Thursday, March 05, 2009

Excerpt - A HUNDRED YEARS OF HAPPINESS by Nicole Seitz

Captain's Log, Stardate 03.05.2009

Update: Sorry, this giveaway is closed.





A Hundred Years of Happiness
by
Nicole Seitz


A beautiful young woman. An American soldier. A war-torn country. Nearly forty years of silence.

Now, two daughters search for the truth they hope will set them free and the elusive peace their parents have never found.

In the South Carolina Lowcountry, a young mother named Katherine Ann is struggling to help her tempestuous father, by plunging into a world of secrets he never talks about. A fry cook named Lisa is trying desperately to reach her grieving Vietnamese mother, who has never fully adjusted to life in the States. And somewhere far away, a lost soul named Ernest is drifting, treading water, searching for what he lost on a long-ago mountain.

They're all longing for connection. For the war that touched them to finally end. For their hundred years of happiness at long last to begin.

From the beloved author of The Spirit of Sweetgrass and Trouble the Water comes this generous story of family, war, loss and longing . . . of the ways we hide from those we love, and the ways that love finds us anyway.

Excerpt of chapter one:

PROLOGUE
The Ghost

I am not a ghost. Some may say I am no longer living, but one could argue with that. One might argue that before I left the earth, I was not actually living, but swimming, going through the motions, clueless as to how the universe works. I am much more real now than ever before-more real than the country boy from Georgia, more real than the soldier in Vietnam. In fact, one might argue that you, friend, are the ghost. Earthly lives are often veiled and wispy-just as you imagine me to be now.

After I took my last breath and entered heaven, I was able to see the whole picture-the mazes, the intricate workings, the coming together for a common good. For this knowledge, for the Truth, I will always be grateful. Know this: Life does not simply end when we die. There is something after. I promise there is. What it is just depends on us.

I am in a much better place, so don't worry for me. I am happy now. At peace. I'm going to tell you my story so you can see for yourself how it all works, how it all comes together. Seeing that no life is solitary, but we are all tangled up, strings of souls here and there, some more twisted together than others-this story is not just about me. It's about us, we who bump and tousle, pull apart and go our own ways.

It's about you.

Some characters in this story I knew very well. Others, I only learned of after my passing. Upon reading, you will find your own place in this story.

Know that I still pray for her and for many in these pages. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Even when you think it's too late for it. You're about to see how it saved a lost soul like me.

This story may not be like any you've ever heard. Be prepared to open your mind to possibilities. The mind is such a powerful thing. May all who hear this tale be blessed by it, you, children of sacrifice and you, fathers and mothers of battle. And to my fellow soldiers, my brothers in arms who fought valiantly and are still fighting to this day, I say this:

Take comfort. Your battle is not in vain. Know that one day soon, your war, too, will come to an end.


PART ONE: WATER

When the father's generation eats salt, the child's generation thirsts for water.
~ Vietnamese proverb


CHAPTER ONE
The Beach
Charleston, South Carolina, May 2008
Katherine Ann

He's wrestling with the folding chairs and losing. His finger gets pinched, and he spouts a four-letter word. "Why'd we have to come to the beach when I got a perfectly good river in my back yard? Shoot, no ugly people in bathing suits at my house. Well, except for a couple of you Water Lilies."

"That is just rude." I turn and watch my boys somersaulting in the sand.

"I wasn't talking about you." Daddy says.

"But those are my friends."

"Well, I wouldn't have had to haul all this crap halfway across town if we'd stayed home. Here. Make yourself useful and help me with this." I grab a tent pole and hold it steady for him while he jabs the others into the ground.

My father would like to own the world. If it's not his-his river or his boat or his kayak-why the heck would we want it? Like the beach, for instance. We live so close, but we never go. It's a sin, really. Well, we're here. With Mama's help, I finally twisted Daddy's arm and talked him into leaving behind his fortress along the Cooper River. It's like any other day, the sparkling ocean spread out before me, warm sand blowing across my feet, and my father-making me wish I'd stayed at home.

"This is not about you, Daddy. It's about the boys. They love it here. Look at them. They need a place to run wild."

