"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape."
--Author Christopher Benson



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Swimming With Wings With Guest Lee Libro

Guest Review by Katy Caswell

What do a 20th century light healer, a would- be debutante teen and a wandering gypsy have in common? 
A story of human brotherhood released only through the colliding dogmas surrounding their shared tragedy from long ago. Lark Jennison is a free thinker and imagines she has wings!

Set in the 1970's in a small southern town laced with folk mysticism, faith healings and the evangelistic zeal of the era, Swimming with Wings is her coming of age story. Orphaned, seventeen-year-old Lark and her brother are the last generation of the illustrious Jennison lumber family, and her uncanny ability to read a person, along with her eccentric creativity, shine a spotlight of scrutiny upon her. When she falls for Peter Roma, a "river gypsy," she finds in him an equal, but is soon disturbingly set on a collision course with his fanaticism. The drowning accident that had killed their fathers remains a mystery, a harbinger of ill feelings between the Romas and the Jennisons. Is Peter Roma, a scammer, a real gypsy or Lark's personal savior? His grandfather had been a mystical light healer and heralded the rising tide of a new age; however, Peter's "being saved" interpretation of this leads him into a cult and a world of corruption. In the end the question becomes who will save who? 

Reviews are usually my mom's thing.  I haven't done a book report since high school, but when mom gave this book and asked me to read it and let her know what I thought about it how could I refuse.  

This book was a wonderful read. The way author, Lee Libro, writes makes it so easy to picture all that is happening in your mind.  The free spirited Lark is a great character, she is her own person and isn’t afraid to speak about what she feels. She has an older brother who is there for her and has watched out for her since they was orphaned, Lark, at the age of 17. There is love, excitement and so much creative visioning in this book that it was a joy to read. I am a sucker for love stories and I need that great ending that will make me want to read it again and again and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 
I enjoyed this novel immensely recommend it highly. 


Now here is Lee to tell us the story behind the story:

 The Role of Setting in Swimming With Wings by Lee Libro

Books can take you where you’ve never been. A story rich in the atmosphere of its setting can transport your mind to any spot on the globe, or as in the case of sci-fi and fiction, off the globe altogether. Far from being a travelogue, however, the richness of setting can influence the message of a story. While the choice of setting can be dictated by necessity, take historical novels, for instance, which are seated in the geographical region of their fact base, setting in fiction can also convey a sense of mood and even reflect the psychology of characters in a story.

Try to imagine Wuthering Heights set in Rio De Janeiro or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness set in San Francisco. How about Lady Chatterley’s Lover in mid-town Manhattan? Would Lady Chatterley have been as sexually awakened in amidst the cityscape or was it the woods and the rawness of nature that aided this transformation? While often stories are retold with alternate settings, as was the case of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now a direct adaptation of Heart of Darkness, the story is never quite the same without its distinct setting, and so it can be argued that setting is vital to a most stories.

When I wrote Swimming With Wings, I didn’t have to wonder for very long where my characters would exist.
Savannah River Locks
Whether it was due to my own upbringing there or just my fascination with the flavors of that region, the deep south was unquestionably the place from which Lark Jennison’s coming of age story would spring.

The house into which Lark was born held an enormous amount of symbolism that it pays homage to the dying old south and Lark’s conflicts are in part a struggle to depart from this aspect of the south.

The house holds mysteries that reveal much about her family history, but it’s falling apart. She and her brother can’t afford its upkeep and later when the home is renovated by new owners, Lark’s life to a certain degree reflects this same progression as she blossoms into a grown woman able to overcome her hang-ups. The South too is the perfect setting for the conflicts that are carried throughout the story in the form of prejudice, but prejudice taken beyond just race to religion and general world perspectives.

Another setting in the story with a deep influence is in Italy, the native land of the light healer, Salvatore Roma. The telling of his history there came naturally because it provided a way for me to contrast a severely dogmatic and punitive Roman Catholic faith with the New Age principles that evolved in him. He represents everything that Lark and her antithetical lover, Peter, must aspire to.

The caves of Polignano a Mare in Bali, Italy captivated me and made me imagine a young boy such as Salvatore and what it would have been like growing up there with abnormal talents in a time when fascism was rising and the Catholic Church was at a crossroads.
Here was this little boy who magically could speak in tongues…spontaneously on his own outside of any church …and who later discovers that light can pour from his hands to heal. Salvatore Roma is directly connected to the light with no need for intermediary, unlike his evangelistic grandson Peter.

For Lark, one of the only ways that she is set free from the old south is to move to one of the more liberal places in the United States, which in the story happens to be Portland, Maine. There’s no coincidence there. I myself was raised in the deep south and spent my teens and twenties in Portland Maine.

The effect that these polar extremes had on me growing up were…well, let’s just say an aid in achieving a balanced outlook on the world.

The other reason I chose Portland, Maine is that “The Dead Pearl Diver”, which makes a deep impression on Lark, is indeed housed in the Portland Museum of Art.

At first I was compelled to include him in the story because he really is my favorite piece of sculpture, yes, even more so than Michelangelo’s David, but then as I researched the piece I came to discover just exactly why. While reading the writings of Benjamin Paul Akers, of which there are many (He was an art critic for the Atlantic Monthly in the mid 1860’s) I discovered that his ideas about art paralleled Lark Jennison’s outlook on art. Akers wrote that “the foremost purpose of an artist should be to claim and take possession of the self.” After having lost her father in a drowning Lark finds herself in art.

I’ll stop here for fear of giving away too many spoilers. The point is that setting can immerse you into a story. Need a vacation to some other land? Then just pick up a good piece of fiction.

Swimming With Wings was just released in March of this year. For more information, or to purchase it, visit www.swimmingwithwings.com. It is also available at Powell’s Books or on order at any brick and mortar bookstore across the U.S.
Lee Libro is a visual artist and writer.  Elements of fantasy, myth and Jungian symbols are often interwoven themes in her art and writing.

She lives in Florida with her husband, children and two dogs.  She grew up in Augusta, Georgia and Portland, Maine and earned her B.A. degree in English specializing in Renaissance literature at the University of Connecticut. She spent nearly ten years in Marketing Communications and then the following decade as a foreign language translations editor.

Swimming with Wings is her first novel.

Lee is giving away a free copy of her book, signed, at the end of her tour, plus many other prizes. 
To enter you must lease a comment below and be sure to include your email address.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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