A Remarkable Kindness (William Morrow/HarperCollins), forthcoming in August 2015, a novel about the intertwined lives of four American women who are part of a unique Jewish tradition: They prepare and dress women for burial in their small beach village in Northern Israel. As they participate in this ancient, spiritual ritual for the dead, they come to understand what it means to be alive. Got 90 seconds? Watch the book trailer here.
Advance praise: A REMARKABLE KINDNESS, is a story about the bonds of friendship and family; how they are made, broken, and come full circle. Diana Bletter writes with such lush and insightful prose that a foreign landscape and culture becomes warm and familiar. A REMARKABLE KINDNESS explores the power of friendship, love, and ancient traditions, and Bletter’s characters makes you wonder just how far you would go (literally and figuratively) for the people you love. —Amy Sue Nathan, author of The Good Neighbor and The Glass Wives
Bletter brings this quartet of complex, gutsy, smart, passionate women to life with rare delicacy and depth. She also offers a refreshingly nuanced, unsentimental view of Americans who have chosen to make their homes in Israel, going beyond the romance to the women’s very real ambivalence and homesickness, as well as the peril of living in a country too often under fire. Loss and endings are part of this novel’s rich fabric. Gracefully written scenes, as the women prepare a body for burial, make me wish we could all depart from life with such respect and tenderness. Janice Steinberg, author of The Tin Horse
“What a truly wonderful story. I’m going to have to get my thesaurus to find enough words to describe remarkable. Set in Northern Israel from 2000-2006 this book taught me so much about life love and friendship. With rocket attacks a daily possibility, 4 women live their lives to the fullest. 3 have emigrated from the US and all miss their old friends and families. They help with the death house, preparing women for burial. I love Rachel, Lauren, Aviva and Emily. The story blends so naturally from each of their point of view. I learned so much about Jewish customs and Arab life. A fantastic read that will have you watching the news with a little different view. This has moved right into my top ten books.”
“A REMARKABLE KINDNESS is so well written, and the characters memorable. The story of three good friends, Emily, Aviva and Lauren, part of a burial circle in Israel, will speak to your heart. There is much sadness and loss experienced, but the love and friendship are redeeming. I recommend if you want to read a truly moving novel.” Ellen Firer, Librarian, Merrick Public Library
“This book follows the complicated lives of women in a coastal village in northern Israel. Through the experiences of these women we are introduced to deep themes of love, life, death, grief, war and peace. The author does not spare us any details of their messy lives and relationships and mistakes, but also illustrates the beauty of passion and complication. A must-read for 2015.” – Joan – Goodreads
More reviews can be found here.
You can read the press release here: A REMARKABLE KINDNESS PRESS RELEASE
Here’s an excerpt.
The Invisible Thread: A Portrait Of Jewish American Women, Jewish Publication Society, 1989, Finalist for a National Jewish Book Award.
To buy the book on amazon.com, click here.
“Author and photographer have collaborated to bring an extraordinarily diverse group of voices into print, evoking images that lift away traditional stereotypes of Jewish-American women.” — Judy Chicurel, The New York Times
“It’s an exhilarating read on several levels. The book is also just plain fun. Reading it is something like going to a reunion with all your best friends, and having an intimate conversation with each of them about what they’ve done with their lives and why. It’s personal, not to mention inspiring.” –Abby Morrison, The Jewish Monthly
“Every once in a while a book comes along which touches and moves the reader to share the experience with others. In the case the book, a photographic essay portraying the rich and complex worlds of American Jewish women, provides just such an experience.” –Rela Geffen Monson, Hadassah Magazine
“Diana Bletter’s book is a great read because the entire book is entertaining. It’s difficult to image the courage it must have taken to mount a motorcycle at age 52, let alone ride it from Long Island to Alaska. Women like Diana Bletter are extremely rare and her book is a must read.”
PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY REVIEW:
“Author Diana Bletter has written a book about her trip to Alaska on her motorcycle. The best part of The Mom Who Took Off on Her Motorcycle is her passion for telling her story. This is a riveting account of a personal adventure many would not even think about undertaking. Full of observations and humor, this story of a 10,000-mile-journey is the inspiring tale of how one woman takes off to discover who she was before she had children and to find out who she could still become.”
“This book was an absolute delight.” –Babyboomerz
“The Mom Who Took Off on her Motorcycle came to me after burning through forty or fifty motorcycle travel books in a row. It stood out sharply from that background because of Diana Bletter’s engaging writing. Like many of the other autors she decided on her challenging travel before learning to ride but in her naive way she deeply involves the reader in her story. As a new rider many of her challenges would be routine to an experienced motorcyclist and Diana’s husband, a long time biker, provides that counterpoint in the story. Diana’s genuine and charming approach brings us right along as she seeks Alaska and her true self. In contrast to the naive narrator Diana is clearly a seasoned writer and an expert story teller. This book is a trip through North America and a journey through life.”–Graham Collins
“Diana Bletter has written a masterpiece !! Ok I am a 46 year old guy who has ridden Motorcycles all of my life, I have had my own adventures in the Yukon… So why couldnt I put this book down ? Diana has a story within an adventure, and as I read it I felt as though I was part of the journey !! It was certainly not what I expected when I purchased the book… but it turned out to be so much more !!” — Brian Drake
I think anyone, man or woman, who is struggling to find purpose and connection with the route their life is taking would find this book inspirational.
Anyone who rides motorcycles would enjoy this book. Diana Bletter’s discussion of the challenges of riding ring clear and true.
This is Diana’s story yet she makes it universal through her thoughtful prose and graceful insight.”
Read an excerpt from The New York Times.
One soggy gray morning in the Yukon, I spotted a terrifying bridge in the middle of nowhere and did the one thing I had vowed to my husband, Jonny, that I’d never do.
I pulled off to the side of the road and cried.
I was riding my motorcycle, not sitting on the back of his motorcycle with my arms wrapped nonchalantly around his waist. Ever since I’d dreamed up this farfetched, foolish trip— riding a motorcycle from the East End of Long Island to Anchorage, Alaska—I’d been trying to prove that I could be just as Zen about the art of motorcycle riding as the next guy. Yet there I was, gushing girly, geyser-sized tears at the thought of crossing this grated bridge.
And who did I have to blame for my predicament? Myself.
This little ten-thousand-mile journey was my idea. All year I had been trying to figure out what to do after the last of my brood—four kids, two step-kids and one unofficially adopted Ethiopian daughter—left home in the fall. For more than two decades, I had put all my energy into them.
Before the kids, I’d had an exciting life. I’d gone to an Ivy League university and then worked at National Lampoon. I published a book when I was 32 and gave lectures around the United States. But after the birth of my fourth child, I moved to Israel with my first husband, divorced him, and remarried Jonny, taking on his two kids and then unofficially adopting a seventh. Those kids had given me so much and they had taken so much from me, too. And no matter what I was doing as they were growing up, I always felt I should be doing something else. When I was reading someone else’s book while breastfeeding, I felt like a cow; and when I was away from my kids and working, I felt like a cad. I juggled to be everything all at once: a successful writer, wife, mother, daughter, friend. I hadn’t wanted to sacrifice my kids for my work but I had sacrificed my work for my kids. I wanted to ride a motorcycle to discover who I was before I became a mother, and to find out who I could still become now that all our kids had grown up.
As soon as I suggested this motorcycle trip to Jonny, a seasoned motorcyclist, he was packing his buck knife and his traveling toothbrush. Before I had a chance to come to my senses, before the kids were even out of the house, he had bought a blue BMW something-or-other for himself and, for me, a red BMW 650 GS. (Or was it a G 650 GS?) There’s no better reason for a 52-year-old woman to get a motorcycle other than to accessorize her cherry red lipstick.
We left the eastern end of Long Island just after dawn on the morning of the summer solstice in 2009 and reached the New York-Canadian border by the next day. I wanted to stop in Niagara Falls but Jonny sped right by.
“It’s chock-full of tourists!” he said. “Go there with your next husband!”
On our way across Canada and toward Alaska, we faced perilously steep hills, desolate roads, isolation, exhaustion, moose, bison, and grizzly bears—and now this, I thought, as I stared at the Nisutlin Bay Bridge in the Yukon. My guidebook had warned me that the bridge was slippery in a drizzle; it had been raining all morning. How did I ever think I could do this journey? I’d been hoping to inaugurate the next chapter of my life but all I could picture were scenes of my death.
In Scenario One, my motorcycle’s wheels glide like a hockey puck over ice and I smack into a trillion-ton trailer barreling over the bridge from the opposite direction. Scenario Two finds me crossing the bridge ever so carefully only to be whammed from behind by a driver in a shiny RV who notices my license plate and despises New Yorkers. I recalled the words of one of Jonny’s friends, this tough motorcycle dude whom I referred to as Mr. X. He had sat me down right before I left for this trip and told me, “I know how much you want to do this ride, but I know you’ll never be able to do it.”
So now I pictured my funeral, my kids and my husband and the other mourners, and I zoomed in on Mr. X who was shaking his head, a sad, smug expression spreading on his face that meant, I told her so. I looked out at the Nisutlin River with its silvery gray water tumbling between the grassy banks. The water was so cold that if I swerved and fell in, I’d have about 30 seconds to survive. Then again, with my padded jacket and pants and my heavy, steel-reinforced boots, I’d most likely sink and drown and the river would carry me all the way to the Bering Sea. I’d never even make it to my own funeral.
My motorcycle engine was running, but everything seemed still.
Jonny pulled up on his motorcycle, lifted his helmet visor and looked at me. He had olive skin and a muscular build with penetrating, intensely dark eyes. His eyes had captivated and conquered me so instantly that only a few months after meeting him, I had flipped my life upside down. I had ended my marriage with my first husband even though he was a good man and I thought I loved him and we had four children, all under the age of six at that time. Yet in no time at all, I had fallen out of love with him and into love with Jonny, never once looking back.
Until now. Orphaned by the time he was twenty and an Israeli commando by twenty-three, Jonny liked schedules, order, and staying vigilantly prepared for the next war. I, on the other hand, had never encountered a battle outside the house I grew up in on Long Island, and liked writing, reading and daydreaming. But we understood each other. We each had our secrets. We knew things about each other that we had never been able to tell anyone else. Still, was this grueling 10,000-mile odyssey of round-the-clock togetherness more than we’d bargained for?
I flipped up my motorcycle helmet visor that was caked with mud, streaked with rain, and decorated with a splattered assortment of dead flies and mosquitoes. Straddling my motorcycle, shivering with fear, the bridge that stretched the length of six football fields took my breath away. In the distance, after the Nisutlin River, was the village of Teslin, which was north of Juneau and south of so much glacial ice. Beyond that, the mountains rose into majestic peaks, as if they were the earth’s emperors. Even in July their jagged shoulders were cloaked with bejeweled capes of snow.
“What’s wrong?” Jonny asked.
“What’s wrong is that I’ve only taken five motorcycle lessons in my entire life!” I said. “And we never covered a grated metal bridge in the Yukon!”
“But you’ve already ridden 2,000 miles to get here!”
“A stunt woman who looks like me rode those miles,” I said. “How about I walk the bike across?”
“Are you nuts?” he said. “That’s more dangerous than riding across it.”
I stared at the bridge as if, just by staring at it, I could somehow transform it into something less formidable. But the bridge didn’t budge, nor did I, and there was Jonny, a man who charged into battles without thinking twice, who never hesitated to fight, who didn’t doubt his courage for one moment and who couldn’t understand how I doubted mine. He could serve as witness and encourage me on but this was a solo act. My test. It was me versus my own fears, my own ghosts.
I’d reached what felt like the end of a lifetime and also the beginning. How would I find myself again? I had no idea. All I knew was that I had to push myself even more and ride even farther than I wanted to go. But where to?
Even deeper into the vast unknown.
You can order here:
BARNES & NOBLE:
Women Riders Now website here.
- If You Believe In Something, Then Go After It With All Your Heart. (thebestchapter.com)