Thursday, March 20, 2014

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO Karma or Coincidence? Countdown (Susan Petrone)

Yeah, yeah, if you've read this intro already, just scroll down to Susan's post... 

As many of you know, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, my second novel for young adults officially comes out March 25th from Algonquin Young Readers.

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO tells the story of almost-16-yr-old Francesca “Beans” “Frankie” Schnell who, four years ago witnessed her baby brother, Simon, drown. Guilty and broken, Francesca has hunkered down in the shadows of her life, resolved to play second fiddle to her dead brother’s memory and to her best friend Lisette, a blonde bubbly beauty Francesca lives vicariously through. That is, until she meets a young boy named Frankie Sky who bears an uncanny resemblance to her brother. Frankie brings humor and hope to Francesca’s life, but are all the similarities between Frankie and Simon merely wishful coincidences, or could he be Simon’s reincarnation?

Curious coincidences abound in THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO not only the overlaps between Simon and Frankie Skybut also Bradley’s gift to Francesca, Bradley’s bird sighting, and the ties to the statue of  Saint Florian (sorry, you'll have to read to know what these are ;)). Midway through the story Francesca starts to think these events can’t really all just be coincidences, but maybe are “something bigger and magical at work.”

Have you ever experienced strange events that seemed like more than coincidence and made you wonder if fate was at work or that soul and or reincarnation exist?

Throughout the month, I've decided to pose that question to friends, some writers, others bearing other artistic talents, for a brief account of their own experience with karma, kismet or a mystical connection. I leave you to answer the question, “Karma or coincidence? Random or something more magical at work?” 

I hope you find these stories as intriguing and lovely as I do.

- gae

Writer and baseball fan. 

Today I have writer friend Susan Petrone,
author of A Body at Rest and many short stories including
Monster Jones Wants to Creep You Out (Conclave Journal 2010) which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

She also co-authors the Cleveland Indians' blog for's SweetSpot network and is a regular contributor to Cool Cleveland. Oh, and she's co-author, with author-pal and really nice guy Michael Sullivan, of the brand new Sock Kids series, fiction for kids that goes through the spin cycle (I just made that last tagline part up).

Here's Susan's story:

This is what you need to know about my mother for this story to make any
sense: She was kinder and gentler than probably anyone you know. She was
also a hobby printer (I have her old printing press), the one-time owner
of a used bookstore, and the manager of a college bookstore. Yes, we were
kind of a bookish family.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer on September 12, 2001, (remember that
day? I have some vague memory of some important happening the day before.)
The cancer had already metastasized to her brain; she was gone six months
later. (I feel compelled to add that no, she never smoked. But she grew up
within spitting and smelling distance of the steel mills of Youngstown and
married a man who smoked two packs a day back when people still smoked at
the dinner table with their kids around. But I digress.)

My mom was also my most cherished friend. Towards the end, we said that
there was nothing left unsaid between us but that we were never at a loss
for words.

In the last few days of her life, she stopped eating and was in what the
Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the "Bardo"--the place between life and death.

Saint John of God by Murillo (1672)
It was as though she had already entered that last peaceful sleep. My five siblings and I privately wondered when "It" would happen--when she would choose to go. Mom had a birthday calendar that not only had anniversaries and birthdays of friends and family but things like the date when her muse, Thomas Merton, entered the monastery. Things happened to her on significant dates.

There came a point, about six weeks before she died, when she couldn't stay in her garden apartment. There was no elevator, and the doorways were too narrow to accommodate a walker or, eventually, a wheelchair. She moved to and died at a nursing home run by Little Sisters of the Poor. 

She died on the evening of March 8th, with all of her children and sons- and daughters-in-law around her. The nuns at the nursing home (who are saints on earth, every last one of them--don't let anyone tell you different) said that March 8 was a special day because it is the Feast of St. John of
God. He's the patron of hospitals and their order holds him very dear.

That seemed nice but I didn’t think much of it until a couple weeks later,
when I met my sister’s at my mom’s apartment to start going through her
things. I was the first one there and wandered around the material
possessions she had left behind, wondering where she had gone, talking to
her, crying my eyes out. I noticed a small, slightly worn copy of Lives of
the Saints sitting on top of one of the bookcases. I'm not sure why or how
it got there. Nobody had been in her apartment for a while--she hadn't
lived there for nearly two months. But I picked it up and turned to March
8, which was indeed the feast of St. John of God, patron saint of
hospitals. And of printers. And booksellers.

After the chills left my spine, the world seemed much clearer and some of
the pain from her death lifted. She is still there. I can still talk to
her. I just need to listen more quietly for the answer.

- Susan

Please check out THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO,  A BODY AT REST and the Sock Kids series, and share your story in the comments if you'd like to! 


  1. Ohh... gave me chills. Sorry you lost your Mother. Happy you can still talk to her :).

  2. "I just need to listen more quietly for the answer" got stuck in my throat. Lovely story.