Our long gravel drive was puddled and muddy, so there was no way the huge semi carrying my new book, Miriam’s Well: A Modern Day Exodus, could slip-slide to our house without asking for trouble, plus there’s the matter of the power lines it would rip through in the journey. So between ordering bierocks at Free State Brewery with Daniel and going home, we decided to meet the driver in an alley behind a local grocery store.
From there, it was a matter of a whole lot of weight lifting: 200 books x 575 pages each + the weight of boxes and packing materials makes for strong arms, and thank heavens, I had Daniel’s along with mine helping load 20 boxes into the back of the peanut-butter-colored CRV, then unload them onto the kitchen table, then unearth all the books, flatten all the boxes, and behold the great amount of Miriams. Then we noticed the table legs were starting to wobble, and given the weight of the Exodus, who could blame it? When the cat insisted on inspecting and climbing the piles, although she’s only 5 pounds, we started to worry. I’ve seen small kittens knock over big wood dressers before by how much force they exert from their back legs when they jump. We had to quickly haul vast armfuls of books to the shelves where I keep my inventory.
Now it’s time to pack and ship these babies. But first this moment: an overcast next morning, the branches in the distance only moving slightly in pale wind, the promise of spring on the wing, and just in time for Passover, a holiday celebrating the weight of freedom and lightness of liberation, my novel, 14 years in the making, ready to start its journey out into the world.
In this modern day retelling of the Exodus, Miriam wanders the political and spiritual desert of a changing America, torn between her roots as the Jewish daughter of a Black father and white mother, her yearning for home, and her brothers Aaron and Moses. Beginning in the middle of the 1965 New York City blackout, when stuck in the pitch-black subway somewhere in the East River, Miriam's family encounters a mysterious rabbi, who persuades the family to go to Israel where the family is caught in the 6-Day War. The losses from the war break apart the family, scattering Moses to western Kansas to live with evangelical Christians, Aaron to New York City to practice corporate law, and Miriam all over America. An astonishing cook and singer, Miriam has a knack for showing up to feed and help people at at landmark events, including People's Park during the Summer of Love, the Wounded Knee encampment in South Dakota, the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the Oklahoma City terrorist attack, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. As she seeks the promised land, she shows her people, and eventually herself, how to turn the chaos and despair of our times into music, meals, and miracles.
The novel also includes over 35 pages of real recipes from the fictional cooking and baking Miriam does throughout the book, including delicious dishes from Nancy O'Connor's The Rolling Prairie Cookbook, Jayni and Frank Carey's The New Kansas Cookbook, Janet Majure's Recipes Worth Sharing, and Meg Heriford of the Ladybird Cafe.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's retelling of Exodus is a sprawling tapestry, woven of all the threads of a modern-day Miriam's ancestors, and her own present and future. From the Badagry Point of No Return and a sukkah in the Sinai Desert to a series of camps, communes, and cafes all across America, Miriam's Well delves into the mystery of how we find our place in the world, within our families, even within ourselves. ~ Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
I fell in love with Miriam’s wisdom and her sweet engagements with the people she meets along her lush and vibrant travels. I was plunged to the depths of her nightmares, soared with her song, and emerged blessed to have made the journey with her. Miriam’s Well is the latest terrific book by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. ~ Jocelyn Cullity, author of Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons
Miriam’s Well is truly a hearty feast, and a song of life’s bounty, of its “fragile miracle,” of its sorrows and its cycling, its joy, its mystery, its sorrows, its journeying. The vibrantly moving and compelling storytelling is immediate, intimate, and resounding; bringing us into a complex weaving of tales, told and untold, from the Biblical epic to the painful legacy of United States, which frame the story of one brave woman with an inexhaustible well of caring. Daughter, sister, lover, neighbor, friend, mother, Miriam is one extraordinary ordinary woman whose life is emblematic of our absolutely interdependent web of relationships, physical and metaphysical, over the seasons of a lifetime and the histories of our own time. In Mirriam-Goldberg’s rendering of the web of story that is Miriam’s, Aaron’s, Joseph’s, Moses’, and our own, we are brought into the gift of tenderness and compassion in heartening human response to our historical conundrums. The work is big hearted, embracing, and wonderfully embodies love’s plenty and the power and the beauty of the story, the song, the telling, to remember and transform us. ~ Gale Jackson, author of Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman: Song, Dance, Black History and Poetics in Performance
Miriam’s Well is a page-turner that gently pulls the reader into the heroine’s quest while also chronicling the country’s cultural revolutions, gastronomic recipes, political causes, women’s communes, spirituality, the AIDS crisis, Oklahoma and Twin Tower terrorist attacks. A compelling writer, Mirriam-Goldberg’s Miriam’s Well captures a quintessential American story, its multitude of nations, of immigrants and indigenes, in the quest towards a meaningful national identity. ~ Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Professor of Theatre, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas
This startlingly insightful and quietly confrontational novel by poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg courageously inserts the biblical prophet Miriam into many of the most daunting and provocative ethical conflicts since the early 60's civil rights revolution, as though we are Israel after the Exodus from slavery and before the Promised Land. Mirriam-Goldberg’s story calls on readers to consider "Have I done enough?" and "What is it that the Lord requires of you?" A surprising page turner featuring multiple plot twists and turns, the moral challenges and clarity deserve more than attention, they demand debate. Do yourself a favor and share it with friends. ~ Rabbi Mark H. Levin, author of Praying the Bible
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg brings back the charged days of the 1970's revolutions and their aftermath in the decades to come in her novel Miriam's Well. For those of us who lived through those times, the book is a reminder of their importance.” ~ Thomas Pecore Weso, author of Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir.
