In The Spotlight Today: Bette Golden Lamb!
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m an ex Bronxite from NYC.
Tell us more about your book!
THE RUSSIAN GIRL
Based on a true story
An all points bulletin blasts the police airways in an exhaustive search for an old lady who has “escaped” from a top security nursing home during a record-breaking heat wave. Dressed only in slippers and a robe, she simply walked out into the New Mexico inferno.
The sun beats down on the woman, who reflects on her life and mourns her lost ability to heal. Nothing sustains her except erratic memories and a crushing desire for a cold Coke.
Minna Goldmich is a Jewish-Russian immigrant from a family of healers -- the only skill that keeps the family alive during the Russian pogroms. She loses her powers to heal when she’s traumatized by witnessing the slaughter of her neighbors during a Cossack attack.
Later, she accidentally kills a boy trying to rape her. She is whisked out of the country and put aboard a German ship sailing to America just as World War I starts.
Minna’s first vision of America’s “streets of gold” is the “Island of Tears,” Ellis Island. From there, she travels to Alabama to live with her older brother, a physician who neither knows nor wants her.
During her time in the South, Minna becomes a nurse and a first-hand witness to blatant discrimination. After almost dying in the pandemic flu epidemic of 1918, she ruptures her ties to her brother, goes to New York City, and finds not only love, but a road less traveled by women of her time – dedication to a life of political activism.
As a revolutionary, her entire existence becomes a tapestry of the turbulent events of the 20th century: The Russian revolution, WWI, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Spanish Civil War, WWII, the Rosenbergs, the McCarthy era, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights movement.
Minna’s two children, pushed into a corner by her disappearance, are forced to face not only their own jumbled lives, but their dislike and distrust of each other.
The son, an ill-tempered, frustrated, New Mexico architect, has bartered his dreams for the promise of big money. He is not only morally and financially compromised; his deception and inability to love have put his marriage at risk. Although his mother’s death would solve his financial problems, without anyone discovering the short cuts and chances he’s taken, he’s emotionally uneasy about this as a solution to his problems.
The daughter, a successful California caterer, has chosen a safer life. She abhors risk, prefers to keep every aspect of her life under control, and cares little about money. She also has the family’s inherent power to heal, but has kept her ability hidden from her mother – a secret revenge she treasures because she feels unloved and second best to her brother.
When Minna’s children finally find her in the desert, their forced time together has given them a better pathway to understand each other.
She accepts that her life has been worthwhile; even though she was made to flee the peasant world she loved and never wanted to leave.
May be of interest:
Reading Stephan Hawking Can Project You Into A Different Reality
So, it all began on a beautiful day about fifteen years ago. I was a practicing RN and during my lunch hour I would hurry to my car, snap up my laptop, and start writing. But on this particular day, I’d brought a book to read instead. I’d just finished writing a new novel and the thought of starting a new project was … well, I was drained dry.
I made myself comfortable in my car and began reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
You know, things like-- How did the universe begin? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries?
I’d been totally engrossed in the book when my mother (who’d been dead for many years) was in the car with me. This is definitely a double blink moment. I was really stunned. She looked at me long and hard, mouthed the words: “Tell my story.”
Then she said it again.
Oh, yeah! Well, no way was that going to happen!
I’d had a contentious relationship with that woman almost from the day I was born. I totally ignored the apparition and soon it faded away.
I should have known better. In a few minutes she was back again. I put my book down. And again she mouthed the words, “Tell my story.”
All of you out there reading this: it was not only the last thing I wanted to do. It was something I would never have done. Ever!
But, you know, I agreed. Because my mother was one of the most stubborn people you could have the misfortune to meet. At least that’s what I thought then. She would haunt me forever until I told her story.
After all of the hair-pulling, and the searching and researching, I did find her story. And it was a compelling one. One that finally forced me to really see my mother. Understand what a remarkable woman she was.
So, what is my mother’s story? The one she forced me to write. One that took me not only four struggling years of my life, but an additional 15 more years of editing and reediting and obsessing over her story. The story of a woman, my mother, that I had such a horrible relationship with. A story that was never supposed to happen.
* * *
My mother’s family were peasants that lived on a tiny farm outside Bobrysk, a village not too far from Minsk.
But what was special, is that she came from a long line of healers. Her mother, my grandmother, was known and recognized far and wide for her healing abilities. It sounds pretty New Age. Fascinating until you find out, what she healed were cows.
That’s right. Cows.
Pretty amusing. But remember this was the early 1900s, the time of Tsar Nicolas II and his henchmen, the brutal Cossacks. They rode the steppes of Russia tearing through the land murdering my people – murdering the Jews and anyone else who got in their way or was an enemy of the Royalists.
But when these Cossack monsters came to my mother’s village, even the most rabid Jew haters, would snatch up and gladly hide my family. It’s not that they cared about them. What they cared about were their cows. Because without those cows there would be no food—no milk, cheese, meat to survive the harsh winters.
People were expendable. Cows weren’t. And cows were the only reason my family survived. That I’m even here today.
In the early 1900s, Minna Goldmich, the character I’ve chosen to represent my mother, is a 14-year-old peasant girl, and she kills a boy to keep from being brutalized and raped. Her life is shattered when her family sends her away to America to save her from being killed in retribution. There’s no doubt, the villagers would have killed her.
Alone, she survives the ocean voyage, the horrors of Ellis Island and is sent to live in Alabama with an older brother who puts her through nursing school. In Birmingham, she soon becomes enmeshed in a world of blatant racism.
My mother had never seen a Black person until she came to the United States. But later, as a visiting nurse, she becomes caught up in New York’s healthcare system, where she worked to help the suffering and disadvantaged mostly in the Harlem district.
What was her solution to all the chaos around her? To the neglect of the poor, sick, and starving people she saw every day?
She became a part of the city’s Red Movement and joined in its fight against the political powers that squashed the poorest of the poor.
Her entire life was one of upheaval, lost love, and activism. Through The Russian Girl we see the crush of a brutal 20th century—Sacco & Vanzetti, the Spanish Civil War, WWII, The Holocaust, the Rosenbergs, McCarthyism, and Vietnam.
Mom: It took me a lifetime, but I finally do understand.
Article to be printed in the May The Stiletto – Sisters in Crime Newsletter
You’re sharing an elevator with a big name publisher. Pitch your book using 20 words or less!
A crushing desire for a cold Coke and memories of a dying healer spawns wild delirium in the hot desert sun.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
My own office with a desk and a computer. But truthfully, I could write in a closet with a hanging naked bulb. But it has to be quiet or I can’t hear the story in my head.
If your book was turned into a movie, who would play your main characters?
Meryl Streep as Minna. She can dive deeply into any character Clive Owens as the son. Sandra Bullock or someone with her composure, as the daughter.
You’re stranded on an island, and only one character from any book can save you. Who are you picking?
I have to pick Harry Lucke RN from our Gina Mazzio RN Medical Thriller Series. He’s inventive, smart, adventurous, and a fast thinker,
Besides being a writer, what else do you enjoy?
I am a professional sculptor and an RN. A real movie nut, book reader, and music lover. Top it off with gardening.
Do you have any upcoming book promotions?
In the planning process. Looking for more exposure for our Gina Mazzio RN Medical Thrillers and our other crime books. Pocketbook issues.:)
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