Mama and RC, my husband, are walking now along the water's edge with Tradd and Cooper in tow. They look so tiny, so vulnerable there. It's all I can do to resist the urge to join them, but I know this expanse of space and quiet will help me recharge as a mother, as a wife. This is good for us all.

Daddy finishes putting the tent up, grunting and cursing, and I move toward the sandy dunes, digging my toes in the soft heat. I watch everybody I love from a calm distance. Every now and again, the boys stop to pick something up and throw it into the water. They run squealing from the waves, and RC scoops one and then the other up high over his head. He's such a good daddy. What did I ever do to deserve him? Mama pulls her beach hat over her ears again and stares up into the clouds, checking for rain.

With the boys taken care of, I walk and breathe and ponder until I find myself bored with solitude. At this time in my life, my family is what defines me, and apart from them I am a single balloon drifting in the sky. Long gone are the days when I wore a suit, carried a briefcase, practiced law. I was defined by the work I did then and proud of it. But I want to be there for my kids like my mother was for me. I never had to struggle for her attention. She was just there when I needed her, usually at the kitchen sink. No, I rarely miss the old me, my life before family.

I see my father sitting alone in our encampment, his once-trim belly hanging over a crisp blue bathing suit. He holds a bottle of water in his hand, and his ankles and feet are perched in front of him, blue-white from never taking his shoes off. He looks so alone.

I drag my feet. Daddy and I don't talk one-on-one very often. Or ever. So, what will I say? My shoulders itch, sandpaper just under the skin. If this was Mama sitting there, I'd be by her side in a heartbeat. Wouldn't give it a second thought. Sitting and chatting with Mama is as natural as breathing. But Daddy?

"Hey," I say, walking to the beach blanket and leaning down under the mammoth man-made shade Daddy bought from a wholesale store. The whole beach set-up, from chairs to towels to picnic basket, is new and still has the tags on, Minnie Pearl-style.

"Have a seat." Daddy stirs and pulls a chair closer, beckoning for me.

I sit and melt into it. "Nice chairs," I say.

"Thirty-eight dollars at Price-co. Can't beat that."

"No, you can't." I look around and watch a fiddler crab emerging from a hole. He ducks back in again. "Sure is beautiful out here."

"Mm hmm." Daddy keeps his stare on the boys and Mama. Or is it the horizon? I can't tell behind his sunglasses. A container ship cruises far off in the distance at a snail's pace. I watch it go by.

"RC get a raise yet?" Daddy asks, jarring me.

"No. And please don't ask him about it again."

"I won't! I'm just talking. Can't a man talk?" He takes a swig of his water and screws the cap back on. "How 'bout you? Making any money these days?"

"Daddy!" I grab the armrests, sitting up, and he shakes his head.

"You could help out too, that's all I'm saying."

"You know I'm watching the boys. It's a full-time job." My chest tightens and my throat attempts to close. I cough and sputter.

"Well, your mother worries about you and those boys all the time. That's all I hear. Just you and those boys. It's gonna kill her one of these days." I'm reaching for the open bag of pretzels when he looks over at my stomach rolls.

"What are you, pregnant again?"

"No! I'm not!"

"Well, you gotta start taking better care of yourself."

"Look who's talking!" I squeal.

"Your husband's a personal trainer, right? Why don't you get him to whip you in shape?"

I drop the bag and cover my belly with my arms. I have the sudden urge to dig a hole in the sand and hide like that fiddler crab. I'd get up and walk away except for the fact he'll be staring at my plump legs and rear when I leave. I don't want to give Daddy the satisfaction of being right.
I grow silent and Daddy does too. Why in the world did I come over here? To relax? After a few minutes, I'm done. I suck in my stomach and count down in my head. Three, two.

"I don't know," he mutters, as if we've been carrying on a conversation. Which we have not been.

"Don't know about what?"

"Oh, you and RC, your mother, everything." He says the words as if they're heavy bricks on his tongue.

"What? We're fine."

"Yeah, but you could stand to make some more money, Katie-bug. Know what I mean? Private school's expensive. Don't come looking to me to help out."

"Could you please stop talking about money? Truly. And the boys are going to public school. We've already told y'all that."

"Oh, no. No, you can't do that. Your mother won't be able to stand it. She'll drive me crazy." He turns to me. "Why couldn't you marry a man with money? Another lawyer. A doctor. What's his problem anyway? When's he gonna get a real job?"

"That's enough." I stand and face my father, hands on hips, the urge to bless him out working its way up to my tongue.

"You're just like your mother, you know that?" he snips. "She can't stand me either." He turns away from me, staring down the beach.

I stop, surprised. Still standing, I realize my hindquarters are exposed, but something in the tone of his voice made me think he was sincere for once. He sounded so sad. Wounded.

"Oh, come on now," I say. "You're not that bad. I can stand you just fine. I'm sure Mama can too."

"I'm serious. Your mother's gonna leave me one of these days. She's getting very testy in her old age. Doesn't put up with much anymore."

"She's not gonna leave you. Why do you think she's stayed with you for thirty-seven years?" I sit down again. I think of telling Daddy about hormones and what menopause does and how he should never, ever, mention old age around Mama, but I can't seem to get the words to come out right.

"I don't know," he says finally, defeated. He seems to be talking, not to me, but to himself. Or maybe to the warm breeze. "Maybe God's punishing me or something."

"Really? What'd you do?" I ask, half-joking to lighten the mood.

"Hell if I know. I guess it was something pretty bad."

"Well, I hope you figure it out soon before we're all in real trouble. Right? Before we all go down in flames."

I laugh, but Daddy doesn't say anything else. He just sits there morose, dark sunglasses aimed at flying seagulls. My blood chills with his sudden change in persona. And when I get up to join Mama, RC and the boys near the waterline, Daddy doesn't even turn his head to acknowledge I was ever there by his side.



For more about A Hundred Years of Happiness, visit Nicole Seitz's web site at www.nicoleseitz.com.

Copyright ©2009 Nicole Seitz. Reprinted with permission from Thomas Nelson.



Just for fun: Today’s Just for Fun question comes from the author, Nicole Seitz!

Have you or someone you loved experienced the lasting effects of war--months, even years later?

This book was inspired by my stepfather who fought in Vietnam. When my husband and I took my parents out for their anniversary a couple years ago, all of a sudden my stepfather began to open up about things he'd never spoken about before. It was a life-shaking moment, and I knew I needed to explore the lasting effects of war on my family. I wanted desperately to help him deal with his past.


Camy here: I have to admit that I was impacted not so much by the effects of a war, but by my family’s silence about it.

There is something significant, I think, when a family who had members who were sent to internment camps never speak about the past. Maybe the memories were still too raw, too angry, too haunted. Or maybe they just wanted to move forward stoically like most people are taught to do in the Japanese culture.

There is something significant, I think, when a family who had members who served the United States in the 442nd infantry regiment never speak about the past. Maybe my soldier relatives were following the ancient Japanese injunction toward humility at all times, which is even reflected in the modern Japanese language style. Maybe the memories of war were too horrible for them to speak of their experiences, and maybe the rest of the family were simply too “polite” to ask.

Yes, we Asians are a taciturn bunch.

How about you guys?

24 comments :

  1. Camy,
    Whenever my mom talks about the war issue between Japan and Philippines during the WWII, her glassy eyes began to reveal the pains of war.So to lighten up our mom and daughter bonding time, I often digress with the topic.
    And I absolutely agree that Asians are taciturn not only about sensitive issues but in terms of expressing our inner sincere feelings. We always opt to keep feelings to ourselves rather than to offend someone. Wouldn't you agree? :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Even though I was only in elementary school during the Vietnam War, it still had quite an effect on me. I would lay (lie?) in bed at night and put my covers around my head so the Viet Cong couldn't find me. It is a humorous story now, but not then.

    We in the US are very blessed that we have not had a war being fought here since the Civil War. So many around the world know first-hand the fear of war.

    Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

    sbsalzer at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a long time Japanophile, I took feel the pain. I spent time in Japan when i spoke with the older folks, you saw much pain and sadness in their eyes.

    I would love the book. Pleas enter me.

