darling man, and I would have fought any woman in the world who tried to take you away from me.Tell her, about me.
But tell her this, Jack, tell her what I'm going to tell you, and that I want you to listen.
"I'm waiting for you, Jack. I am waiting for you in this house that the sea engulfed the first night we loved each other, when we knew that our destinies had crossed. Love her, be faithful to her, but tell her that I have this house ready for your arrival. That's where I'm waiting for you, Jack, as you read this letter. This house is under the sea. I will listen to you knock, and I will open the door for you, and I will lead you to that room where we danced the music of the summer, where we kissed, lying on the carpet falling in love.
Marry a wife a good woman, Jack, but then come back to me, in our house under the sea. I hope she looks pretty, I hope that she will love our daughter as much as I would have loved her.
But tell her I'm not giving up completely, Jack. I allow her to borrow you for a moment.
I'm asking you, Jack, this is the last request of my soul and the imperishable love I have for you, marry a fabulous woman, but tell her I'm the one who taught you to dance .
Tell her you have to keep the last dance for me.
" Oh Sheila,dear Shyla! said Jack.
He was ravishing about the beauty of her daughter, and he knew that he would kill all the Germans on the planet before letting them touch her.
He could not bear the idea that the world could have been a pretty demonic day to hunt down and exterminate children as if they were insects or vermin.
Leah McCall, the daughter of a Jewish woman, would have been a little black ashes hanging on the mountains of Poland, if she had been born fifty years later, he told himself.
But that morning, he told Leah the story of Ruth Fox, her grandmother and her terrifying survival during the Second World War. He described the murder of Ruth's family, her escape to the world of Catholic resistance, her clandestine stay in a convent until the day the Great Jew miraculously bought her back to Waterford, South Carolina. For the first time, he told Leah about her grandmother's sewn dress for her daughter Ruth, telling her how this long-dead woman had concealed eight gold coins disguised as bolts.
Ruth should use to buy her escape.
He told Leah how Ruth had hidden the gold coin dress behind an altar where the Virgin Mary enthroned, crowned Queen of the Angels, and how her grandmother had prayed this woman she knew she was born Jewish, two a thousand years ago, in Palestine. He told her that Ruth had believed all her life that Mary had heard and answered the prayers of a Jewish girl who was praying for intercession in a war-torn Poland church.
Ruth had baptized this statue the lady with gold coins, and this story had deeply and forever marked Shyla, Leah's mother.
"On the Ponte Mazzini, which crossed the Tiber River, I offered Leah the gold necklace that Shyla had worn every day of her life except the last. In her will, Shyla said that this necklace should return to Leah when she was old enough to hear her story. She trusted me to decide the moment.
"Your mom would be delighted," Jack said. Leah replied, "I'm impatient. It's time you give me a mother, do not you think?
- Yes, Jack said. I agree. By the way, Leah. Thank you for being the child you are. You are the sweetest, kindest, most adorable girl I have ever seen in my life, from the day we brought her from the hospital to today . I have nothing to do with it and have been content with being fascinated and smug with admiration every time I look at you."
My name is Jack McCall and I fled to Rome to raise my daughter in peace. Today, in 1985.
In 1980, a year after the plunge to the death of his wife who stepped over the Silas Pearlman Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, Jack went to live in Italy to start from scratch, taking her little girl with him . She was not yet two years old, their lovely Leah, the day his wife, Shyla, stopped the car on the highest point of the bridge and gazed for the last time at the city she loved so much. She was also lively and funny, Shyla, but there was a dark part in her that she concealed beneath brilliant remarks and irony as finely chiseled as lace. She had achieved such a mastery of camouflage strategies that her own story had taken on the appearance of a succession of judiciously placed mirrors that allowed her to hide from herself.
After her death, Javk had not had time to cry Shyla, even if he wanted to find time for all the tears that he carried in him.
He hoped to save his life and that of Leah and he wanted to make her a young European woman.
Leah's happiness was the absolute priority of his life; and he was determined not to transmit to her the infinite family capacity for suffering. He knew that Leah, because she was Shyla's daughter and his, would receive more than her share of genes from misfortune. Taken together, their families had enough sad stories.
But he swore to protect her from these stories, the South that he described to Leah every night to put her to sleep only existed in his imagination. No sign of danger or nightmare had room. She had no dark face, the southern moon that he told his daughter, rivers flowed quietly and camellias were in bloom all year. It was a South that existed without wounds, without thorns, without sorrows.
His pretty lies became Leah's memories. Without realizing it, he made the mistake of turning South Carolina into a secret and lost paradise for his daughter.
But then he told Leah the truth about her mother:
"No baby has ever been loved as your mother loved you. Her eyes were full of love as soon as she looked at you. She could not help touching you, she would have always wanted to feed you. Shyla loved everything about you.
- Then why, dad? Why ?
- I do not know, darling. But I will try to tell you everything "
"You know now, baby. You will learn to live with the death of your mother until the end of your days. But you and I are forming a team, and we are going to do great things. Including ?
"Understood," said Leah, still crying.
After Shyla's death, it was Jack's turn to be obsessed with the Holocaust, to study those gaping years with a passion and a desire for completeness that he never thought possible. This number on Shyla's arm haunted him. He is sure I could have helped her if only he had known the depth of her involvement in the destruction of the Jews. She had spent her life hiding her Jewishness by wrapping it in a cocoon of precious and secret silks. It was only after Leah's birth that she seemed to want to come to terms with her Jewish roots.
Inside him, Shyla was the sound of the sea and the song of the wind. Looking at the stars, he drew a constellation that had the pretty face of Shyla. She was light and haunted him.
It was his daughter who gave him back his city as a gift. She found magic because all her stories started and ended there, because every day she came across Shyla, by chance.
"Everyone spends their time talking about love. It's like the weather. But how can a man like me learn love? How do I release what is buried deep in me? If I knew how to do that, Mom, I would give love to everyone. I would be generous, mother, I would not be reluctant with anyone. But love is a dance that no one has taught me. Nobody took it apart for me. I believe that I can only love in secret. There is in me like a big river without source which I can draw when nobody looks. Because it is secret, hidden, I can not carry out expeditions. So I like it weird, oblique. My love becomes a kind of enigma. It brings neither rest nor relief to any suffering.
- You do not need words, my son. You have everything you need. Tell her that love is cleaning up the vomit in your mother's bed and nightgown, that it's cleaning the shit on the tiling of a hospital. Fly eight thousand kilometers when you learn that your mother is sick. Tell her that love is to find a brother very disturbed on the Edisto, and bring him back without hurting him; bring home a drunk father a hundred times during your teenage years. Tell Leah to raise a little girl alone. Love is acts, Jack. It's not beautiful words. It never was....Continua
For the first third of this book it felt like it could be a (rather lame) sequel to Prince of Tides - different characters, same themes. Eventually though the author began to allow the story to take its own shape and that's when it really started to shine....Continua
This books barely gets marks above regretful. If you are looking for a book that is going to ramble on about every event in history from Vietnam to the Holocaust, while trying to include stories about the environment, family and Republican bashing (but failing completely) then you should read this book.
If you like a book with a point and believable characters, skip this one.
The writing was not completely horrible, saving it from 1 star. Except for that every character sounded almost completely the same, including the young girl in the story. Yay.
I wanted to finish it so badly because I kept thinking there would be a point which would be revealed at the end, but unless the only point was to mock Republicans for stereotypes, then I totally missed it. Boring with a capital B....Continua
I tried to read this book, since The prince of tides is one of those movies I always watch and that always makes me cry... Several American bookcrossers had also told me it is one of their favourite books, but I couldn't get into this novel.
When I eventually got to page 100 I realized it was taking too long to the author to tell his story. And I couldn't stand the tone he used when talking about Rome, the Romans and Italy in general. It is clear he loved Rome but in the book there is too much of what foreigners (and Americans especially) want to read about Italy - which is not exactly the truth but a stereotype most of the times... I'm afraid this goes with all those books written by Americans about Italy, like those by Adriana Trigiani.
And I'm not the target reader of these novels. :-/