Entering the Mystery Genre


For the book lover, literature becomes more beautiful over time. With the passing of the years, our tastes in books evolve. We learn about a certain genre, falling for it to an extent that we live in it, and suddenly–another genre whisks us to a new place. We then see the world from a different angle.

I have been immersed in historical fiction for at least three years. I’ve learned a great deal about important events, how life was lived, the way people dressed, and social interactions. This information molded most of my recent manuscripts. Historical fiction continues to be an important part of what I write and will eventually publish.

I didn’t like mysteries when I was younger. Maybe the mysteries that I chose to read were not the best, but I found them tedious and boring. I was more interested in emotional books than the mechanics of building a whodunnit. I never considered reading thrillers–I guess too many of them were overrated? Too many used paperbacks were sent in droves to the thrift store? I can’t account for my aversion to thrillers.

This year, towards the end of May, I was barricaded with ideas for a mystery. I won’t give details, but it is set in the present day (pre-Covid, mind) and it has been delightful to work with characters who have the same advantages that I do. They’re all over my imagination now; I can’t focus on banal tasks without a new scene filling my head. I even find reading difficult to do, since these new characters want to have my attention; they won’t share it with a novel.

Aware that I haven’t the slightest idea of how to write a mystery, I began searching for good ones to read. Ever loyal to the classics, I am reading Agatha Christie–but since what I’m writing is present-day, I’m also looking for modern mysteries. The thrillers that I find present a welcome change in pace from the classics that I had been reading, though Alexandre Dumas still paints better pictures in my imagination.

In short, I am reading things I never thought I would be reading before; is this a sign of maturity in a reader?

The first thriller I’ve read was suggested in a book group. The Couple Next Door was part of a bookhaul I got at a yard sale, and it had been sitting in the back of my closet for three years. It was delightful when I realized that the most popular thriller in that group was already within my reach. I found it and finished it–in one day.

What a change in pace. What a race to an unexpected ending. I definitely want to read more; I’ll be looking for the next book.

The reader’s life involves many forms of growth. Some of them can only be understood by other readers. As I enter the genres of Mystery and Thriller, I want to learn all about them. The first thing I looked up after finishing The Couple Next Door was Which are the first thrillers that were written? Though I did not find a direct answer, I did discover a good list of thrillers here. A couple are good old classics that I was planning to read anyway, including The Moonstone and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

It feels like I’ve taken an unexpected turn in the road of reading and writing, and I’d like to find people already deep in those genres to share with. Do you have a favorite mystery or thriller book? Do you know of any blogs that might help me on this new path? Please comment and let me know!

NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman


I know I have written about the book Neverwhere in the past. It’s one of the few books I classify as favorites.

Those stories become favorites because something about them remains in me. It might be a character, or a place, or a phrase I must repeat every few years.

Sometimes, I will have forgotten the rest of a book in question—all of it except for the one thing that made it immortal.

This year, I read Neverwhere again after so long that I’d forgotten most of the story. Very little of it was familiar. Apart from some phrases that inexplicably took root in my memory, the mood and setting of this book felt new.

Halfway through, I remembered why I have always loved the story. The simplicity of main character Richard Mayhew is beautiful every time I ‘meet him’ again.

He is not popular or exciting. He has some aloof friends at work and a girlfriend who treats him like a loser. It seems as if his life will never speed up—until he does an act of kindness which flings him into London Below, a world of monsters and treachery.

Richard is frightened to be there. He is no instant hero, like those we encounter in movies. It takes him a painstakingly long while to accept he isn’t dreaming.

The boldest element in Neverwhere is Richard’s humanity, his ordinariness, something we can all relate to—and something we seek subconsciously in everything we read.

Like him, we feel insignificant sometimes. We grow through trials, some of them tremendous and frightening. These trials can shape us into heroes, if we let them.

We should never feel pressured into instant bravery—that’s not how humanity works. Instead, we should accept ourselves for what we really are; that is the most frightening and brave thing to do.

Neverwhere is a favorite because it has Richard, a character who gives me hope even when he has lost his own. His transformation is not painless; he does not meet the monsters with his chin up every time. Nonetheless, he emerges a warrior.

Richard’s humanity was the thing I needed to revisit in Neverwhere, a place I will never tire of—because his humanity makes it easier for me to accept my own.

Your Favorite Author?


It takes a while to discover which authors you might call ‘favorites.’ I, for one, tend to bounce from book to book, rarely lingering on a single author unless they wrote classics.

Charles Dickens has been a favorite author of mine from the start—I read A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve!—but apart from him, I have never thought, “I need to read all the books this person wrote.” There are too many to choose from, I think, to not allow room to explore.

shelf above: Agatha Christie & history (mostly European); below, historical fiction and women writers I enjoy

At last, however, I have found some authors who—while I hesitate to call them favorites—I would want to read their books over and over. It’s their writing style; it’s the way they build the worlds in their novels.

Why don’t I call them favorites? I don’t know; I’ve always had an easier time picking favorite novels than favorite authors. After all, an author might have one really great book, while their others are mediocre; I still like them, but are they a favorite?

Have you ever grappled with the question of a favorite author? I would love to hear if you settled on one, and if so, what you love most about them!

Featured is a photo of a shelf with some of the authors I would read again. (There are more, but their books are on my Kindle!)

From Dust to Rich Soil


All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Ecclesiastes 3:20

We have begun the liturgical season of Lent. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, Christians worldwide remind themselves of their dependence on God. As we set aside the airs of grandeur, we are forced to behold the messes we are, messes which only He can clean up.

Though this sounds romantic, know that Lent will not leave you as you were if you celebrate properly.

Humans like to have everything under control, especially ourselves. During Lent, we are forced to acknowledge that our own selves are in His hands. We teach ourselves lessons of morality and wrestle with demons disguised as ‘human nature.’ We set goals for Lent, abstaining from red meat or snacks; whether we succeed or not, we are reminded that we’re not in control.

Ignore the cravings, cheat on a Sunday, you will be forced to admit it is difficult.

Lent is supposed to be an uncomfortable time, but this does not mean it has to be a dark time. The spirit of Lent should be carried throughout the year, this battle for our own souls. We should learn to approach an admission of weakness as freedom: it allows us to rest our heads on His Sacred Heart, knowing that there is no other way to “be perfect.” We give it all up to Him, even the vices and pain that we somehow glorified. He loves us too much to let us stay enslaved.

Take comfort, for you are dust. From dust the Lord shaped you into a human. Everything unique about you was formed by His Hands. Your strengths and weaknesses were breathed by Him. Take comfort–while you are still expected to fight the good fight and endure until the end, your failures are progress. We do not need to feel like gods when we are formed from dust. We do not need to wallow in shame; we are dust and, as He shaped into what we are, He can shape us into more perfect versions–if we let Him.

Lent is more than a time to give up donuts. We should always live grateful that our God never gives up on us. If we will drop the petty things that make us feel unique, things we won’t admit are hurting us, He will transform us. The flower must push through the ground before it blooms; we are dust, and dust can be made into beautiful clay statues, but not without an uncomfortable process.

If we live our lives with the penitential, humble spirit of Lent, we might one day be perfect.

I am trying to purge myself of toxic thoughts. I am trying to do scary things and step over the boundaries I set, somehow believing I knew myself enough to dictate what I am capable of. I know nothing about myself; how can I dare say what I am capable of? I am savoring every moment and opening doors I can’t afford to keep closed.

A heart shut up won’t break, but neither will it grow.

I am dust. So long as I remember this, I can be shaped by God into something worthy of Him. I will never be finished in this life, but how dare I stop seeking worthiness? How dare I settle in this shriveled version of myself? Lent is uncomfortable, but so is life.

