An Open Book – September #openbook

I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month.

All Quiet On the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque

Synopsis: Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

My review: I tend to avoid books written in the present tense, but this one does it well. I also found it fascinating that this book is written from the POV of a German soldier instead of an Allied soldier. It doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the war and humanizes every soldier, both German and Allied. It has beautifully written passages. Highly recommend.

Synopsis: Fear is at the heart of the sexual revolution, and its most fitting monument is the “hook-up.” Dr. Morse exposes the sexual revolution’s fraudulent promise of freedom and fearlessly explodes some of modern society’s most cherished—and destructive—myths. She argues that strong, lasting marriages are essential for the survival of a free society, not to mention basic human happiness. She fires the opening shots of a new sexual revolution and shows how everyone, married or single, can help.

My review: I picked up this book for five dollars at a local Catholic bookstore. I liked it, but the author didn’t go far enough in explaining why contraception is disordered and one of the underlying causes of a “hook-up” world. However, on the whole, it was an excellent book. Recommend.

Synopsis: If you met God today, what would He say to you? Words of Hope is a collection of powerful dialogues and sayings given by Jesus to four gifted saints from the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Gertrude the Great and Margaret Mary Alacoque. These souls possessed the gift of “locution,” the ability to hear the actual voice of God. In this book, author Craig Turner collects into categories the locutions received by these saints, words from God that are meant not only for these four souls, but for all mankind.

My review: This is a beautiful book with powerful words given by Jesus to four gifted saints. These souls could hear the actual voice of God. Recommend.

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first-trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, taking care of yourself and baby after birth, and more. If Bonnie and Anna could sit down with you to have coffee and chat about pregnancy and new babies, this is what they’d like to tell you – mom to mom.

My review: I enjoyed this step-by-step book for new mothers. It offers great information, especially for first-time moms. Recommend.

Arnprior Author’s New Novel Wins Award

The local newspaper published an article about my newest award.

Photo by James Hrkach

Local author Ellen Gable Hrkach is already an award-winning author whose books have received top prizes in various fiction awards. But, for Hrkach, the award for her newest book is particularly satisfying. Where Angels Pass, Hrkach’s twelfth book and based on a true story, won First Place in the Catholic Media Association Book Awards in the category of Catholic Novels (Educational). Her book also won Honorable Mention in an additional CMA category of Best Book by a Small Publisher. 

She says, “I’m grateful for any awards or recognition, but to win a CMA Book Award is a bucket list item that I can now check off.”  The CMA judges gave this comment about Hrkach’s book: “This is a timely and well-written story, showing the effects of child abuse by a priest, not only on the victim but also on the victim’s family. A worthwhile read!”

Hrkach explains, “Where Angels Pass tells the fictionalized story of my father’s abuse and the ensuing tragedies that befell our family because of that abuse. My siblings and I didn’t find out about the abuse until after my father died. When I discovered the reason he had such a troubled life, it all made sense to me.”

By writing this book, Hrkach wanted to share that despite the clerical abuse that had occurred for decades in the Catholic Church – and specifically with her father – her own Catholic faith, although tested, prevailed nonetheless. Similarly, her abused father remained a Catholic until his tragic death. She says, “I had a beautiful relationship with my dad and, despite all the difficulties, he was a wonderful and caring father.” Author Jim Sano says that the book is “a love story of a daughter for her father…that will surely touch people in a profound way.”

Former attorney and author Michael Seagriff says, “Ellen Gable has done a great service to our Church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. Masterful job mixing fact with fiction.”

Originally from the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen. She began writing religious fiction as a hobby twenty years ago when her five sons were small children. “When I first started writing, I planned to eventually get around to working on a story about my father’s life, but for twenty years, I couldn’t actually sit down and write the story, partly because it was too difficult to relive our family’s most disturbing experiences.”  Then, Hrkach relates that, “Last summer, I just sat down and wrote for three weeks until I finished the first draft. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful to write about, but it was also very therapeutic.”

Six of Hrkach’s books have been translated into various languages, and the author’s books have been collectively downloaded 780,000 times on Kindle. To date, she has published twelve original works, has ghostwritten five others, and has contributed to numerous other books and websites.  Find out more about her at http://www.ellengable.com.

