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Book Roundup
Milwaukee authors talk of love, history and the afterlife in recent releases


July 2015

"Loving Lardo"

Author: Wendy Olsen

It is possible to not just visit Italy, but to live, work and thrive there, marry, buy a house, give birth, launch two businesses and continue to live with no regrets, even adding on a few years living in Austria and Russia.

In "Loving Lardo," author Wendy Olsen recounts her edgy, exciting first 10 years spent living in Northern Italy. She developed a lasting love affair with everything about the country itself, from the people to the food to the language.

"I always harbored the dream that epic romance could happen to me, and I think a lot of women feel the same," says Olsen, who was born in Orleans, France (her father was a U.S. Army colonel and their family lived overseas during her youth). "I want to give women courage to believe that it can and does happen, and it is possible to live and embrace a true Italian life."

Olsen has lived in seven different countries throughout her life and speaks four languages. From 1987 to 1997, she lived in Milan, Italy, where most of the action in her novel takes place. She spent additional years in Austria and Russia, and now lives in an 1880s home her family has owned for eight generations near Big Cedar Lake, an area referenced throughout the book.

She is the founder and owner of S.A.L.A., the Slinger Academy of Language & Arts in Slinger, where adults and children learn Italian, Spanish and French. And her second business? "I imported truffles," says Olsen, who also teaches Northern Italian cooking classes at the academy. "My motto is to live life with few borders."

"To Ride a White Horse"

Author: Pamela Ford

Set in both 1840s Ireland and America, "To Ride a White Horse" is an epic historical saga of hope, loyalty, adventure, strength of the human spirit and the power of love, says author Pamela Ford, a Wauwatosa resident whose own family is "proudly Irish" and the inspiration behind the exacting history she wove into her most recent novel.

"This was a devastating period in Irish history, and it was very important to me to study it and bring it to life through vivid characters," she says.

Ford has won numerous writing awards, including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath and a gold medal in the romance fiction category of the 2015 IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Awards). In this, her sixth novel (her first five were romances), she tells the story of an Irish family facing starvation during the potato famine and how their daughter, Kathleen, sets sail for Canada, determined to save her family. She’s also looking for her missing fiancé, who had gone to Newfoundland in search of work so he can send money home.

The voyage doesn’t go as planned, and Kathleen ends up in America, forced to accept the help of an English whaling captain and, as a result, must make an impossible choice — to remain loyal to Ireland or follow her heart.

"Milwaukee is a city of immigrants — people of Irish and German descent are the most prevalent here," says Ford. "I join those who have huge pride in our background and have so enjoyed telling this story."

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"Unforgiving Sun"

Author: Erin (E.D.) Meyer

The story of a dysfunctional family — with a twist involving the afterlife — is set in Milwaukee, with references to Summerfest, Miller Valley and Samson the gorilla.

"Writing this book was a labor of love and the most terrifying professional challenge of my life," says author Erin (E.D.) Meyer, a West Bend East English teacher and philosophy enthusiast who also enjoys writing poetry, short stories and stand-up routines. "Literature analysis is different when the scalpel is pointed inward."

In "Unforgiving Sun," the protagonist, Sophie, evaluates her life from the ever-after, while her family (in the real world) lives on with her legacy of indecision and emotional baggage. Readers will find themselves wondering how she became a puzzling elderly patient and what she will learn from her time (in the afterlife) with Melanie, another wandering soul with sins of her own.

"The thread running through the book is forgiveness," says Meyer of her first novel. "As Sophie looks back on her relationships, she ponders the questions of whether she experienced true connection or real forgiveness."

Meyer, who lives locally with her husband, their sons and "a fabulously impossible" dog, included Milwaukee as part of the setting but also as a character in the book.

"While a non-native can appreciate the setting, Milwaukee area residents will recognize the weight of references, from Summerfest to the yeasty pungency of Miller Valley," she explains.

"This book has made a real-world difference in my teaching," she concludes. "Now I can share with students that if you work hard at your craft, as I truly did, anything is possible."

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"Claudia — Misguided Spirit"

Author: Pamela Hendricks Frautschi

Every family has one — the person whose very existence often perplexes and challenges. In this family, Claudia serves that role.

"I hope people take courage from this story, and that it may help them toward understanding a family member living under the shadow of mental illness," says Pamela Hendricks Frautschi, author of "Claudia — Misguided Spirit." "I feel it’s important and healing to address dysfunction and try to make sense of it."

In her memoir, Frautschi tells how her sister Claudia’s behavior impacted their family, even while she was "brilliant and talented in so many ways." Frustrated by her family’s inability to embrace her needs, Claudia lashes out repeatedly in her relentless search for enlightenment and joy, wreaking tension and havoc in every relationship. In the memoir, Frautschi searches for understanding and compassion for her inscrutable older sister, who continually perplexed and challenged everyone around her.

"In sharing these stories, I found strength and comfort, empathy and, most importantly, solutions and closure," says Frautschi.

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"Death by Roses"

Author: Vivian Probst

In the romantic comedy "Death by Roses," the protagonist, Mae Rose McElroy, dies on a toilet in a fit of rage after seeing her totaled VW beetle, her unfaithful husband and a bouquet of yellow roses in his hands. While in heaven, she is shown happier outcomes her life could have taken.

"Mae Rose can’t keep herself from interfering in her family’s affairs from heaven, and her meddling earns her a ticket out of heaven and into the body of Mary Lee Broadmoor — a writer/director of horror movies whose dying wish is to win an Oscar," says Vivian Probst, a Delafield native who divides her time between writing and her consulting business. "I had a great time exploring the question of whether these two formidable women could learn to share the same body, and if they could make something of their second chance."

"I am happily remarried to my husband, Tom, sharing five children and 11 grandchildren, and can say I have learned how to truly love another person," she concludes. "I will tell you that life can still be wonderful."

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This story ran in the July 2015 issue of: