Friday, June 11, 2010

Phyllis Schieber, Guest Blogger

In June and July, novelist Phyllis Schieber is having a blog outreach campaign where she will visit a variety of blogs that deal with the topics the characters in her novels face.

Schieber says, "The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. .In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters." Schieber's first novel, Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam and in March 2008, Berkley Putnam issued the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

There were many topics she could have discussed, relevant to women, including women, secrets, marriage, motherhood, betrayal, adultery, adoption, adopted children, teens forced to give up children for adoption, adopted children searching for biological mothers, middle age and sex, female friendship, women in middle age, biological mothers, divorce, infidelity, loss, life change, and adultery. She's discussing "loss," which makes sense for this blog, this year. Thank you, Phyllis.

Loss is invariably synonymous with death. We euphemistically murmur, “I’m so sorry for your loss” countless times as the years pass. And undoubtedly, death is always a loss even when the death is a blessing. I have known much loss through death, and even when I finally welcomed its arrival after my mother’s protracted illness, the loss was, and continues to be, profound. My father died when I was twenty-six. His death was sudden and traumatic. My family was irrevocably devastated, and almost thirty years later, we continue to recover. I have also lost dear friends, most notably my friend Bette. I dedicated my novel Willing Spirits to her, as well as to her daughter Polly, who died several years later at the impossibly young age of twenty-three when she succumbed to an asthma attack. These losses were particularly hard for me. Bette was only fifty when she died. She was my self-appointed older sister. I was sixteen to her thirty when we met, and I consistently deferred to her wisdom without question. Of course, as the years passed and the age difference narrowed, I periodically doubted her, but invariably she was always right. The loss of her presence in my life left me adrift for a long while. Polly’s death was unspeakably tragic, one that continues to plague me, making me wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent her untimely end. That loss was especially life altering, as it always is when someone so young dies.

Learning how to live with the absence of much loved people is analogous to a gaping hole that you learn to walk around, ever careful not to fall in and be swept away by the grief. I continue to be mindful of that hole when I miss the people I have lost. From time-to-time, that hole beckons, but I force myself not to yield. Everyone knows what happens if you are stranded in a snowstorm and fall asleep. We have to push on. Still, I hold the people I have lost close to my heart and speak of them often. I strive to keep them alive by recounting stories and sharing memories. As the years pass, I do not miss any of them any less, but I do not allow myself to fall asleep in a snowdrift.

There are, however, other losses that can be as harrowing as death—betrayal and divorce come to mind, though there are others. I have written a great deal about the consequences of betrayal. In the aftermath of a betrayal, the sense of loss can be overwhelming. When the person we love and trust betrays us, the grief is incomprehensible. Some of the characters in my novels, Willing Spirits and The Sinner’s Guide to Confession have been betrayed by men they loved, and others have betrayed men they loved. Some of these women have gone through the anguish that comes with a divorce. The losses incurred by divorce and betrayal are not easily surmountable, but I believe that the way we meet the challenges of these losses shapes how we move through the rest of our lives.

Loss and change—we can count on both. They are certainties that demand our attention, but not our preoccupation. And while there is no right way to grieve, and no time limit on how long we should grieve after the loss of a loved one or the humiliation of a betrayal, the key is to move on. The women in my novels know many types of losses. Some have been widowed; others abandoned, and still others have lost parents. However, perhaps the most overwhelming loss belongs to Ellen in The Sinner’s Guide to Confession. At fifteen, she is forced to give up her baby girl. Ellen spends her entire life grieving the loss of her baby, a loss that is compounded by her inability to conceive again and her beloved husband’s betrayal. Yet, Ellen moves forward, and the novel’s conclusion reaffirms that nothing is stronger than the human spirit, not even loss.

Thank you, Phyllis. Loss is something we all have to face in our lives, so it's a very appropriate topic.

You can join Phyllis Schieber on The Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit You can also learn more about Phyllis Schieber and her books at

The Sinner's Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber. Penguin Group(USA), ©2008. ISBN 9780425221532 (paperback), 384p.

Willing Spirits by Phyllis Schieber. Penguin Group(USA), ©2009. ISBN 9780425225851 (paperback), 304p.


Ingrid King said...

Thank you for introducing me to Phyllis Schieber, Lesa - what a wonderful guest blog. So many people, writers included, are afraid to address the topic of loss, and yet, unforutnately, it's a part of everyone's life. As a society who shies away from discussing death and loss, we need more authors like Phyllis. I'll be checking out her books for sure.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ingrid. you're right. I do think we're afraid to discuss death and loss. I hope you enjoy her books!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Thank you to both of you! To Lesa for hosting me on your interesting and beautifully orchestrated blog, and to Ingrid for your kind words. I look forward to hearing from you after you read my work! So great to meet you!

Lesa said...


Thank you for stopping back. I just never know what readers will respond to. I'm sorry there weren't more comments for you, but that doeesn't mean people didn't read it. I have about 280 people a day come to my blog.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Thanks, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, and thank you again, Phyllis.