Where Angels Pass is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover on Amazon and through the author: fullquiverpublishing@gmail.com

#NFP Awareness Week #nfpawareness

This week is NFP Awareness Week.

Natural Family Planning, Supporting God’s gifts of love and life in marriage.

Check out these articles I wrote about NFP!

Rebuilding a Culture of Life 

NFP and Resolutions for the New Year

Humanae Vitae and the Benefits of NFP

Responsible Parenthood and NFP

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission
Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach.
Please do not use without permission

Where Angels Pass #FREE on #KINDLE

My new book, Where Angels Pass, is FREE on Kindle today through Sunday.

Synopsis: Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Reviews:

I have just completed reading your recent book Where Angels Pass and I wanted just to drop you a quick note to express my appreciation for it. As a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Pembroke, I have had the fortunate/unfortunate opportunity to confront the issue of clergy sexual abuse in my years of ministry. Fortunate, in that I have learned a great deal from the powerful witness and dignity of victims and have been privileged to have been allowed to share in their life’s journey of pain, suffering, and sometimes even the recovery of their faith. Unfortunate, in as much as those victims should never have had to deal with such a horrific event in their lives to begin with, or have encountered the unChristian manner in which they were dealt with by Church authorities. Your book captured both elements with grace, style, and dare I say, with the light of a Catholic faith that would shame many a professed cleric. Fr. Tim Moyle, Diocese of Pembroke

Stunning in its teaching of wisdom and compassion. Very powerful.  Fr. Arthur J.

Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Where Angels Pass, will take readers to the depths of their emotions. It is a beautifully written, yet heart-rending tale of sexual abuse and the long-term effects such a crime has on its victims. From the beginning of the story, Ellen draws in the reader bringing them close to loveable characters, each with their own story to tell. Curiosity and empathy compel the reader to keep moving through a story that might be difficult for some to read, as it zooms in on sexual abuse by clergy. Anger and compassion go hand-in-hand throughout this tale, and Ellen Gable does a remarkable job balancing the two. I believe this novel will bring to light the utter tragedy of clerical abuse and the ripple effect it has for generations to come. Yet through the darkness of that abomination, dawn rises, and we are assured that justice can prevail and healing can be achieved. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand, for this just might be one of the most important novels of our time.  Mary Jo Thayer, award-winning author of Close to the Soul

Ellen Gable tells a very personal and difficult story with such gentleness, love, and heartfelt honesty. What I expected to be an uncomfortable story ended up being a love story of a daughter for her father, a father who suffered the lifelong effects of something no young person should ever experience. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this deeply moving story that will surely touch readers in a very profound way.    Jim Sano, award-winning author, The Father’s Son

Incredible book. A story with uncompromising honesty. Children reflect our worst and best selves. What they inherit from us speaks to our final judgment. Here is a story that offers humanity hope despite one of the worst sins of all—the corruption of innocence.   A.K. Frailey, author

The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith!  Elena-Maria Vidal, author

Pick up your FREE copy here.

Where Angels Pass Now Available

My new book is now available on Kindle and in print.

Based on true events. Teenager Evie Gallagher is stunned when her 45-year-old father dies tragically and suddenly. Too many unanswered questions accompany Evie’s challenging journey to adulthood. When she finally discovers the reason her father led such a troubled life, shock turns to anger. She is determined to find justice for her father.

Nervous about the first day of his freshman year, 14-year-old Hank Gallagher steps inside Holy Archangels High School for the first time in September of 1954. Although the majestic Holy Archangels statues inside the school’s grand lobby present an air of protection, it is not long before Hank passes right under them and into the hands of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Confused and cornered by threats, Hank attempts to abandon his secret to the past, but a horrible wound on his heart eventually leads to a catastrophic breakdown.

Based loosely on actual events, chapters alternate between Evie and Hank to reveal a life haunted by betrayal and a revelation of true justice and hope.

