I love it when I find opportunities to review really great books and when authors personally reach out to me and ask. Such is the case in the latest book I've been glued to since I started it. I literally can't put it down. What's the pull you ask? I guess for me, because this book feels so real. The situations and characters within the pages under a beautiful cover are as real as the people that I know. There is some safety in watching them deal with a difficult situation, literally a marriage hanging by a thread, that will affect not only the husband and wife, but the children and everyone in their lives. You feel like you are eaves dropping on what is a very private matter and something most of us never see, but none the less is happening all around us. Probably more than we would like to admit.
In the novel, A Stop in the Park by Peggy Panagopoulos Strack, we are immediately involved in the lives of Michael Stolis, an up and coming highly stressed and overworked Washington D.C. attorney and his wife, Jamie who is your stay at home mom of two busy young girls, Megan and Emily. While he holds down the financial fort working long days and often with very little time out, he literally snaps by the time he makes it home. What used to be his peaceful sanctuary is now filled with loud children's television, messes throughout the home and a wife who finds solace in the Internet. On top of dealing with working out, driving in traffic, and dealing with meeting deadlines, Michael's been attending marriage counseling with Jamie in hopes of finding a workable solution to keep their marriage intact. He's been diagnosed with anger management issues and can't seem to find a way to get control of things before he literally explodes on his wife and kids.
Even though they are not the source of his problems, he doesn't have a way to unwind at the close of the day and after 15 years of marriage, things have grown distant between Jaime and Michael. They are now more like strangers living in the same home than the loving parents Megan and Emily need. On top of Michael's busy work schedule there are family social obligations, soccer practice and all kinds of weekly scheduled events from golfing on Sunday just to keep his work connections content to meeting with friends and neighbors for dinners and Bar-B-Ques he can't stand for the sake of getting out of the house to please his wife.
When Jamie issues an ultimatum for a trial separation, Michael knows things have gone too far. Either they must change or they will face divorce. It's during a stop at the park on the way to dinner with the family one evening that Michael meets the man who is about to change his life, Rufus, a retired bus driver who spends the afternoons playing blintz chess. Rufus tells Michael his life sucks and instructs him on a crash course for fun, one I think we all need more of. Rufus tells him it all has to do with how you view your time on this planet. You see, he tells him, I pretend. Now, pretending is fun. I pretend that before I came to earth I had a conversation with Saint Peter or God or Jesus or Buddha - don't matter who - and whoever said, 'You're going to earth for one hundred years, at the most. I'm going to put you in the United States, so you'll have a lot of opportunity. I think I'll make you black, as that may give you a bit of a challenge with some in that country. It'll make you stronger. I'll give you a special talent - up to you to find it. Pay attention and you'll figure it out. Now go and have fun. It's a real neat place - some problems, but always solutions too. Again, up to you to find them. Remember you only got one hundred years, at the very most. When you come back, I'll be waiting, and I'll want to hear all about your trip.'
Sounds like a very wise man, Michael found through a fortuitous walk in the park one day but one that is going to literally change him from the inside out. All the things he was because of how he was raised became his excuses for his behavior and how he treated people around him. He felt that was simply how he is, but when he sees that taking small steps outside of his comfort zone provide him with much more lasting peace, he decides like an addict, he must simply have more. But will his family buy into the belief he has really change or will divorce still be the end of Michael's marriage?
I received A Stop in the Park by Peggy Panagopoulos Strack compliments of the author for my honest review. At times it was hard to believe I was simply reading a novel and not someone's memoir, but one I delighted in taking my time to enjoy. It literally made me appreciate my own marriage and husband more and books like this one are a rare treasure indeed. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with their own issues in marriage as it provides a different insight being an observer rather than a participant and perhaps you'll find some wisdom in Rufus' words. I rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars and caution readers its a very realistic look at some problems in marriage including the possibility of tempting fate with an affair and that's why I recommend this book to those that may be struggling for answers. Peggy is also donating ten percent of the profits of this novel to the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, an organization that keeps music alive in schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs. It's well worth reading and it's now found a permanent place on my library shelf.
For more information about A Stop in the Park, Peggy Panagopoulos Strack, or where you can pick up a copy of this book today, please click on the links below:
You can visit her blog, Kick Back Moments by clicking here.
- Paperback: 372 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 31, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1475150997
- ISBN-13: 978-1475150995
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