Last fall, Random House called to ask if it could include the National Writers Series as part of a book tour of three top New York Times bestselling authors. Hearing their names, I immediately said yes. Elizabeth Berg, Elizabeth Letts and Lynne Olson are enormously popular and highly well-reviewed authors, and I knew it would it be an amazing conversation. (I then recruited my husband, Doug Stanton, himself a No. 1 best-selling author to serve as guest host.)
The authors’ three books at first blush seem quite different, but all portray characters who behave selflessly to offer hope to others when life becomes most dire.
In Elizabeth Berg’s novel, "The Story of Arthur Truluv," the three characters step out of their assigned paths to save each other from lonely despair. Arthur Truluv, recently widowed and still grieving, inspires Maddy Harris, a troubled teen, to go on living, to reach for joy.
Berg has said that she wrote the novel to “provide comfort and offer hope, and to remind us all of the goodness inherent in every person.”
“I found myself becoming increasingly depressed about the way the world seems to be going. I wanted to write myself out of my own funk to remind myself of the beauty in the world, and in small things,” she said.
Author Elizabeth Letts wrote the heavily researched novel, "Finding Dorothy," the story of Maud Baum, who was married to L. Frank Baum, the famous author of "The Wizard of Oz." Maud was from a prominent family; Frank adored theater and telling stories. Against her mother’s advice, Maud marries Frank, confident in his creativity. But to keep his family afloat Frank must put his stories aside and work as a salesman.
Maud was steadfast in her love for Frank, despite years of poverty and uncertainty. The end of his rainbow was novelizing these tough times, conjuring a story of hope that we know as "The Wizard of Oz." Long after he is gone, Maud shows up on the movie set, determined to keep the film true to Frank’s story.
In "Madame Fourcade’s Secret War," Lynne Olson writes about the enormously courageous Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who at the age of 31, led the largest resistance network in France in an effort to bring down the occupying Nazis.
Fourcade and everyone around her, of course, were new to spying. She is recruited to lead the spy network and makes it up along the way, drawing in 3,000 ordinary people into a secret network of informants. All this despite — gasp! — being a woman.
Fourcade, a young mother when she took the job of heading up the Alliance network, could not have imagined the constant threat of arrest, torture and execution by the Gestapo. In fact, the Nazis killed hundreds of those who joined the resistance, including her own partner.
Still, Fourcade never faltered in her fight to offer hope to the citizens oppressed by the Nazis and their hideous behavior.
Asked why she risked her life to fight the Nazis, Jeannie Rousseau, one of her intelligence agents, replied: “I don’t understand the question. It was a moral obligation to do what you are capable of doing. It was a must. How could you not do it?”
Anne Stanton is the executive director of NWS. For details on tonight’s event, please go to www.nationalwritersseries.org.