I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
One More Moon by Ralph Webster
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on February 28th 2018
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Europe, Family & Relationships, History, Italy, Personal Memoirs, World War 2
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One More Moon is a lovely memoir that was a delight to read. It’s everything that an Indie book should be. It’s written by a skilled author with a smoothly flowing style. It has a strong storyline that held my attention from start to finish. And it has obviously been very carefully edited.
The book deals with the challenges faced by a family of German Jews in the years prior to World War Two. It’s told from the mother’s perspective. We read of her naïve childhood spent in a very traditional Jewish home in Germany where the role of women was to bear children, raise them, and oversee domestic duties. “I grew up in a time when the glass ceiling was held up by four glass walls.”
As a 21-year-old, she arrives in Naples to live with relatives for three months. Thirty years later, in 1934, she’s still there, married, and proprietor of the Pensione Alexandra. This small hotel is where most of the book’s action takes place.
Wonderfully drawn characters
One More Moon is full of rich and interesting characters. The local Neapolitans. The guests, some of whom became close friends to the family. The famous journalist. The enigmatic Jozef and his young wife.
But of course these are the mid- to late-1930s. So there’s also the brooding presence of Mussolini; the shadow of the approaching Fuhrer; the increasingly militant Blackshirts. It was a time of turmoil with: “the growing madness sweeping Germany and our little Fascist egomaniac with his bold ideas for Italy.”
The tension builds
And because it’s the 1930s, we know what horrible things are going to happen to many Jews living in Germany and the surrounding countries. But the family doesn’t. So they decide to wait and see. They hear the rumors and discount them. And continue to wait.
This creates an almost unbearable tension. I was almost screaming at the page: “Get the hell out of there!” But there are preparations to make, plans to put into progress, visas, delays …
One More Moon: A book of opposites
One More Moon is a book of perseverance and persecution. Joy and despair. Trustworthy relationships and stunning betrayals. Plans being meticulously made and devastatingly destroyed.
It’s an epic book, yet deeply personal, even intimate. It’s written by the lady’s grandson. Maybe it’s time to meet him …
Interview with Ralph Webster
What do you remember of your grandmother when you were a young boy?
I remember her as a kind, elderly lady. She dressed in a different style of clothing than my mother. When the two spoke to one another, they spoke in a language that I didn’t understand. We saw her on holidays and she sent me birthday cards. By car, she lived two hours away. For a child that meant a long car ride. When we visited, my mother always insisted I be on my best behavior, to respect my elders, to say please and thank you, to be polite. My grandmother always reciprocated.
When do you remember first hearing these amazing stories of your grandmother’s life in Naples?
My mother told me the stories. She always wanted me to know of our past. She really created my images. My uncles, other family members, and those who knew our family contributed over time. But as a teenager, a young adult, and even well into my 40’s I was more interested in my life than the lives of previous generations. Now that I am older, I have a better appreciation of the questions I should have asked. As for the answers, I am left with my imagination.
You describe the stories being passed down through family members. What made you want to put her story into print and into the public domain?
It is a question that Ginger, my wife, and I have debated at great length. My first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, was, in many respects, far more intimate with regards to family. When I started out, Ginger thought I was putting together something just for our family. I must say she was aghast when she realized that it was about to become a book sold on Amazon.
Beneath it all there is a purpose and a message I want to convey in my writing. I come from a family of ordinary people who lived through extraordinary circumstances. They were forced to leave their homelands through no fault of their own. They found themselves stripped of the possessions, successes, and opportunities of their lifetimes. Yet they persevered, not through bravery or taking advantage of others, just by putting one foot in front of the other one step at a time.
Now I can only imagine what they felt – the anguish, the isolation, the loneliness, the fear, the disappointment. I want my writings to capture these emotions for my readers. My family may have been presented with a different circumstance. And I know that it was a different generation. But in these crazy political times, we all need to understand that refugees should not be viewed as the enemy. They are the victims. That’s my takeaway. I hope that by telling my family’s stories in this sort of public way, I am doing my part in shedding some light on these issues. We need to feel compassion.
How did you go about collating all these memories from so long ago? You mention that very little was on paper, so it must have been very difficult?
I am often asked the question in a different way. At book club discussions, I am asked “How long did it take you to write the book?”. My answer is my age – sixty-six years. I think it takes a lifetime to collect and collate memories. It certainly does not happen in a single sitting. Nobody really says “sit down so I can tell you about the way the world was and how I lived my life.” It has been a labor of love to write both my books. Bits and pieces are collected throughout a lifetime. Taking the time to try to assimilate all of this and weaving a thread through it all forced me to try to put myself in that time and place. My wife will tell you, and often to her frustration, that for the months I was writing, my head was somewhere else.
Among the memories collected from family members, were there ever any gaps in the narrative, or even contradictions?
There were gaps, as well as different impressions, opinions, and recollections. I wouldn’t say that there were outright contradictions, just different ways of viewing the past. I suppose that is one reason that history is so interesting. Two people can hear the same story and come away with different interpretations.
Have you visited Naples, and is the Pensione Alexandra still standing? If so, what were the thoughts going through your mind when you were standing where your grandmother lived, 80 years ago?
We have visited Naples and, yes, the building is still there, but it has been converted to apartments and offices of one sort or another. When we first saw the Bay of Naples and the location of the Pensione Alexandra, I was absolutely amazed by the beauty and big city feel of the place. And I had no idea that the Pensione Alexandra was situated right across from the Mediterranean. What really hit home was how different Naples was from the small city in the middle of the United States where I was raised. Everything was different – the culture, the climate, the language, the sights, the smells, the foods – and most significantly, the view. I thought about my mother and her brothers – and the sacrifices they must have made when they moved to America.
Thanks for your input Ralph and I wish you and One More Moon great success!
It’s been a pleasure to be featured on TheBookOwl!