Reviews:

Ellen Gable’s newest novel, Where Angels Pass, will take readers to the depths of their emotions. It is a beautifully written, yet heart-rending tale of sexual abuse and the long-term effects such a crime has on its victims. From the beginning of the story, Ellen draws in the reader bringing them close to loveable characters, each with their own story to tell. Curiosity and empathy compel the reader to keep moving through a story that might be difficult for some to read, as it zooms in on sexual abuse by clergy. Anger and compassion go hand-in-hand throughout this tale, and Ellen Gable does a remarkable job balancing the two. I believe this novel will bring to light the utter tragedy of clerical abuse and the ripple effect it has for generations to come. Yet through the darkness of that abomination, dawn rises, and we are assured that justice can prevail and healing can be achieved. I highly recommend this book for anyone who seeks to understand, for this just might be one of the most important novels of our time.  Mary Jo Thayer, award-winning author of Close to the Soul

Ellen Gable tells a very personal and difficult story, Where Angels Pass, with such gentleness, love, and heartfelt honesty. What I expected to be an uncomfortable story ended up being a love story of a daughter for her father, a father who suffered the lifelong effects of something no young person should ever experience. Thank you, Ellen, for sharing this deeply moving story that will surely touch readers in a very profound way.    Jim Sano, author, The Father’s Son

Incredible book. A story with uncompromising honesty. Children reflect our worst and best selves. What they inherit from us speaks to our final judgment. Here is a story that offers humanity hope despite one of the worst sins of all—the corruption of innocence.   A.K. Frailey, author

The greatest tragedy that could befall the Roman Catholic Church is for a child’s innocence to be stolen by a priest. And yet it has happened thousands of times and continues to happen. Told by Ellen Gable, as only she can tell it, with candor and faith, this story sheds light on the darkness of a case of clerical abuse. As the results of the abuse envelop an entire family, one sees how that the original victim truly had his life destroyed by one evil man. A moving and heart-breaking read that will change your life and strengthen your faith!  Elena-Maria Vidal, author

Where Angels Pass may be hard to read at times, but you will not regret the insights it provides into one of the darkest issues of our time. With skill and sensitivity, Ellen Gable presents the story of one boy and his family, showing the devastating effects of clerical sexual abuse on him and eventually his wife and children. ~Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic fiction

Ellen Gable addresses the darkness of sexual abuse and the resulting lifelong wounds with delicate finesse.  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author

Gable’s style of storytelling equips the reader with courage enough to journey with the characters throughout their torment. And in the unfolding of the story — with the inevitable fury and sorrow that surfaces along the way — we are finally brought face to face with Jesus’ call to forgive those who harm us. A feat that Ellen shows us is not impossible, for nothing is impossible for those with God on their side. This book will change, teach, and inspire. Every Catholic should read itVeronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

Ellen Gable has done a great service to our Church, the victims of this dreaded abuse, and particularly to their families whose suffering has gone virtually unnoticed. While sharing this story was no doubt painful for her, Ellen’s courage in doing so will help other families living through this nightmare. She has done a masterful job mixing fact with fiction.  Michael Seagriff, author

I couldn’t put this book down, so don’t let the topic deter you. The story, told simply and honestly—and without sensationalism—will draw you in and have you rooting for these characters long after you close the book. Victoria Ryan, author

A powerful story that helps Catholics better understand the long-lasting damage that this type of abuse creates.  Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author of Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces

Excerpt of Where Angels Pass

Fr. Tim unlocked his classroom door, and the two stepped inside. Fr. Tim closed the door behind him as he said, “Would you please erase and clean the chalkboards?”

Hank nodded and proceeded to the front of the classroom. Red usually cleaned the boards.

Once he started erasing, he realized he was too short to reach the top of the board. So he did what he could first, then he turned to scan the room for the stepstool. He couldn’t see it anywhere.

“Need the stepstool, Hank?” the priest asked.

For a minute, Hank wondered whether Fr. Tim was teasing him, but the priest would never do that. “Yes, sir.”

The priest picked up the stool from the closet and carried it to the front of the classroom. He placed it on the floor beside Hank. “There you go. All set.”

Hank got onto the stool and finished erasing the blackboard. He was about to step down when he felt a grip on his pant leg. Was that Fr. Tim’s hand? Every part of his body went still.

After what seemed like moments, the priest finally said, “Come on, I’ll help you down.”

Hank breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, F-Father.”