Use Lent as a time to take action and toss your demons out the door. Don’t give them the key or tell them where the spare is hidden. You might feel empty for a while without them, but angels won’t take long to come to your aid.

Do not be grieved by the memory of being dust. Beautiful things grow out of dirt; God can make this dust into rich soil, home to a most glorious flower garden pleasing to Him.

How Covid Affected My Faith


This is part one of a long testimonial that sprang from a single question. If anything, the virus has forced me to think hard about what I believe and why. I do not know when I’ll post the rest. If you’re interested, perhaps I’ll share.

Why is it so hard to talk about faith? I’ve had these thoughts sitting in a Google doc for over a week now, and though the world is hushed and starved for instances of true faith, I feel as if I am breaking some form of politically correct code in simply stating what most of my acquaintances know about me.

Why do we hesitate to talk about and commit to our belief systems? Two things might happen. We could find people who disagree, which is natural, and in a good situation it would end in discussion and understanding. We could also stumble on our own trains of thought and find that thinking about our faith discourages us rather than strengthen it.

I’ve always thought faith was a spiritual gift of mine, though. Based on the Rock as it is, it might have taken a swing or two in bad times, but I’ve never lost it. Simpler faiths have not tempted me. I highly doubt a simpler faith would get me through things such as a worldwide pandemic.

Following months of Covid and plague, a dramatic election, a controversial vaccine, and lots of angry conversations with people suffering in ways I can’t see physically–after all of that, I’ve been seeing posts asking a very important question.

How has Covid affected my Catholic faith?

It would be a lie to say Covid has not affected it. It would be a waste not to use my voice if I can steadily phrase my situation. It would be cowardice to keep it to myself because people are allergic to faith lately. I’m sure more people are looking for a visible, sturdy faith lately than they’d readily admit.

The answer is simple on the surface. People who were already struggling with Catholicism probably lost what little faith they had when thousands of people began to die. People like me who had better-rooted faith are still struggling. I promise there is a struggle. It looks different, though.

When 2021 began, I wanted to do a “positivity hashtag” using JPII’s context of Be Not Afraid. Reality hit me, and it sank in that I could not spread a worldwide message of hope alone when I myself am still human and caught in the uncertainty. I did not give up on the message, but allowed it to affect me. Instead of shoving a hashtag at people, I drank the message in small gulps until I was able to remember God’s faithfulness on the darkest of days.

Sometimes when I pray, I feel like I’m not speaking to a room full of angels and divine intervention. That’s okay–I’m not meant to feel that every day. On occasions when I feel that my words are just words, I keep saying them. I might be tired, and it might be difficult to ‘hold the phone’ for me sometimes. However, for God it never is–and I rely on His strength, not mine, to hold the phone.

I therefore feel the need to rearrange my message to the world right now. Be afraid–but don’t let it stop you. Yes, we have reasons to be afraid right now. God is still holding the phone; He is still turning the proverbial wheel. We can be afraid, but when we are, we should always turn to him.

How, then, has Covid affected my Catholic faith? I debated which blog to post this on. My missionary blog has been quiet because I am indeed human and the creative cycle can only do so much when I can’t see peoples’ faces. I’ve managed to write a tiny amount of fiction, and 1k lately is a great writing session.

How has Covid affected my Catholic faith? I no longer feel the need to separate myself the author from the religious believer. I question my choice last year of creating a separate blog to talk about my brothers and sisters, the Saints. I’m not a nice person anymore, because I have opinions that might upset people.

I once saw someone comment somewhere, “I’m a Catholic, but I don’t let it define me.” I suppose I can answer the opposite quite frankly: I am a Catholic, and I do let it define me.

Last week I saw someone say “Being Catholic and being Christian are not the same thing.” I agree; being Catholic means I’m still on the rock that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 16. 

I’m not intending to step on toes, but when other people are thoughtless on dropping a comment on the flip side, I don’t understand why I have to be nice and keep the response to myself–because it is not the right thing to do, and you don’t put a lamp under a basket.

I’m not a nice person because people keep ignorantly stepping on my toes, believing in a Jesus built on personal interpretation on a book that was modified to reformers’ liking. However, I digress. My personal faith and another’s will look different. If you agree it’s not Christlike to step on someone’s toes unprovoked, we can move on.

Except maybe we can’t–because I’m getting into history now. History lines up with my testimony. I pay attention to history because we are told to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Since this digresses majorly from the Covid topic, I’m going to meditate before I share the rest. Now at least I know I answered the first question.

To Be Continued (Maybe)…

Poem: Avonlea


Five monarchs flutter in a row–
They’re grace on wings,
And as they go,
Time stops. Am I in Avonlea?
Though Avonlea has never seen
Five monarchs in a row!

They make no sound to my own ear,
Yet my heart makes out
Music here.
Five monarchs make a chord of light.
It will ring clear into the night.
What dark have I to fear!

The Purpose of 2021


At the end of a year such as this, I find myself at a loss for what to say. Parts of 2020 were wonderful, such as seeing my cousins again after so long. Other aspects were nightmarish–imagining all of the people in the world falling sick, picturing empty chairs at Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, the sense of utter helplessness.

I imagine that 2020 changed everyone in some way. As it is now, I have developed a thirst for God again–yes, a thirst for Truth. You can see it in my religious blog. You might notice it if you see the pile of Papal Encyclicals on my desk, waiting to be read. I am single, but I’m in love with Jesus and His Church.

Can there be a love stronger than what I feel for the Church right now? She is a beacon of hope and a chest of treasures. The best memories of my childhood were in religious education class. There is no sweeter aroma to me than the inside of my parish, which I can smell even through the odious face-mask. I think of the days I was preparing for Confirmation–and such a nostalgia grips me that I want to weep.

I can’t–I can’t imagine I would have found this love again, if COVID fear had not sent me back “home.” Hold on to your faith and don’t let go. Bathe your quaking heart in the gentle truth of God’s love; wrap yourself in the safety of Mary’s mantle.

Some of you, like me, might feel inclined to weep as we near the end of this horrific year. Do it–let your tears water your faith. It will grow into a deeply-rooted tree, shade in the heat of trouble, shelter from the storm.

As for me, one day I will teach religious education. One day, I will give other kids the beautiful memories that my religion teachers gave me. When, God, will I be able to do this in person? A blog is all I can manage for now. I pray that this should be in my future–yes, I study and I pray.

My beautiful Idaho in the winter

Many of you might have lost someone this year. I wish I could tell you that time will heal your grief, but if my previous post here tells you anything, it’s that time does not patch up the wound of a lost loved one.

At the Christmas Eve Mass last week, we asked for my beloved grandmother’s name to be mentioned in the prayers for the deceased. When I heard her name mentioned as deceased, my heart hurt–as if she had left us again. It felt like that morning, two years ago, when my dad woke us up on Christmas Eve to say, “Grandma died.”

After prayers were said, the choir played The First Noel, my favorite Christmas song–but I could not sing it. I was crying–so hard that I could not hold a note, or remember the lyrics. I could only kneel and rifle through the beautiful memories of Grandma and her house, the clothes she wore, her scent and her laughter, the deck overlooking her yard. My heart, though grateful that she was with Jesus, felt terrible pain.

It felt as if she had been wrenched from me again.

On the kneeler, I felt relief–and then emptiness–and I sobbed instead to The First Noel, praying in thanksgiving for my grandma’s life. That was all I could do–thank the Lord for her life.

If you need to cry, let your tears water your faith. Don’t hold them in, though; turn to the crucified Savior and cry.

