January 15, 2014

Shari Vester's Degrees of Courage--Guest Post and {Giveaway}

At book signings and book club presentations I am frequently asked what inspired me to write the book. Initially, it was strictly personal; I wanted to write down what I knew about my family history from 1900 onward. I was thinking of my two young American-born, half Hungarian grand nephews, now 12 and 7 years old. They are too young to care now, but there might come a time later in life when their curiosity would turn toward digging a little into the Hungarian side of their family background. Their mother, my niece, is Hungarian, but she couldn't tell them much about what is in the book, because she was born in 1970, about the time the written story ends, and she never knew her Zachar grandparents, or the hardship the two previous generations had to endure. She came to this country as a young girl to study, completely lost her Hungarian accent--which still plagues me after fifty plus years--married into and American family, and with the exception of knowing a few Hungarian words, her boys are 100% Americans. They did visit the old country and have some ideas about the difference between life here and over there, so I hope in time, when they are older, they would like to know more about their Hungarian ancestry. I won't be around anymore to tell the tale, but alas, there will be the book.

Well that was in the beginning when I first sat down and started to pound on the keyboard, but soon, as I was reaching the time of WWI, I realized that there is much similarity between my nephews' nebulous perceptions about their Hungarian background and the way so many people in this country view Hungary's role in 20th century history. Perhaps the relatively small number of Americans visiting Hungary plays into this lack wider knowledge and interest in that far-away Central European country. They stayed away especially during the period from 1945 to 1990, when it was one of the satellites of the Soviet sphere, and foreign travelers were not welcome to peek behind the iron curtain. Whatever the reason, Hungary is so much more than the land of goulash and Zsazsa Gabor, and so I started to write about the country's historical events during the last century alongside with the family story. And that is why the book became 567 pages long with strong historical emphasis, instead of a much smaller family memoir.

About Degrees of Courage
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Mill City Press
Paperback; 574p
ISBN: 1938223233

The book follows the story of three generation of women from 1900 through 1970, seven decades of wars and hardship. At the turn of the century, an era of strict moral codes, Angela falls in love with a priest who abandons her and her unborn child. She overcomes rejection and misfortunes, including losing her right hand, and brings up her daughter, exuberant, stubborn Ilonka. In spite of the stigma of her illegitimate birth, the girl finds happiness in love and marriage, raising five children, among them Sarika, independent and high-spirited, much like herself. With the outbreak of WWII, however, their lives change drastically, followed by equally hard times as the country falls under Soviet-style dictatorship. When an attempt to free the country in 1956 fails and people start to flee retributions, Sarika and her brothers join the exodus to the West. With her family torn apart Ilonka never recovers her strength.

Years of fear and political pressures hasten her descend into depression, and when she loses her husband too, she finally gives up. Alone and completely on her own, Sarika finds her way to America, and begins a new life full of opportunities and most importantly, free of fear.

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt-9oc12WS4

About the Author
As a young woman, author Shari Vester fled her native Hungary in 1956 after the defeat of a patriotic uprising against the country's Soviet-dictated regime. She was granted asylum in the United States to begin a new life. After a year living in New York she moved to Los Angeles, married, and worked as an insurance account manager. Recently retired, she and her husband relocated in the Palm Spring area, where she finally found time to write. Her debut novel, Degrees of Courage, is a historical fiction drawn on her family history. It paints a sharp contrast between life as we know it in America, versus a time and place where today's "Let it be" mentality was simply impossible.

For more information please visit Shari's website.

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Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a print copy of Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester (U.S. only)!

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  1. Just recently I read a HF novel set in Hungary during WWII and was amazed at how much I learned. I would love to continue my education. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. I am captivated with this novel which interests me greatly for the setting, the era and the story line. Thanks for this great giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com


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