    Hazel

    reihaisha(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  4. please enter me! nope as war as i know, none of my family has really been affected by war...well i take it back, one of my great grandfathers was in a market when a bomb went off in china, hurt his leg really bad. but no one has fought, we had more problems with Mao than war TBH, forced my mother's parents to immigrate from China to Malaysia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Please sign me up!

    My grandfather fought in a war (um - right - can't remember which one *blush*) and was completely effected by that for the rest of his life. I don't really know how because he was so extremely quiet and private but you could just tell that it did.

    dana{at}mccalled{dot}com

    ReplyDelete
  6. My grandfather flew for the RCAF in WWI. He was actually shot down twice, once by the Japanese and once by the Germans.

    He survived being shot down by the Japanese, there was fighting on both sides of him and he went towards the english speakers to survive.

    When shot down by the Germans, he was captured and put in a POW camp. He managed to cause quite a stir when he was there and was eventually courtmartialed by the German Army. I'm not sure how long he was there; he unfortunately passed when I was about 3; but I do know that he suffered from PTSD for the years he lived before his death.

    This book would be very interesting to read.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

    nancyrobster@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would love to win this book by Nicole Seitz as it is based in my state of SC, she is a new author to me but I just love to read and this would really be a thrill to win this book. May God bless all of you/

    ReplyDelete
  8. My step-dad and my mom got married after I had already left home. My step-dad was a Vietnam war vet. About 2 years into their marriage he got laid off of his job and they were not able to pay their rent and got evicted. About a week after all that happened he went out and got back on drugs- he had been drug-free for 20 years. He had gone on drugs immediately following his time in the army.
    I have no proof that any of it is war related but it seems pretty likely to me.
    The vets were treated so poorly after Vietnam- and my step-dad is black as well and he once said it was as if his service had never happened... he was invisible and unappreciated.

    Sad isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Tara,
    Sad, but so very true. The heroes of the Vietnam war paid a price so that our soldiers today can be treated with respect. It was a tough sacrifice. I've no doubt your stepfather, like mine, carries around his "invisible war" to this day. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Nicole

    ReplyDelete
  10. this book is certainly fascinaating and special. Thanks for this chance. Having had uncle's who fought in World War 11 this would be a book be memorable for me.
    saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Please include me in the book give away. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Please include me in your book give-away.

    Thanks,

    ladettek[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  13. enter my name please for this book

    yourstrulee at sasktel dot net

    ReplyDelete
  14. I can't say if any of my family has been personally effected by war. But I remember reading Mila 18as a teen and being affected strongly by a book about war and amazed at what humans can endure and survive. Since then I have read many books the center around war - probably due to the strong emotional reaction they create in me.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What fun!
    Thanks for the giveaway, Camy!

    Please enter me!

    avilyjerome[at]hotmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  16. I used to love the Newlywed Game because of the fun in watching couples trying to guess how well they knew their spouses. These questions are a fun version of that game. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. My husband's dad served in Vietnam and my dad served during WWII!
    My father-in-law doesn't say much about Vietnam, but my dad talks quite frequently about WWII! Great book and I would appreciate being
    entered in your drawing. Many thanks,
    Cindi
    jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sounds like a wonderful book!
    msproule1225@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'd love to read this :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!
    blog[at]theluckyladybug[dot]org

    ReplyDelete
  20. My hubby was in the air force - luckily never had to fight in war so we've never been that affected by war. Sounds like a great book

    msboatgal at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am a reader in Canada. I would love to be entered in the contest to win this book. I am intrigued by reviews of Nicole's latest book A Hundred Years of Happiness.

    According to reviewers, her books are original, somewhat edgy, and broadening the concept of Christian fiction. Nicole's called a strong storyteller, and creates unusual stories of redemption.

    One said that "unlike a number of evangelical Christian writers, Seitz knows how to witness subtly but effectively, without strongarming unchurched readers towards an altar call."

    I think it's very unusual that Nicole is also a painter, and does the cover art for her own books.

    privatenumber (at) mac (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  22. no one in my family was really affected by the war, but I know it must have been hard
    please enter me
    9_26 at myway dot com
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  23. wow wow wow..
    i like this book!
    immediately hunting this book!

    ReplyDelete

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