There’s a time for flower beds and there’s a time for ice / The armor of the tree and bush which, frozen, slowly dies…

2021 does not promise to be easier. I’m not afraid of 2021. I wear the shield of faith, and instead of letting it wrench me of hope, I pray that God will use me and my writing to give hope to others.

I’m not afraid of 2021. I am afraid of not seeing a future, of not anticipating being anyone, of being the same person I was before COVID. Let me never be lukewarm again. I am more than a writer; I am a child of God, His ambassador on earth. All Christians have much work to do in His name.

There will have been positive changes in you this year, as well. Perhaps you can’t see them yet; dig deep and you will feel them. Have a good cry and they will surface on your heart. You have a purpose–yes, you, though there are moments you might feel you don’t make a dent in history. You have a purpose; that’s why you were born!

My grandma had a beautiful purpose; now she has gone to Jesus. She left a family aching with rich love for her. Live the sort of life that will form your legacy of love. There is nothing else we should strive to be remembered for, because God is Love.

Enter 2021 ready to find your purpose. I am.

Dear Grandma:


Dear Grandma:

It’s been two years, and I guess I need to talk to you. Merry Christmas is hard to pronounce, because you left on Christmas Eve.

I remember what your house looked like every Christmastime. I remember you had Mrs. Claus sitting on a child-sized rocking chair and you always had tons of ornaments on your tree. You made a lot of them decades past; I really wish we had gotten better photos of the masterpiece that was your Christmas tree.

It’s been two years since you went to Heaven and I’ve learned that time does not, in fact, heal. It gives you opportunities to find distractions; you pick up new hobbies and responsibilities. You seek the same sort of comfort in other people, but no one hugs like you did, and no one smells like you did.

One summer we were in your basement. You asked me, “Would you ever consider visiting my church?” Because you are Mormon and I have been Catholic since I was eleven. I didn’t know what to say at the time; I didn’t want to get into a religious discussion with my grandma. “I’ll consider it,” I promised you, and though you might have wanted some more enthusiasm, you didn’t press the subject.

When you died, I decided I wanted to keep that promise. I didn’t expect I’d be keeping that promise I made to you while you were in your casket, but I’m sure you were in the same room. I told a story my cousins must have been familiar with. I spoke of how you loved the autumn leaves as they changed with the seasons. I reminded my cousins of how you would point them out every time you drove us somewhere in October.

I spoke to distant family and friends from your church who probably didn’t know this side of you, about how you were an artist. You would pull up in your white Dodge Durango, all dressed up to visit the craft store. One time you accidentally pulled up to get us when I had arranged to go somewhere else with a friend, so you and I agreed to go out again some other time. I regret that decision; I will always regret it.

I spoke a eulogy as a granddaughter, and though I had never done any form of public speaking previously, people said that it was moving. Many asked me to send them the transcript. It was the last thing I could do for you on earth: remind people of how you loved.

Two years later, Christmas isn’t the same. You left us on the morning of Christmas Eve, forever making yourself a part of the Christmas spirit, but we are human and our hearts are still broken. Last year we did not put up a Christmas tree; this year we have a small one, but your house has been taken by another family, and we are utterly alone in this city.

My brother snapped a candid shot of a time you spontaneously decided to teach me to make chocolate chip cookies. You were wearing a cheetah-print blouse and I was paying attention. I didn’t know at the time how desperately I would want that moment back, and I am grateful to Christian for preserving that moment.

One time you were speaking of someone you knew who had gotten engaged, and seeing that I looked melancholy, gave me advice about relationships. “You’ll have one one day,” you said, referring to a wedding announcement. “Men aren’t as aggressive with their feelings.” Whether that’s true or not, your care for how I felt on the subject still serves as a balm.

One time I asked you if Grandpa would be proud of us. It had been over ten years since his death, and you knew him better than anyone else, while I only have flashes of important moments spent with him. “Oh,” you said, nearly breaking down, “he would be so proud of you.” You then walked away, as if to cry somewhere.

