Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Kindle Fire Giveaway)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Suzanne Jenkins, author of Pam of Babylon!

Author Guest Post

This Makes Me Uncomfortable
by Suzanne Jenkins

As I began writing in earnest two years ago, the inspiration to tell a story about an older woman whodiscovered her beloved husband’s infidelity after he died came from out of nowhere. Pam of Babylon simply appeared in my consciousness and I wrote it as I thought of it.  Later, a quote by E.L. Doctorow would confirm my writing style was not unusual.  He said, “Writing is like driving a car in the dark.  You only see as far as the headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  Those words validated me. An encounter with an editor who did not like my story line made me doubt the wisdom of spending another second writing.  She asked me to do an outline before I began to write,which I found nearly impossible to do because of the way the book was coming to me as I went along. She referred to the story as triple-x rated because it contained a depiction of child abuse.  Child abuse transcends the rating system.

Later, I learned from a fellow author that sometimes a writer/editor relationship may not be a good fit and it is acceptable to move elsewhere. Once I found the courage to move on, I found a new editor.  She was a barracuda who demanded revisions and rewrites, but she also loved the story and wanted it to be the best I could make it. I felt totally comfortable deferring to all of her suggestions and to this day wish I had used her from the onset.  However, once the story was published, I would encounter readers who felt the same way my former editor did. My books are not for everyone. I can’t say I enjoy writing about topics that many people find repugnant and some that are downright disgusting like the child abuse and marital infidelity.  But it’s something that I find compelling for whatever reason and the stories wind through the tragedy and horror that normal people sometimes encounter.

           After a book is finished, I suffer from insomnia for months.  I’m in that mode right now. The Greeks of Beaubien Street will be released this summer, and although I love the story, there is a portion of the book that worries me because it depicts the seamier side of life in a most grotesque way. Even the perpetrator is disgusted with the crime. I know there will be those readers who are offended by it in spite of a warning.  I almost didn’t write the book until my son, a filmmaker and writer told me not to censor myself. I have tried censoring in the past and once I began, I found I was putting up so many parameters I could no longer write.  The question I had to ask myself over and over confirmed that the story line was important.  What is my purpose in writing about this topic? It isn’t to titillate, or to be sensational.  In The Greeks, the horror story is in contrast to the gentle Greek father who prepares his homicide detective daughter’s breakfast every morning.

Regarding Pam of Babylon's adult content, I tried to write so that it would be the least offensive as possible.  If a writer is going to have child abuse as a topic, there is little that can be done to clean it up. It’s deplorable, and the consequences are usually tragic. The Kirkus Review said about the third book in the series, Dream Lover; “A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.”  In order for the resolutions to take place, I must first describe the conflict. 

My friend Dan Georgakas, author of My Detroit, Growing up Greek and American in Motor City (Pella Publishing Company, NY, NY, 2006) wrote when I confided my concerns, “….people are embarrassed by this [content] and want to project a perfect family image: a stereotype no one is going to believe anyway. I have always believed in showing warts whenever possible.”  Some of character’s warts are painful to look at, but exist in real life.

The final book in the series may be finished this fall and has some of the characters achieving positive resolutions. Fans of Pam will be relieved that she is triumphant in the end.

About The Author:

Suzanne Jenkins lives at the west Michigan lakeshore with her husband, two dogs and two sheep. Her latest books are Pam of Babylon, Don't You Forget About Me and Dream Lover.

Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

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Pam of Babylon Book Trailer

Book Review

Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins
Published By: CreateSpace
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Format: Paperback - 332 pages / Kindle - 439 KB 
ISBN: 1461135923
Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Pam of Babylon

BUY THE TRILOGY: Pam of Babylon, Don't You Forget About Me and Dream Lover

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Pam Smith lives a charmed life as a well-to-do Babylon, N.Y., homemaker in a large house by the water. In her 50s with her children grown, Pam is happy with her exemplary husband Jack. After he has a heart attack on the subway, however, she finds out more than she ever wanted to know about Jack. Pam must confront a series of revelations that unmask a life she realizes she only thought she knew, and the losses and disappointments she discovers give color and understanding to a man markedly different than he appeared. Uncovering secrets and betrayals far worse than her most vivid nightmare, Pam retreats to their meticulous Babylon beach house, the one refuge she has to put the pieces of her life together and move toward ultimate forgiveness.

Book Excerpt:

Jack Smith was thinking I am the luckiest man alive. Sitting at a white linen covered table on the sidewalk outside of his favorite restaurant, he gazed at the perfect face of his mistress of nine months. This place was ‘their’ place. They’d spent a rare night together, and now, in the early morning, they could sit and have a leisurely breakfast, enjoying the perfect weather of late May in New York.

“What do you have to do this weekend?” Jack said, knowing this could be a dangerous topic. Sandra sipped her coffee, head bowed, but eyes on him. She slowly put her cup down and straightened up. He really wanted to know. He was interested in her life outside of where it meshed with his.

“After you leave, I think I’ll start getting ready for the week and then I can relax tonight and tomorrow. Monday I am having lunch at my sister’s. My schedule next week is fairly packed, so the more I can get done now, the easier it will be.” She thought of her messy apartment, the empty refrigerator, the pile of laundry, but didn’t mention it. Jack’s solution to it would be to say “Pay someone to do those things for you, so you can do what you want. Your time is worth more than what it would cost.”

“One thing I would really like to do is get back to that gallery on Houston and see if there isn’t a deal I can work out for that piece we saw last night.” She smiled at Jack and they both nodded their heads, remembering the vibrant painting of the Riverside Gardens. It was so colorful, the yellows and reds and blues exaggerated, the flowers oversized. They both loved it.

“You should have said something while we were there!” He said, smiling at her. She knew he would have bought it then and there for her. But she really wanted to buy it for herself. She knew it was wise to keep things like ’community property’ out of their relationship.

They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Soon, Jack would start fidgeting, pushing his chair back slightly, looking around him, and fighting the urge to not look at his watch. Their time together would be over for now. Sandra would try to beat him to the punch; it was easier for her to be in control of this aspect of their life. His schedule would dictate when they could see each other, but she could be in charge of when it would end. She hated those last minutes while they waited for the check to come, feeling like she was sitting in a vacuum. Today was a little different, maybe because of the night before. It was so special, having the evening together, and then spending the night with him. The hotel was the same one they always used and it was clean and comfortable. And, she didn’t allow herself to think of this; impersonal.

He suggested early on that they go to her apartment, but she didn’t know how long they would be together and didn’t want those associations in her home. It would be hard enough to end the relationship without memories of him permeating where she lived. No thank you. It would bad enough having to see him at work every day.

Besides, he was wealthy enough to afford a hotel, and she was worth it.

He would not have argued if he knew what she was thinking. On one hand, he was wondering what was taking so long to get the check, he had a lot to do at home today, but on the other, he would miss her terribly. It took all the strength he had not to pout like a child when he was away from her. He thought of his home, close to the sea, the smell of salt air. He imagined the two of them sitting on the veranda overlooking the beach grass. But the face of his wife kept popping up on Sandra’s body as he thought of this, not allowing anyone to take her place, even in his thoughts.

She walked him to the subway, refusing to have him walk her home first. He liked the subway, he said, over taking a cab all the way downtown. She would shop on the way home, and he had a long commute, over an hour, to his home on Long Island. They were arm in arm, a striking couple to look at. He mature, graying at the temples, in good shape for his age; she young, model thin, beautiful. Heads turned to look. Were they famous? The attention they got when they were out in public together pleased them, and they became even more animated, laughing, standing up straighter, happiness radiating from them both.

On Broadway, another observer took note of the radiant couple. Jack’s sister-in-law, Marie, waiting on a Saturday morning bagel line at H & R, uptown because of having gone to the theatre the night before with her friend Arthur, and then staying the night at his apartment. Marie stood there with her mouth opened, heat spreading through her body, shocked and furious. The man behind her tapped her on the shoulder, it was her turn already.

My Book Review:

One man ... three women ... a tangled web of secrets, lies and deceit revealed by the man's death ... a tale of recovery, forgiveness and starting over.

Pam Smith is a fifty-five year old woman who has lived a charmed life: the perfect husband; two grown children; a house in Babylon, a beach town on Long Island; and a comfortable lifestyle.

Pam's world is turned upside down when she receives a call that her husband Jack had a fatal heart attack on the train. Jack's death opens up a pandora's box of secrets, lies and deceits ... Jack had been living a triple life. Pam's eyes open to the realization that she never really knew the man that she had loved, and that her marriage was not as solid as she thought it had been.

This is a story of one woman's attempt to deal with the aftermath of her husband's death and the revelation of  his secret lives that he shared with his mistress and sister-in-law. This is the story of how she picks up the pieces of her life and works through the stages of anger and grief to reach forgiveness.

Pam of Babylon is a spellbinding and intensely poignant story that will pull at your heartstrings. The author weaves a powerful tale told in the third person narrative, focusing on the different perspectives of the husband and the three women in his life. It is a fascinating look into the complexities of a marriage wrought with secrets, lies and deceptions that had devastating consequences for the spouse and the two women who were left to pick up the pieces from the mess that was their lives.

The author has created a fascinating cast of characters that are realistic, complex, have flaws and emotions that are easy to relate to. The dynamic of the three women's personalities is palpable, the reader is drawn into their individual stories and goes along for the journey on the emotional roller coaster ride that is their lives. You can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions towards the characters' reactions to Jack's death and the aftermath when the revelations of his web of deceit come to light. At times I found myself at odds with Pam's reactions, but as I read further into the story I came to see the strength and self-preservation that she drew upon to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. I couldn't commiserate as much with Sandra the mistress or with Pam's sister Marie, while I understand that they were duped by Jack just like Pam was, I found myself gravitating more towards Pam, and I admired her dignity and ability to forgive and forge a bond with them, she is a stronger woman than I would be if I had been in her shoes.

Pam of Babylon is the first book in a trilogy of the Pam of Babylon series. The stories of Pam, Jack, Sandra and Marie continue in Don't You Forget About Me and Dream Lover. This is an amazing story that will resonate with you long after the last words are read.


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