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Truth is stranger (better) than fiction [Opinion]

Ever since I turned the last page of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” a few weeks ago I’ve been in search of my next read.

Finishing a book typically brings about mixed feelings with me. On one hand, it engenders a sense of accomplishment, especially when reaching the summit of a 510-page volume like Springsteen’s autobiography.

On the other, there’s a tinge of sadness in preparing to put a book back on the shelf, whether my own or the library’s.

I’m very selective about my next read because once I start a book I intend to finish it.

There are times, though, when I decide to cut and run.

Call it a flaw if you must, but I have an extremely low tolerance for fiction.

For me to enjoy something that is created within an author’s head, it had better lean toward the literary realism genre made famous by John Updike, who grew up in Berks County.

Or Stephen King, whose unique style that incorporates letters and passages to create realism in his fiction. To read King is like watching a movie.

Occasionally I do give fiction a chance, especially if the author and/or the story has local connections.

Last year I read the historical novel, “One Star Away,” by Imogene Salva. The story chronicles the Nowicki family’s forced nonfictional deportation to Siberian labor camps after the Soviets invaded eastern Poland in 1939.

The author describes their fight for survival through the eyes of her mother, who was probably 11 when the Communists stormed the Nowicki family home soon after World War II began. Salva relied on her mother’s diaries to imagine the dialogue wrapped around historical facts.

After Hitler invaded the USSR two years later, the Nowicki family seized the opportunity to leave the country, making their way south by foot and eventually train to Persia and finally India.

The author’s mother and aunt, both deceased, completed high school at Mount Alvernia, which is today the site of Alvernia University, Sacred Heart Convent and St. Joseph Villa, around 1950. Her aunt chose the religious life, becoming one of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters.

Members of the Polish-American Heritage Association of Berks County told me that one of the other girls who came to America under the sponsorship of the Bernardine Sisters — and is mentioned in the book — still lives in Reading. She is today known as Sister Jacynta, a retired Alvernia philosophy professor.

I arranged an interview with Sister Jacynta Respondowska in the Mother House, also known as McGlinn Conference Center, along the Alvernia campus. The Respondowska family’s story parallels that of the Nowickis.

Sister Jacynta told me she didn’t care for the author’s fictionalized dialogue and romanization of her mother and aunt’s years in a camp for refugee children.

Neither did I. Halfway through the book I started skipping over the dialogue, which I found distracting and unnecessary, so I could finish the story.

Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.


Source: Berkshire mont

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