Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone by Valerie Lawrence

VM Lawrence uses the mastery of literary structure to introduce each of her characters as they transition from the "Old World" culture to their newly adopted Country and bring with them the love of family and the need of education. The skill which she uses brings the reader visual details of the actions and characters as they come alive is brilliant. This fictional novel touches on the third rail of politics, "Abortion" and is handled with such delicate and sensitive construction that one is not aware of the suspense that is building with the struggles and conflict generated by this adventure. BROWNSTONE pulses with life and death, sorrow and joy. We hold on for dear life traversing through the wild turbulence of trials, tragedies and triumphs. Knowing that Children are the spiritual and corporal legacy, the family is fractured when abortion becomes a very real issue. The psychological impact presents thought provoking ideas that are intended to impact the reader. Brownstone focuses on the inner story which drives the plot in an attempt to elicit the emotional involvement of the reader. The reader emerges through the storm weathered and worn, but with the realization that life is precious, fleeting and fragile; and, with the knowledge that a life full of joy, hope and peace is possible, only after forgiveness. VM Lawrence reminds us that those living in depths of despair, or struggling with family problems, can find solace by offering them the wisdom that a broken, bitter and battered heart can be transformed through forgiveness, faith and trust, into a heart filled with unconditional acceptance and unending love.

Lawrence has a way with words that will incite many emotions from the reader in this page-turning epic family drama.  The tale spans many years, and many generations but the one constant is that it is about the same family.  It's interesting to see how time has changed views, emotions and society from generation to generation, but to be expected.

However, the main topic is abortion and it appears several times in the novel, but with different generations.  It's handled differently and at times, made me very angry.  But, that is the the catalyst to Lawrence's deft way of bringing faith into her work and her characters.  While I loathed some characters and cheered and empathized for others, it was very hard to put down the  novel that ended up staying with me for days, even long after I finished it.  Thought -provoking to say the least.


Born in Buffalo, New York, September 17, 1945: Died March 23, 2013.

The genesis of this oeuvre, "Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone," started with Valerie's great-grandmother, Paula Uharek a member of the Hungarian Royal family. At fifteen years old she crossed the Atlantic in steerage to start her new life in America as a maid. Six years later she would meet and marry Josef, a cabinet maker who apprenticed in Hungary as a coffin maker. Thus the foundation of "Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone" was in place.

Having a difficult childhood because of a dysfunctional family, Valerie turned to education as the saving instrument of survival. Soon after high school Valerie married and had three children while continuing her studies.

After the collapse of her marriage her desire for knowledge demanded she doubled her efforts to excel. "If you can't control the wind, adjust the sail" was her guiding principle for excellence. After graduating from Duquesne University magna cum laude in science she entered the University of Pittsburgh where she received her doctoral degree in psychology.

Continuing her studies in Europe and the Orient she researched the addictive behaviors of the afflicted and applied her knowledge to her work in private and educational institutions. That work prompted her publishing her first book, "Addictive Lies", a survivor's guide to addiction.

A certified graduate of the Epiphany Association in Pittsburgh and a long standing member of her church she volunteered many hours to the Lambs Supper, Faith Formation Group, Appalachian Missions, Religious counselor and Good Neighbor Coordinator.

In addition, Valerie was an avid fitness advocate and spent more than two years reaching the goal of Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. Her concept of a healthy body required good food, exercise, an active mind and prayers.

Her challenges in life included many projects that would take her to uncharted territory and offer the joy and happiness of life to those that joined her in that journey. She was married for just six months when a tragic accident took Valerie's life. While we mourn her death on earth we celebrate her lasting work in "Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone."

Valerie's biography was written by her devoted husband, Philip Buettgen, who is champion of her work.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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