Book Review: The Will to Live On by Herman Wouk

The Will to Live On by Herman Wouk is an engaging read. Growing up, I had read This is My God, the first book about Judaism he wrote in 1959. The Will to Live On is the companion volume he published in 2000. Even though it is not a recent publication, the issues he discussed are still relevant today in 2019. Herman Wouk, who passed away at age 103 this year, was a bestselling author of numerous novels, including two that were made into television miniseries, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Similar to his first book, Wouk explains why religion is an integral component of his life. Back in 1959, his first book was well-received despite the prevailing lack of interest in Orthodox Judaism among the Jewish mainstream and the media. The nation of Israel was strong and unafraid of its belligerent neighbors. Wouk expounded on his steadfast traditional observance even though his lifestyle was going against the tide of American Jewish life. By the time he wrote The Will to Live On, Israel had already gone through wars that endangered its very existence and it is now subject to much controversy on the world stage. He shares his thoughts on the public’s renewed interest in traditional Judaism even though only a small percentage of Jews are still observant. Wouk expresses doubts whether Jews would continue on as a people or fade away due to dwindling observance. He concludes his work by stating that he instinctually believes the Jewish people will continue to survive as a distinct people, perhaps in innovative ways.

Wouk had a life most writers would envy. He was able to write full-time, travel the world for background material for his writing, and meet famous people and world leaders. He briefly summarizes the history of the Jewish religion and ends by discussing the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform camps and the views of individual Jews on religion, Israel’s future, and their thoughts on the future of the Jewish people

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I felt Wouk missed one important component–even in America, the land of the free, many employers require their employees to work on Friday after Shabbat begins and even on Saturday. The Jewish holidays throughout the year, always occurring on different dates due to the Hebrew lunar calendar, make it difficult for those considering a more observant lifestyle to take so many days off of work. Added to that, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are often located in expensive neighborhoods. To walk to a synagogue and observe with other Jews, a person or family must make a very sizable income. What’s more, the cost of Jewish day schools is soaring and many simply cannot afford the tuition, forcing them to send their children to public schools. I wish Wouk would have addressed these issues rather than just focusing on the allure of the secular lifestyle. These are very real obstacles to living an observant lifestyle. 
Otherwise, a good recap of Jewish history and Jewish life today. 

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Updates on Human Trafficking Crisis

I recently read about the grim report by the State Department concerning human trafficking (https://www.foxnews.com/us/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world-report). It is not only is on the rise in the United States, but this country is ranked as one of the worst countries for human trafficking. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the Trafficking in Persons Report, which documents human trafficking numbers from the previous year. He noted that despite the substantial increase in funding and services for trafficking survivors, a growing number of children are being trafficked as sex slaves. The following are some shocking statistics:

  • 85% are born in the United States
  • 50% to 60% are from foster care
  • Others are homeless young people, undocumented immigrant youth, and young people suffering from substance abuse
  • Over 300,000 of the country’s youth are at risk.  (According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The average victim began getting raped at three years old

I believe the government is redoubling its efforts in fighting this growing problem, but the sad truth is sex trafficking is thriving because of the great demand. How can it be stopped?

Keith Raniere: Finally, Justice for the Sex Cult Founder

I know this qualifies as good news, but after reading the trial of NXIUM founder Keith Raniere,  I feel sickened he was allowed to operate his sex cult business for even one day. Raniere is an example of a monstrously evil individual. He faces life in prison. For those interested in reading about his horrific cult, please go to https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48401061. In the article, you will find that Raniere had notable people working and financing him. I found the crimes too gruesome to read.

More Good News: Former MLB Kevin Malone Works to End Human Trafficking

Kevin Malone was a general manager in professional baseball for 17 years. Now he works hard to rescue children from sex trafficking. Five years ago he co-founded the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Based on research Malone estimates that there are over 100,000 children being trafficked for sex in the United States.  The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking’s website (https://usiaht.org/about-us/) states their goals as follows:

  • Creating financially stable and replicable Safe Homes for survivor restoration across the country
  • Partnering with local law enforcement, governments, businesses, schools and community-based organizations to create TraffickingFree Zones
  • Educating federal, state and local government officials about the problem and what more they can do to stop it
  • Eliminating the “demand” by promoting legislative and law enforcement focus on the sex buyers instead of those being sold

The human trafficking crisis has affected all levels of our society and it can no longer be ignored. People must come together to end it.