Hank moved the stool and climbed up to finish erasing the middle section of the blackboard when Fr. Tim’s hand again gripped Hank’s pant leg.  This time, the priest held onto Hank’s legs with one hand on each leg. “Don’t want you to fall, Hank.”

Once Hank finished erasing that section, Fr. Tim assisted him down. Hank moved the stool to the far end of the board and stood up to erase the rest of the chalk writing. He felt weird about the priest holding onto his legs, so he quickly cleaned off the board.

When he was almost done, Hank felt Fr. Tim’s hand go from around his pants, up underneath his trousers and stroked his bare leg above his socks. Instinctively, he shook his leg free of the priest’s hand.

Fr. Tim cleared his throat. “Here you go, Hank. I’ll help you down.”

“Uh…what job can I do now, Father?” He tried to shake off the odd feeling, ready to move on.

“Let’s get you settled over here at this front desk, and you can put these files in alphabetical order.” The priest pointed. “Oh, and I’ve got Christmas chocolates on my desk. You’re welcome to take some if you’d like.”

“Sure.” Before Hank sat down, he took a healthy handful of Whitman’s sampler chocolates. He unwrapped one and wolfed it down.

While Hank worked on the alphabetizing, Fr. Tim acted normal, as if nothing had happened. Well, nothing had happened. The priest had simply put his hand on Hank’s leg. Sister Rose Bernadine had done worse when she slapped his leg with a ruler when he’d ignored the recess bell and remained in the schoolyard. It had stung like the dickens.

“You okay there, Hank?”

“Yes. I’m fine.”

That night, Hank pulled the covers up and shivered.  His bedclothes were cold.

He reflected on the day, his thoughts turning to Fr. Tim standing beside him while he was on the stool. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. But of course, the priest was just trying to keep Hank steady.  What other reason could he have?

Fr. Tim was always putting his hand on Hank’s shoulder or back. Heck, he touched Hank more than his mother or father did most days.

Hank put his headphones on and turned the radio to the sports channel airing the Philadelphia Warriors against the Syracuse Nationals basketball game.

He drifted off to sleep, dreaming of spring, hotdogs, and Phillies games.

Close to the Soul #1 in New Releases on #Kindle

Close to the Soul by Mary Jo Thayer (to be released on May 1st by FQP!) is #1 in New Releases on Kindle!

Synopsis: Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.

Reviews:

Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page.  Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together.  I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications

With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord.  Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one!  Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author

When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story.   Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series

What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it.  I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.   Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it.  Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

Wow! What a powerful and moving story set in the 1950’s. The story is of great value for readers today. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

To preorder the book on Kindle, click here.

A Channel of Your Peace #bookblast #sale

A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn is currently on sale on Kindle for .99 (until Tuesday, April 20) and is this month’s Catholic Writers Guild Bookblast!

Synopsis:

Would a God who truly loves you allow things to get this bad?

Lapsed Catholic Erin Rafferty has the life she always wanted. Or at least she did, till the moment her fiancé of five years announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and humiliated, a further devastating development leaves her wondering if she can ever live a normal life again.

Mark Ashcroft is a devout Catholic looking for an equally devout Catholic wife. A chance encounter with Erin leaves Mark completely captivated, yet deeply unsettled, knowing Erin is not in a place to accept him, nor is she the model Christian woman he’d hoped to start a life with.

A tentative friendship begins, and Erin finds herself questioning her long-held rejection of her faith, while Mark finds himself healing from memories of his own wounded past.

But as love grows, further tragedy in Erin’s life threatens her burgeoning faith and her hope for a future with Mark.

What follows is a difficult journey of love, surrender, trust, and faith in the ultimate knowledge that Christ is always in the midst of our sufferings.

Excellent debut novel. I was very impressed with the writing. The story is masterfully written and was very hard to put down.”

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Download A Channel of Your Peace for only .99 on Kindle!

Pregnancy: An Advent Eternally Renewed

My latest at CatholicMom.com:

Image by Bartek Ambrozik FreeImages.com

“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent.  Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl!  Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation!  Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent.  Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.”  Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year.  Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.

I don’t agree.  During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus. 

I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.”  However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds).  While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.

And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable. 

Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior.   Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors, and discomforts.

Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage.  There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.

Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.  And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.

Nearing the end of a challenging pregnancy (1996)

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach