April 30, 2013

Interview and Review: "Mumma Shana" by Dana Wolf

Hey everyone!  I am super excited to have as a guest today Dana Wolf - author of Mumma Shana.  I have for you an interview with Dana, plus my review of her novel.  Hope you enjoy!  Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section - I'm pretty sure Dana may be lurking around here some time today.  :)

Q:  Where did you get the inspiration to write your story?
A:   I grew up in a predominately close knit Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia. The description of the setting is pretty much accurate. As a child I loved to write poems and stories. My imagination would run wild and before I knew it pages were full of words. As I got older, I liked the idea of developing "real" characters for my stories - really getting into detail and trying to make the characters into people with problems and issues that others could relate to.
Q:  What was the main message that you were trying to get across with this story?
A:   When I started writing the book I really didn't know what the "message" was going to be. I just started to write and let it flow. Before I knew it Mumma Shana took on a life of it's own and I sort of became Dorie if you can understand that. The words came as though I was feeling this woman's pain in my own heart. I wrote and wrote and had no idea how I was going to end it.  That's when I realized there was a  message I could convey to people. The message is love and forgiveness and overcoming adversity with determination and faith.

Q:  Have you ever experienced a spiritual visitation like Dorie experienced with her Grandmother?
A:   I consider myself to be a spiritualist. Although I did not have the exact type of encounter with spirit as described in my book, I have had many others.  I do have a spiritual gift and I've been reading people for many years. Sometimes I use tarot to help me but sometimes I just "know" things. I'm also a Reiki Master. Reiki had become very popular over the last number of years.  It's a wonderful tool for spiritual healing and wellness. Spirit is real and is all around us. I talk to my angels and guides every day.

Q:  Explain your journey with writing Mumma Shana.
A:  I actually finished writing this book about 12  years ago. After countless query letters I was able to find a literary agent which was a huge feat. I was with him for about a year but he was unable to find a publisher to pick up my novel. I was encouraged because I received some great feedback from some of these publishers but none of them wanted to sell it. I put the manuscript in a box and let it collect dust. I was tired.  A couple of years ago, I felt like the book was "screaming" at me to take it out and do something with it. I ignored it for awhile but then it got to the point where I just couldn't anymore. It was occupying my thoughts constantly. I started the query process all over again but wasn't having much luck. That's when I discovered indie publishing. I had heard of authors self publishing in the past but 12 years ago there was a stigma attached to it and I wasn't really interested. With the explosion of e readers that all changed and indie publishing became the thing to do! So here I am! I truly feel that I was guided by spirit in this whole process. My book has a message for some. I know I was meant to write it for people to heal. One of my readers in particular has really taken some of my words to heart and made many positive changes in her life. If my writing only helps that one person I'm happy with that. On the other hand though, what writer doesn't want to see his or her work in the public eye? :-)

Q:  What are you working on right now?
A:   I'm currently working on my second novel. This novel is also largely based on one character. It's about a city girl who moves to a very rural area of the country. She experiences things that she had no idea existed in her concrete world. I think my readers will be amazed and what really happens in the dark little corners of the most beautiful parts of the country. The manuscript is just starting to take on life but I'm hoping to have it completed within the next year.

Find Dana at Goodreads.

Mumma Shana by Dana Wolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barnes & Noble

"Mumma Shana" is not the typical sort of book that I pick up to read, but the author sent me a free copy to review, so I thought I would give it a go. I'm really, really glad that I did! This book follows the life of a troubled Jewish girl named Dorie. She has a very dysfunctional home life that follows her every where she goes throughout her entire youth and adulthood. She has complicated and damaging relationships with everyone around her - including everyone in her immediate family. Even the grandparents that she is the closest to end up turning her away in her time of need. This story will break your heart and then put it back together one piece at a time as Dorie eventually finds her way. There were certain times in the book when I wanted to grab Dorie by the shoulders and shake her, or smack her across the face and tell her to stand up for herself - but this was about her journey, not mine. I wanted her to have more backbone and to fight harder for what she thought was right, but in the end she comes to the same conclusion in her own way.

This books deals with several very heavy topics: teenage pregnancy, abortion, physical and emotional abuse, religion, alzheimers, alcoholism, infidelity - but manages to do so in a way that feels real. Dorie just legitimately seems to always get the short end of the stick in every situation she is faced with. But that is kind of what makes this story so real. It doesn't have the typical "everything will work out" storyline. It doesn't gloss over all of the real problems that people and families face in the real world. Dorie reminds me of several people that I know in real life that just can't seem to catch a break.

Now for my criticisms. While I did really love the story and the messages that it conveyed, there were certain parts that kind of threw me for a loop. For instance, the title of the book "Mumma Shana" is referring to the name that Dorie's grandmother used for her meaning "beautiful little girl." And the real heart of the story is that after Dorie's grandmother passes away, she visits Dorie in visions and "guides" her in the direction she needs to go. However, the story did very little to build up the relationship with Dorie and her grandmother to really let me experience the connection that the two of them had. I know that they loved each other, but I just didn't really feel that they were close enough for there to be a justifiable spiritual connection. It just wasn't believable to me. I mean, there was even a time in the story when this same grandmother kicked Dorie out of her house so that she didn't anger Dorie's mom. Her grandmother didn't stand up for her the way that I think she should have - especially if they were so special to each other. And I really had a problem towards the end of the book with the way that Dorie's grandmother appeared to her in a vision and showed Dorie certain scenes between people in her life so that she would know what was going on and could fix the problem. It just all got a little bit too unrealistic for me. For instance, in the last vision Dorie has of her grandmother, her grandmother tells her to
"Plant roses of every color in your garden and build a cement wall around them. The roses will grow a little bit with every good thing that you do. With every act of kindness, with every act of charity and forgiveness, they will grow. Love a neighbor as yourself and they will grow. Your faith will nurture them and they will blossom. I will be on the other side of the wall and will come to smell the sweetness of what you harvest. That is how you will find me."
The story of Dorie's life and what she experienced was just so real, and so grounded in reality, that these visions seemed like a weird detour into the unbelievable. I just couldn't seem to "go" there with the author. It kind of threw me out of the story and made it hard for me to find my rhythm again.

There were also several parts where the story seemed to jump around very suddenly, kind of leaving you wondering what had happened - but I can understand this. I mean, the book was about Dorie's entire life. If some parts hadn't been fast forwarded the book would have never ended! Once I found my footing and figured out where we were in her life, I was able to keep on reading with no problems.

With all of that being said, I would definitely recommend this book. The "meat" of the story is beautiful, and Dorie is really a character that you can connect with. You can really experience all of the heartache and betrayal with her, and then turn around and rally, and root her on to get things back together. And you can do all of this knowing that she does eventually get her happily ever after, and it is just perfect.

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