Sunday, June 05, 2016
“From Ashes Into Light: A Novel”
Erika Lunder of Chico created Raincloud Press (raincloudpress.com) in order to publish the poetry of her mother, Gudrun Mouw. Since then she has taken on additional authors and has just released Mouw’s first novel, “From Ashes Into Light” ($27.50 in hardcover; also for Amazon Kindle). Mouw, born in Germany and now living in the Santa Barbara area, has taught English, yoga and meditation.
The story begins with twelve-year-old Ruth, in Salzburg, Austria on November 10, 1938. It is Kristallnacht, “night of shattered glass, broken bodies and broken faith.” But, as this novel of deep conviction asserts, this is not the final word.
Dachau ends Ruth’s physical life. “The row behind us drops with fumbling, crumbling sounds, as if there’s hardly any mass to the bodies. I hear other noises between gunshots, a moan, a quick cry ended with a shot, the cracking of bones. Bullets whirl fast and close. Something hits my back hard. So many shots fly at us, we bloom like red roses, our limbs falling to the ground. We spray in every direction. . . .”
But, as silence descends, “out of the dark comes a light of awareness. I am free. I am floating. I don’t need the body. The light grows and grows. Light pervades every fiber of my spirit. … Perhaps, time doesn’t pass. Perhaps, everything happens all at once. I might be dreaming, or I might be awake, gazing like a stranger at the globe that was once my home. Below, bodies are burning. Wings have risen from the ashes.”
Mouw’s story blends the spirit of the phoenix, reincarnation, Native American spirituality and Hasidic mysticism to unite, in a timeless realm, Ruth, Saqapaya (part of the First People at the time of Spanish conquest in California), and Friede Mai (German-born during World War II who faces suspicion in the US, but overcomes it).
In the end, hate is vanquished: Phoenix says of Friede, “I feel she is ready to take on the work of Saqapaya’s vision, my vision, Ruth’s vision, the vision of those who embrace a path of light and love.”
Nancy Wiegman’s author interview for Nancy’s Bookshelf, on mysnpr.org, is at bit.ly/1TZPYvz.