Thursday, March 1, 2012

Where the Willow Grows in Transylvania – Rosa Alexander and shELAH

Publisher:  Tate Publishing
Pages:  356
Source:  Review copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Genre:  Adult, Autobiographical Historical Fiction

From Publisher
"I do not want to hear another word about your "crazy" American Dream!"  Cruel, sarcastic words like these from Rosa Alexander's father during his frequent drunken rants often drove young Rosa to seek solace beneath her weeping willow tree.  One day however, Rosa's aunt Kalra visited from America, giving her hope and birthing Rosa's dream fro a brighter future.

In Where the Willow Grows in Transylvania, a historical novel coauthored with Shelah, Rosa shares how she clung to her "crazy" dream for years.  In 1985, she and her husband, Alan finally escaped the cruel eye of the Romanian communist regime but were forced to leave their children: Julia, 8; and Peter, 4 behind with Rosa's parents.  As Rosa struggled through enormous sorrow throughout an almost four-year battle to reunite her family, the love she and Alan shared and their quest for freedom sustained them.  Rosa's childhood dream eventually became a grown-up search for peace and a desperate yearning for her family to be reunited.  Ultimately, Rosa's search led her to not onlylisten for and hear God's voice but to also find her own.  Rosa's story reminds readers that dreams are not "crazy" and that with faith, dreams can come true.

My Thoughts: 
For those of us born into the American Dream it is often difficult to imagine what it was and is like for those who have not been so lucky.  Books like this one tug at our heart and our conscience and make us remember how lucky we are. 

I know very little about Transylvania and its history.  I know that it was the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.   Since I had such little knowledge, this book became very engrossing.  Although it could have probably given more historical details, for me it had the effect of making me research some of the history.
I honestly have to say I love when a book causes me to do more research.

When eight-year-old Rosa meets her Aunt Klara, visiting from America, her dream of one day going to America is born.  For every thought she has of one day reaching her dream, someone comes along to squish it.  The first she must contend with is her father who is the town drunk and constantly abuses her both physically and mentally.  Rosa keeps her dream alive as she visits an island near her grandfather’s farm.  On this small island is a willow tree.  I thought this was cool since I've always loved the willow tree.  I found it a place of serenity where my cares would be whisked away.  I understood the importance of the tree to her.

Rosa grows up, marries, and realizes her dream to move to America.  Once again, her dream comes with challenges.  She must leave her children behind with their grandmother.  I can only imagine what her children went through.  I work with kids and know how cruel they can be.  I can only imagine the talk of the other children.  The teasing from the other children made them doubt their own parent’s love for them.
This is a very inspirational book.  It inspired me to take a look at my dreams and ask myself how important they are and what I am willing to do to reach them.  I don’t know if I could have made the decisions Rosa made concerning her children.  I do understand that without her making those decisions she would never had realized her dream.  This is a book that should be a must read for everyone.  If nothing else, it lets us remember how lucky we are to live in the land we live in.  

About the Author:
Rosa Alexander was born in a small village in the post war Transylvania region of Romania. Her humble beginning was typical of many in that region at the time, a struggle for food, living in a home with dirt floors and an unclear future. Rosa’s alcoholic and abusive father added to a turbulent childhood. From this harsh start to her life, Rosa has searched for happiness and developed a strong, determined character that has seen her through persecution by the Romanian Secret Police, political asylum in the USA, separation from her children and a return back to Eastern Europe to witness the fall of harsh oppressive regimes. Today, Rosa Alexander is an author and divides her time between the USA and Europe, writing inspirational and heart-warming stories about her life, experiences and how strength and hope can overcome even the toughest of life challenges.  She currently lives in Nashville with her husband.  Along with coauthoring Where the Willow Grows in Transylvania, ShELAH writes a weekly newspaper column, "Checkpoints."  Currently completing several other books, she hopes readers will sense God;s love reflected throughout the pages relating Rosa's struggles and triumphs

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