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Forgiveness Means Taking a Wrecking Ball to the Hard Crusts We Build Around Our Hearts

I’m knee-deep into what promises to be a fifty-plus gig book tour. After spending seven years writing, revising, and trying to publish my debut novel, Washing the Dead, I’m out of my house. Out of my office. Out of my pajamas. And, often, out of my comfort zone.

I’ve fretted about each reading. Will anyone show up? What if they do? What if I get a heckler? What if we don’t sell any books? What if we run out? The list goes on. Gratitude is the only thing that grounds me. Some bookseller, librarian or book-club host has believed in my novel enough to want to share it with his/her community. He or she has gone to the trouble of spreading the word via social media or flyers or Paperless Post evites. And if that’s not enough, they’ve researched my work in order to write introductory remarks, and in many cases put out a delicious spread. Dayenu!

Hiccups do occur during my readings. Sirens blare, children cry, audience members use their outdoor voices while guessing my height, and readers give away the ending to the mystery my character is trying to solve. I now carry a hankie because reading aloud makes me schvitz, Albert Brooks/Broadcast News style. Who knew?

A friend recently asked me if I was growing tired of the podium, and I answered “not yet,” because something amazing and exhilarating occurs at every event, big and small. I’m also still stunned that people would devote their time and brain space to my novel, a story about Barbara Pupnick Blumfield’s quest to find her way back home. After years of exile from her Milwaukee Orthodox Jewish community, Barbara’s former rebbetzin invites her to perform a tahara (the ritual of preparing the body for burial) on the mentor who nurtured her after Barbara’s mother abandoned the family. And so begins her long journey back to her religious community, her mother’s love, and the piece of herself she’s unwittingly withheld from her teenage daughter. In order to return home, Barbara must solve the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance from the family, and it’s for this reason the book has been called a spiritual page-turner.