About Wounded Angels


 

 

While Wounded Angels is fiction, I based much of my main character, Maureen, upon the real-life experience of my mother-in-law, Charlotte. The book chronicles how Maureen meets her future husband, Frank, at the roller skating rink where Frank works. That is how Charlotte did meet and fall in love with my father-in-law, Fred, and, similar to how the novel flows, he did teach her how to skate dance.

 

 

 

 

The novel follows Maureen and Frank through their courtship, to their marriage and honeymoon in Atlantic City, only to return to their railroad apartment in Brooklyn to discover that Frank has been drafted into WW II. Frank is shipped off to the Pacific and is gone for the first three years of their married life. These elements are also based upon Charlotte and Fred’s actual experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank’s wartime experience in the Pacific is a fictionalized account but is based upon three real-life factors. The first is that, when the subject of the war came up in discussions, my father-in-law, like so many other WW II veterans, would fall silent and not discuss his experiences. The second is that the accounts in Okinawa are based upon reports of others who did serve in that theater during the war. The final is my research into the real-life “Lilly Corps,” high school girls who served as nurses to the Japanese soldiers on Okinawa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

True to life, following his military service, the novel chronicles Frank’s love of photography and his obsession to capture everything he could on film. Following his death, we discovered thousands of my father-in-law’s photos in his basement and garage. As Maureen does in the book, Charlotte found the pictures too painful to look at and wanted to throw them away. Fortunately, we held onto them and they have become a treasured memory of their story.

 

 

 

 

In Wounded Angels, following Frank’s return from the war, he and Maureen set out to make up for their lost time together by doing everything as a couple. So too, in real life, except for Fred’s annual church retreat, he and Charlotte were inseparable. They did everything together and their trademark became holding hands in public. Even after fifty years of marriage, they remained inseparable.

Unfortunately, Maureen’s sentiments expressed in the novel also proved true for Charlotte in real life.

“I relished the closeness I shared with Frank for so many, many years and thought that I had to be the luckiest woman alive. I had no idea that before the year ended, the very same closeness we shared would become the instrument of my undoing.”

As with Maureen and Frank, the real-life death of her first husband, Fred, devastated Charlotte and shattered her sense of security. I spent many weekends with her going to tag sales and breakfast afterwards. Like everyone else who loved her however, I was powerless to lift her from her depression. It was during these breakfasts that Charlotte talked about a friend from the senior center, whom I called Doris. The product of an abusive childhood, failed marriage and estrangement from her daughter, Doris was, in her own way, as damaged as Charlotte. While she was not nearly as extreme as I painted her in the novel, she was definitely eccentric and I noticed that Charlotte perked up whenever she talked about her. Doris refused to pity Charlotte and Charlotte had to overcome her depression in order to manage Doris’s odd behavior or challenge the way she treated others. In time, I marveled at the way in which these two dysfunctional women mutually supported and eventually healed one another, not despite their disabilities, but because of them, hence the book’s title, Wounded Angels.

 

Similar to what happened between Maureen and Larry in the novel, as Charlotte healed, she met and fell in love with Tony. At the same time, her relationship with Doris fractured. By the time it did however, both women were ready to move on with their lives. As Charlotte prepared to remarry, Doris flew out west to reconcile with her daughter. Charlotte and Tony spent another fifteen happy, wonderful years together.

Charlotte passed away on June 21, 2017 following the loss of her second husband and after a difficult and painful struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Two days after I finished the last edits of Wounded Angels, I found a note from Charlotte while I was rummaging through some storage containers in my basement. In it, she thanked me for the time we spent together during our tag sale and breakfast outings: the period that became my impetus for my writing Wounded Angels. I’d like to think that she was giving me her approval from heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wounded Angels will grip your heart and hang onto it to the last page. Powerful. Thought-provoking. Uplifting.”

Penny Goetjen
Award-winning author of THE EMPTY CHAIR – MURDER IN THE CARIBBEAN and other novels

 

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