In Mesopotamia, one of Bruce Meyer’s sixty-seven published books, Meyer wrote: “Life is a brush with divinity.”
His stories in the recently released Toast Soldiers exquisitely evoke not only the complexities of the human experience with its tribulations and triumphs, but they also touch upon the divine, the soul-lifting moments of life: the magic, the mystery. These are stories of emotional power, stories that move you, open your mind, tug at your heart, and stir your soul.
Meyer is a master at conveying the passions and perils of humans, from soldiers at the front, veterans, a farmer, a figure skater, and firefighters, to lost boys, lounge owners in Vegas, a bass player, a cross-dressing uncle, and more. These characters will captivate you, haunt you, and inspire you. Whether he writes about external wars or battles of the soul, Meyer’s words beat a drum in your heart and mind. In the face of present world realities, these stories particularly resonate.
“Toast Soldiers,” opens the collection with an impact that foreshadows the emotive power that surges throughout the book. Keith, one of the Veterans of Holland’s Operation Market Garden in 1944, reminisces in his elder residence of the tragedy that befell his best buddy on the first day of the operation.
In “Candelmas,” a newbie who has been learning the ropes from a seasoned firefighter, confronts a wall of flame in an old building being converted to condominiums. ‘It grew wings, and the wings spread like an angel barring my way.’ He eventually emerges, his station mates dousing him with water, but he will need to heal from more than the burns he suffered.
“Macarons” begins with the intriguing line: ‘Before I grew up and became a man, I was a happy little girl.’ An orphaned child is taken in by his father’s grandmother, who ‘would tell me to put on one of the pretty frocks she liked to see me in, and off we would go to Paris . . . The dresses . . . were from the nineteenth century and beautifully preserved. And because I was the perfect child, the image of pulchritude and refined delicacy, not to mention politeness, I was served my first macaron at Maxim’s.’ After the grandmother’s passing, the solicitor who handles ‘Grand-mère’s’ will, reveals some shocking facts to the boy and to the reader.
The significance and memories of apples in a dying man’s life is an example of the aforementioned “brush with divinity.” In “The Apples of Her Eyes,” Henri has learned to cut an apple to reveal its heart, ‘a star surrounded by points of seeds.’ He reflects upon the night he met his wife at a party, after which she revealed her dream ‘to own a farm with an orchard, to grown her own apples and make pies . . .’ Henri relives the poignant memory of a the bright star of a neon sign glowing above them as they walked hand in hand, with ‘the star reflected in her eyes.’
These are just four of the twenty-five stories in this collection, in which Bruce Meyer brilliantly depicts human struggles, sacrifices, and the search for redemption. Masterful! They will hook you from start to finish!
A multiple award-winning teacher and writer, ROSANNA MICELOTTA BATTIGELLI was born in Calabria, Italy, and immigrated to Canada with her family at three years of age. She is a professional member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Association of Italian-Canadian Writers, and CANSCAIP. An alumna of the Humber School for Writers, she has been published in nineteen anthologies and journals and has read at many conferences and literary events in Canada, the U.S. and Italy. Her novel La Brigantessa (Inanna Publications, 2018) was awarded a 2019 Gold IPPY Award for Historical Fiction, and was a finalist for two Canadian Literary Awards in 2019. Along with writing historical fiction, short fiction, and creative non-fiction, Rosanna has had five romance novels published with Harlequin/Mills & Boon (Harper Collins) and two children’s books published with Pajama Press. Pigeon Soup & Other Stories was released by Inanna in June 2021 and was honoured as a Finalist in the Fiction: Short Story category of the 2021 American BookFest Best Book Awards and recently, as a Finalist in the Fiction: Short Story category of the 2022 International Book Awards. Rosanna lives in Ontario, Canada. Her website is: www.rosannabattigelli.com