If you are a trafficking victim or suspect someone you know is a victim, contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis.

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Can a Pantser Become a Plotter?

It has been almost a month since my father-in-law passed away. He used to call us all the time and was very outspoken in his opinions. I found in the first few weeks that something in our lives was missing, but now it is sinking in that he is gone and we must return to our everyday lives. What has helped is discussing our memories of him.

I admit I have had trouble concentrating on writing lately with all my reflections. But Thursday is the day to put up my post and so I am putting forth a great deal of effort into getting my blog written.

When it comes to writing novels, I am a pantser—that is, I write from the seat of my pants. I don’t plot scenes, develop characters, or map out the hero’s journey before I begin writing. This method worked for my first novel, True Mercy, but I’ve run into some issues in my second novel.

I began as usual, developing characters and writing the plot as I went along. After editing the story numerous times, I sent it off to my editor. Unlike the first novel which grabbed her interest right away, she had a lot of questions and problems with the story. She wrote comments such as one of my main characters was selfish and she was critical of the dynamics of each family in the novel.  I edited some more and not satisfied with her critique, I decided I needed a second opinion. Mind you, editors are expensive, but I was not satisfied. I also had to face up to the truth that the story needed a great deal more work. In my opinion, which I admit is subjective, I thought this novel has potential and I wanted someone who appreciated the story and help me improve it.  After doing research, I found a second editor. She indicated to me the novel has merits but with a caveat—she said I needed to rewrite the whole story. This editor told me if I was not willing to rewrite, she would understand, there would be no hard feelings, and she would give me a partial refund.

But rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t give up. I rewrote the whole novel. Time will only tell whether all my hours of effort and hard work were worth it.

After all this work, I am exhausted and can’t wait to send it off and get rid of it. I have vowed that if I ever write another novel, I will HAVE TO PLOT IT OUT AND DEVELOP THE CHARACTERS BEFORE I BEGIN THE ACTUAL WRITING PROCESS because I honestly don’t think I could go through rewriting the whole story again.

However, upon reflection, when I wrote True Mercy, I did in fact rewrite the whole story—it took me four years before I published it. But back then, writing a novel was, well, a novel thing for me to do. The whole experience was new and fresh. I couldn’t wait to publish it and have people read my work. Going into my second novel, I hoped the whole process would become a lot easier, but it wasn’t. That’s why I want to try the plotter approach next time. Plotting the novel is supposed to be very demanding in the beginning as the author develops the characters and charts out the events that take place in the story before the actual writing process begins. Other writers have told me it is better to do the hard work in the beginning so the editing process is easier and less frustrating. What’s more, they tell me the book is written more quickly. I plan on giving it a try.

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Book Review of The List

My father-in-law, Bernard Kursman, passed away on May 17th. Since then, I have been in a daze with all the traveling, the mourning rituals, and returning to regular life. He had been very ill for the past year and my family and I have been under incredible stress. I have recently started back on writing and decided to post a review of a fascinating book I read that takes place in post-Holocaust Britain.

The List was an eye-opening historical novel. It tells the story of Edith and Georg, who escaped the Holocaust and now live in a boardinghouse with other escapees. Edith is pregnant and both she and her husband are desperately waiting for news of survivors in their families. At the same time, Georg, a lawyer, is having trouble securing employment because the British do not want to hire “aliens.” They must contend with discrimination as British citizens debate whether they should deport the refugees back to the countries of their birth so available jobs and housing go to the country’s returning soldiers. At the same time, Jewish people are organizing in Palestine to sabotage British control because they are restricting Jewish immigration in efforts to placate the growing resentment of the Arab population. 
I learned a great deal about the lives of the Holocaust survivors and escapees as well as their uncertain status in post-WWII Britain. The author enables readers to empathize with the pain of refugees desperately trying to locate surviving family members, Georg’s job-seeking frustrations to provide for his wife and their unborn baby, and the pressures Jews and British experience in Palestine.
Author Martin Fletcher’s characters Georg and Edith were based on his own parents and their challenges as they worried about their loved ones while anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby. The characters and plot make the story memorable and riveting. In the beginning, the readers don’t see the connection between the characters in Britain and those in Palestine, but Fletcher expertly weaves them together for a compelling conclusion.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues, families with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis.

Idelle is available to write blog content for businesses and organizations. Please contact on this website.

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