Thursday, April 2, 2009
A BOOK REVIEW (and so much more!!) by Stephanie Abney
Monday night I had the privilege of attending a most unique “book signing.” My dear friend, Jeni Grossman, was introducing her book, Missing Pieces. Jeni and I go way back. I introduced her to ANWA and when she published her first book in 2001, Beneath the Surface, her inscription on my copy said: “For my dear friend, Stephanie ~ Well, I guess I can blame this book on you! Joining ANWA pushed me into it and you pushed me into ANWA! I love you!
Jeni was the first LDS fiction author to write a murder mystery. In Beneath the Surface we meet Dulcey Martinez for the first time, a rookie television reporter. In the sequel, Behind the Scenes, published just a year later, we catch up with Dulcey again. This time she is covering a story on drug dealers and soon her own life is in danger. Jeni is a master at unexpected twists and realistic characters.
I’ve come to expect great things from Jeni (who was also my daughter’s creative writing teacher in high school), but I was completely unprepared for what awaited me in her third novel, Missing Pieces. I had visions of finishing it before I wrote this and I have tried in vain to come up with a different blog post but this one won’t let me be so I’ll share what I’m experiencing right now with all of you. Alas, I am only on chapter 11 out of 49. I am so intrigued and impressed I can only marvel and wonder at what lies ahead as I continue reading.
Jeni’s husband, Gary, is a professor at ASU. He was granted a Fulbright Scholarship to do research in Turkey for two years from 2002-2004. Jeni went with him. If you know Jeni, then you know she didn’t just go out sightseeing for two years. Instead, she found numerous ways to make a difference. While living in Ankara Jeni worked for an agency of the prime ministry responsible for building dams and as a guest reporter for the Turkish Daily News where she wrote award-winning articles about the two thousand year old city of Zeguma that was uncovered during the building of one of the dams. The discovery of this ancient city will be greater than that of Pompeii once the excavation is completed. The condition of many of the artifacts, particularly intricate mosaic floors, is quite pristine.
The delightful gathering, as it was so much more than a book signing, took place at the Val Vista Lakes Country Club in Gilbert, AZ. We saw a slide presentation of some of the breathtaking archeological finds, heard from several people who have gone to Zeguma personally and listened to Dr. Gary Grossman and his colleague, Dr. Mary Jane Parmentier, discuss some of the history and current conflicts in the Middle East. I tasted Turkish Delight, tried my hand at creating part of a mosaic, visited with friends and gained new insights on our brothers and sisters half a world away. Jeni and 19 local women who went to Zeguma (on a book club “field trip” no less!!) started a peace organization called, “Tiny Peaces” which does much to help women and girls in Turkey, including provide scholarships for girls to stay in school. You can (and should) visit their website at www.tinypeaces.com.
The book is completely captivating and Jeni paints pictures with words with such ease. I am watching this story play out as a movie in my mind as I read. Paraphrasing the back jacket of Missing Pieces, Dulcey is now a famous CNN reporter. She kisses her children and husband good-bye and flies to the Middle East to document history in the making as the excavation of the fallen city of Zeguma reveals a magnificent golden goddess statue. Terrorists attack her entourage, revealing a perilous political plot. An Al Qaeda henchman seeks the statue to fulfill ancient prophecy that would grant ultimate power to Islamic extremists. Tensions mount inside and outside of the excavation camp and Dulcey struggles to distinguish friends from enemies. In a heart-pounding race to secure the goddess, Dulcey learns the value of honor, family and heritage as she risks her own life in trying to preserve her most precious treasures.
This book has given me much to think about in just the first 11 chapters. The unexpected plot twists, which Jeni is expert at, keep you wanting more. I can’t wait to finish this book. But, I do have to fit my life and teaching in there somewhere. All I can say is, “Thank-you Jeni. You amaze me. And please stay safe!”