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True Story of China and Ireland
Eyes of Emerald
By Harvey Stelman and Andy Nathan; Illustrated by Paula Nathan
This is a gorgeous story for reading on St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s as well, Chinese New Year’s and your birthday. The account relates the events of holidays and mourning days of the soul, because a real life contains both.
Produced as a Lifetime Network movie, it could show every day to a large audience. I hope it becomes a full-length feature playing yearly with the popularity of Cleveland’s A Christmas Story or Vanuatu's South Pacific. Whatever its future, Eyes of Emerald brings together realities as its differing cultures connect with joys and sadness during The Great Depression. This is not a fairy tale romance, but neither are most of our lives. The book is, however, a great love story and a thought provoker.
The press on the book is that its story is powerful and romantic - and it is certainly all that, but it packs the punch of a pile driver when it hits you with real life. You will not soon forget it, because it is based in the truth of oral traditions decorated with retelling through generations of Jewish American people. This book presents its story in the first written edition of its near-century of life.
Somewhere there are happy people; somewhere, lonely wanderers. Somewhere people are punishing themselves for sins that did not occur or were long ago forgiven. It’s true and we cannot fix all that, no more than we can take all the flooding on North America and Japan in and put it back on top of the melted polar ice cap.
However, the novel is a story of life in its necessary opposites. Yin and Yang to Asia, but also the lifelong sequence of mountain top experiences and low-cut valleys that the more experienced among us know will cycle forever.
Whose eyes are emerald?
Looking at the book cover, many people say it is the Irish Eyes -- They are, in fact, Hebrew. They meet some Irish eyes in New York City, though, and want to dash away from their olive-tinted, superstitious glare. They meet kind eyes and selfish eyes, controlling eyes and giving eyes, ambition eyes and empty eyes. However, they also meet Chinese eyes and fall in love - the black eyes fell first.
A Great Depression Beauty: Esther
Esther Rothstein graduated from high school in 1933, the first in her immigrant family to do so. This was a landmark occasion and a time of great joy, with a sense of adventure and freedom for Esther. She would soon be looking for employment and beginning to make her own, new way in New York City.
Her entire extended family had striven hard to come to America and make a living - to raise their families and give their children the golden future that the US offered. Esther's dad worked particularly hard and was dismayed when an uncle (Bernard Ross, having changed hid name in America) proceeded to bestow too many expensive gifts on his children. Dad wished to be able to give more, at the same time not wanting the children to think things came easy in America. Work is important, after alls
And work, Esther did - very well. Even among the office politics deeply embedded in American life already in The Great Depression, Esther shone like a shining star burning through rock.
I know hard work was appreciated in the early 1930s, everyone hoping to maintain their jobs. I had an aunt that went to work for a Jewish accountant in the 1930s. She worked so hard and efficiently in the first week, that she had earned a raise from him by Friday. She married this gentleman, Boris (Benjamin) from the Ukraine, and together they had a long happy life and a family. Such was not the fate of Esther, although she was such a hardworking woman, too. After several disappointments, she did finally find love. Temporarily, at least.
The Haunting Past
Esther caught the eye of a Chinese businessman from a wealthy family and the two formed a relationship during their lunchtime meals on her breaks in his NYC restaurant - the House of Chang - despite cultural and faith differences. The entertaining interactions of the two families and their members in New York City and in 1930s China, the historical accounts of war and Communism in the Far East, and the colorful characters surrounding Esther at home in NYC, are quite memorable. Unforgettable is the Irish curse tossed with a bird's bone from pigeons fed in the park and how birds and food entertwine in the climax of the tale.
The storyline spans approximately 1933 - 1939 with various sorrows, delights, melancholy, and happiness; then jumps to some point in the second half of the century and a mysterious occurrence. You will not want to miss the intervening story or its ending.
This novel might be the basis for a screenplay in the future and I am satisfied that the story would play well. At the same time, it needs some editing, although the first 118 pages still make a great read in an exceptional story. The last 75 - 80 are a bit of a chore, but still a good story.
A total of 15% of the book's proceeds are donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, an organization Harvey Stelman supports through experiencing his own bout with the condition. He keeps plans to use income from the softbound and Kindle editions of Eyes of Emerald for editing the novel as a Trade Paperback in wide distribution. I hope you might want to join these efforts.
© 2011 Patty Inglish