I remember being a young child, cuddled up against you while you read out loud from Peter Rabbit. I remember the feel of the couch beneath us, the smell of your laundry detergent, and the illustrations from the book. Then I would want you to read me another book, and you’d wait patiently as I chose a children’s book from your cupboard. It smelled like the library I would one day have. When you died, I kept that copy of Peter Rabbit for myself.

A snippet of a conversation between you and Grandpa lingers in my mind regarding the grandfather clock we inherited from you. He was staring at the pendulum as it went back and forth, admiring how the entire living room could be seen on its face. “Colleen,” he told you, “take a photo of that.” “The flash would ruin it,” you replied. “Paint it,” he said.

There are moments that the four of us feel lost in the world without you. We haven’t gone to your favorite restaurant, Casa Mexico, since then; I don’t think we ever will. We can’t drive by your house.

I always dream of your house, you know. I dream of going inside and everything being where it should be, including the grandfather clock now ticking away in my living room. In my mind, that will always be our family’s house.

“You’re still grieving?” some might ask. “That was a long time ago.” Or, “She’s in Heaven!” Or, “Find a hobby.”

Certain friends could not understand that grief causes change in behavior, priorities, and mindset. I don’t miss them. If they couldn’t stand by me while I grieved, they weren’t really friends.

Grandma Colleen, the thing I remember most about you is how the only thing you remembered to say in your final months was “I love you.” You took that love with you, and I can picture you looking back at us at the gates to Heaven in order to say “I love you” one last time.

I don’t know the point of this post. I’m not sure you can read it. I suppose I want everyone to know for Christmas what a great grandmother you are.

You left a void in all of us. I’m sorry we can’t fill it; I don’t mean to guilt you. We miss you and we always will.

Christmas is about Jesus…but it’s also about you. It always will be.

I love you.

-Mariella

Waiting at the Manger


Last night we made a small pilgrimage to our church, where there is a Nativity scene. Baby Jesus is not there yet; according to tradition, He will be placed in the manger on Christmas Eve. In our house we have a small Nativity scene where Baby Jesus is covered up; He will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

Friends, it has been a year to test all of us; enough has happened to chip away at the faith of the most pious person. We cannot let fear steal away our joy of the holidays. We cannot let fear steal away our joy.

I’m not a theologian. I am a storyteller. Long ago, when I was baptized, I knew Jesus had sent us all out to tell the greatest story of them all: the story of how He came to save us from eternal grief. My short posts on lives of the Saints at Write Catholic are only the result of the first chapter.

What is the first chapter? Is it not when the Creator descended as a babe, helpless in the arms of His Mother, surrounded by the animals blessed to adore Him–already rejected, because there was no room for Him at the inn?

2021 is a good time to erase fear from the inns of our hearts and make space for the gifts that Jesus brought us. In 2020 we were all afraid, and we had reason to be; in 2020, many people lost loved ones and had their lives changed forever.

St. John Paul II’s handwriting encourages us to remember the 365 times that the Bible tells us not to be afraid. Anyone who knows of St. John Paul II’s life can agree that he saw fear; he felt it; he wept when he lost his friends, he must have been frustrated when Parkinson’s debilitated him, and there must have been times when he asked God Why?

He had a purpose, though, and God never gives us more than we can handle. You have a purpose, too; so do I. In 2021, I will follow the words of St. John Paul II and pray for the grace to stand steady in the face of a shifting world.