With this novel, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has extended her considerable poetic talents to the narrative form, giving us sustenance for the body (her character's recipes) as well as inspiration for the spirit and the mind. A masterful adaptation of Biblical wisdom to the challenges of the modern age, entertaining while informing all along the way. And the storyline provides a marvelous overview of the cultural inflection points in 20th century American history along with an unforgettable character experiencing them. This is one not to be missed! ~ Mark Scheel, author of A Backward View: Stories and Poems
Would your book club like to read Miriam's Well? If so, just have your club buy six or more books (free shipping!), and Caryn will visit your club via video or phone conferencing or, if you're near where she is, in person. contact Caryn here.
Book Tour: Here is where I've given readings of this book. I'm happy to come to your community too.
Lawrence, Kansas -- Book Launch sponsored by the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, Lawrence Public Library, The Merc, and the Raven Bookstore.
Topeka, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision our Lives: Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, A writing workshop based on Miriam's Well to unearth, explore, and revise our life's myths.
Topeka, Kansas - Miriam's Well Book Launch & Havdalah Service.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision Our Lives and Miriam's Well Reading, Temple B'Nai Israel. Workshop and reading followed by lunch featuring recipes from Miriam's Well.
Wichita, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading: Watermark Bookstore.
Prairie Village, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading & Brunch, Cafe Ohev at Temple Ohev Shalom.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - Miriam's Well Reading and Party, Mojo Coffee Gallery. Reading with delectable treats made from the novel.
Lincoln, Nebraska - Miriam's Well Reading and Reception: Burkholder Project, part of First Fridays.
Lincoln, Nebraska - Miriam's Well Reading & Reception: Francie & Finch Bookstore, featuring q & a, and a reception with recipes from the novel to try out.
Overland Park, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life workshop: Jewish Community Center's Day of Discovery.
Pittsburg, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Pittsburg State University.
Topeka, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Washburn University.
Kansas City - Miriam's Well KC Launch at Function Junction: short readings from the novel featuring Susan Hancock singing some of the songs Miriam sings, plus treats prepared from recipes in the novel.
Montpelier, Vermont - Miriam's Well Reading, sponsored by the library, Temple Beth Jacob, and Bear Pond Books.
Lawrence, Kansas - Writing Jewish Symposium: Sponsored by Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, day-long symposium featuring Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Renee Perelmutter, and Rena Rossner, and recipes from Miriam's Well.
Atchison, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Benedictine College.
Hutchinson, KS - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Hutchinson Community College.
Emporia, KS - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Emporia State University.
Springfield, N.J. - Reading at Sha'arey Shalom: talk and reading.
Madison, Wisconsin - Miriam's Well Reading & Havdalah Service: short Havdalah service (to welcome in the new week) and reception.
Lawrence, Kansas - Special Event: Osher Institute, University of Kansas: reading, discussion, and reception featuring recipes from the book.
Kansas City, MO - Read Local at the Plaza Library: reading and discussion of Miriam's Well.
I’ve learned over the years that it’s never a mistake to drive around with a bookstore in a rolling suitcase just in case, and that’s especially true when there’s a new book in the house (and car). Everyday Magic,landing under the UPS tree in a big pile as if dropped by a passing spaceship, is stepping out and waving its friendly arms at people. In the last few days, I’ve hauled over two dozen books (and they’re big and heavy, over 400 pages each) to the post office to mail, and I found myself selling individual copies betwixt and between, such as to someone in my weight-lifting class between bench press and RDLs (Romanian Dead Lifts…..seriously!).
I find that whatever my books are about is reflected in the process of writing and sharing them, a phenomenon I share with students about the focus of their thesis projects. Write about chaos theory, and guess what? The same seems true for writing about everyday magic, which made for a far easier and lovelier time hauling books than if said book concerned the end of civilization as we know it. What’s more, this is a book based on my blog — this blog — of the same title, and here I am writing a blog post on a book based on the blog, so talking about this is a bit like mirrors reflecting other mirrors.
When I arrived at the post office, I stepped into a mythical stretch of time between my normal experience of carrying piles of books to wait in long lines. I was the only one there except for people who suddenly appeared to hold open doors and steer me in the right direction (given that I could barely glimpse the path over the pile of books). I went to one of the postal buy cialis daily use online worker to start having each book weighed for media shipping when another one said, “why don’t you bring me half the pile, and I’ll do those so you can get out of here faster?” I did, and although it took about 10 minutes, by the time I was done, I found a line of a dozen people had formed, probably all wondering why the woman with the big pile of books gets two people to wait on her at once.
When I went to the Merc to see if the store wanted to carry the book, I met some friends who said, “Oh, is that the book?” and within a few minutes, I had money to go out for dinner in my pocket. When I dropped into Signs of Life and the Raven, two wonderful bookstores in town, they were happy to immediately take some books to sell. All the way around, the book was stepping out jauntily to show its stuff but without pressure, like a book equivalent to Casper the Friendly Ghost but with many more pages.
Now the pile left at home holds different cats at different times, playing Cat Jenga with the books, daring us to remove any without the fur flying. But that’s also part of what makes everyday magic: what life piles up, and how we find some joy and spark in unpiling it.
If you’re interested in a book or two of your own, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, drop by the stores mentioned in this post, or please visit my wonderful publisher, Meadowlark Press. You can also pull up alongside me on any street in town, signal for me to lower my window, and toss you a copy. Just remember to duck because while my aim is true, it isn’t always good.