Thursday, August 18, 2011
Snow Moon Rising by Lori Lake
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
WARNING - If you are interested in this book because you are looking for a lesbian romance to read, this is not the Lori Lake book for you. And, if you let that be the reason you don't read it, you will be the poorer for it. Lake has crafted an epic work that deals with one of the most tragic periods in recent times, yet there is a warmth to the story that keeps it from being heavy handed or depressing.
Mischka Gallo is a member of a Roma troupe that is traveling through Poland and Germany in the closing years of World War I when the story opens. The Roma are a despised minority that suffer from stereotypes and prejudice from people who call them "Gypsies." Inside the troupe however is a loving environment of family members and friends who care for each other deeply and live by the code of an ancient culture.
Into this stumbles Emil, a shell-shocked German soldier who has run from battle and wants nothing more than to put the killing behind him. As Emil is welcomed into the group he begins to learn how misunderstood these people are and he adopts this new lifestyle. Eventually, Emil introduces Mischka to his sister Pauline "Pippi" Stanek. Thus begins a friendship that will see the women through the rest of their lives. They know that they share a connection that isn't broken even when there are long separations.
Eventually, the world of the Roma is torn to pieces with the onset of World War II and the arrival of the perverted theories and practices of the Nazis. Mischka will end up in a forced labor camp as a prisoner where she is reunited with Pippi who has been ordered to report there as a supervisor. The women will struggle to survive and defeat the brutality of their captors in any way they can. The end of the war will find them separated again until they reunite years later in the US and discover that their relationship may be one of much more than friendship.
Lake has done a masterful job in creating the atmospheres of the different periods in the book. The life in the Roma camp is warm and funny, with strong friendships and passionate loves. Lake paints a terrific picture of Roma culture for anyone who is not familiar with it. The most wrenching scenes come when Mischka is captured by the Nazis, shipped in a crowded railroad car to the work camp and then experiences the events in the camp. For anyone who is not familiar with what happened in these places, the descriptions are harrowing and accurate. Lake's attention to detail makes this book rich with information. Yet the book is not heavy handed or depressing. There are sad scenes, but the warmth of the people and the strength of the relationship between Mischka and Pippi carries the reader past those.
This is not a "typical" lesbian novel. There are no passionate love scenes or women chasing after each other. There hasn't been a lot of talk about the book on the lesbian fiction sites and that's unfortunate. People are missing an excellent opportunity if they are skipping over this book. This is a story of family, friendship, tradition and the evil that humans can do to each other. While the reader enjoys a good story, there is also a great history lesson being taught. That's the best way to do it.
Snow Moon Rising should be on everyone's must read list.