As survivors of 2020, what might our purpose be? Here are some ideas off of the top of my head:

  • Comfort the mourning. You probably know somebody who lost a friend or family member to COVID; send them a card in the mail and reassure them of your prayer and friendship.
  • Exercise your faith. Like a muscle, faith needs to be put into action daily. Read the Bible or a devotional; sit in silence and wait for the soft voice in your heart to give you instructions.
  • Pray the Rosary. Our Lady gave us the Rosary with the promise that this Sacramental would save the world. She told the children at Fatima that it should be prayed every day. I have made this a practice, and it brings me peace I cannot describe with human words.
  • Count your blessings. A dear friend encouraged me to write my small blessings in a gratitude journal. Be grateful for your breakfast in the morning; be grateful for that line in a song you really love. The more you practice gratitude, the more grateful you will be.
  • Tell someone about Jesus. I can assure you that, in the chaos of 2020, many people have forgotten about Jesus and what He did for us. Tell one person about Jesus this year; remind them that we have not been forgotten, and that we look forward to a better world.
  • Practice charity. Whether it’s donating to a food bank or being kind to someone you do not know, those five dollars might buy a meal–a kind sentence might be the only kindness someone encounters in an entire day. Love covers a multitude of sins–and heals a multitude of hurts.

We are a people of joy, not fear.

Christmas is nearly upon us; I can feel in my bones that we Christians have extra work to do in 2021. Raise the hashtag #2021BeNotAfraid. Seek the positive, the reminders of God in the world. Tell people why you still have hope.

My part in all of this? I am a writer. I can use words to get messages across. I am more than a fiction writer. My interests are in more than fantasy and historical fiction. It is my vocation to keep telling the greatest story in the world.

I believe this is my purpose. Sit down for a while now and ask God…what is yours?

Review: EAST by Edith Pattou


Do you have a book that has been with you for years? One that became your favorite story for so long that, though the plot is fuzzy, you remember how much you love it? One so dear that it remains a part of you, sharing in fond memories–a friend you have been waiting to meet again?

As a teenager, if asked what my favorite book was, I wouldn’t have replied Harry Potter. After all, Rowling’s had books reached a favorite level that it would feel silly to name them. My real favorite book, the one I recommended to everyone–and eventually lent (to a person who never returned it!) was East by Edith Pattou.

I had not read East in over ten years when it appeared on Amazon in August as a suggested title for my Kindle. It wasn’t expensive, and I knew that it was time to revisit this old friend of mine. It would bring me comfort in rough times such as these. 

This year, when I reread East, I sought comfort from a childhood friend.

East is the story of Rose. She was born into a farmer’s family, to a mother who was very superstitious. When Rose’s mother was expecting her, she was very concerned that the infant not be born facing North, believing that a child born facing North would be a wanderer and get into all sorts of trouble.

Rose’s birth was a sudden, chaotic event. It took place in the forest when her parents went out to gather berries. Her father had no choice but to deliver her there on the forest floor…and in the chaos, her mother’s greatest fear took place: Rose was born facing North. Only her parents knew about this, and they agreed to keep it a secret. They lied and told Rose that she had been born facing East, calling her Ebba Rose. However, her father despised the lie, calling her Nyamh in his heart.

Her childhood was chaotic enough that anyone watching would not be surprised if they’d been told that she was a North-facing child. She frequently ran off to have adventures, getting into mischief and causing much grief to her parents. 

This was when she began to see the White Bear. When she first met him at the age of five, she forgot about him. He was to appear later when she was a young woman–and change her life forever.

Their youngest daughter, Sara, had fallen ill. One night the White Bear appeared at their house and said that Sara would be healed–for a price. He would take Rose as a companion in exchange for her sister’s health. 

He gave them a week to think it over, and in that week something happens to help Rose make up her mind: she discovered the truth about her birth, that she had been born facing North.

So painful was her betrayal that she left her family. She packed her few possessions and set off with the White Bear, despite her brother’s protests. What ensued was an adventure full of heartbreak and friendship, a love story that reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, and one that I have not forgotten to this day.

Love is mysterious. How can a young lady fall for a white bear? Why, if she would only take the time to look into his eyes, she would discover that the frightening bear is more human than he appears. True love is listening, paying attention, and choosing to keep an open heart.

Read East by Edith Pattou; I will forever call it one of my favorites.