The Words We Whisper By Mary Ellen Taylor

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The Words We Whisper By Mary Ellen Taylor

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Book/Novel Author: Mary Ellen Taylor

Book/Novel Title: The Words We Whisper

 

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From the bestselling author of Honeysuckle Season comes a sweeping saga that interweaves the past and present in an epic tapestry of love, war, and loss.As a hospice nurse, Zara Mitchell has already seen more death than most people will experience in a lifetime. So when her older sister asks her to help care for their ailing grandmother, Zara agrees—despite strained family relationships.Though pale and tired, Nonna has lost none of her sharp mind. She’s fixated on finding something long forgotten, and she immediately puts Zara to work cleaning out the attic. Unexpectedly, amid the tedium of sifting through knickknacks and heirlooms, Zara also reconnects with a man she’s attracted to but whose complicated past makes romance seem impossible.But then Zara finds what Nonna was looking for: a wooden chest, an emerald broach, a leather-bound journal. As she immerses herself in stories of heroism and loss set against the backdrop of war-torn Italy in 1943, Zara finds answers to questions she didn’t know she had. And they change everything she thinks she knows about love, regret, and seizing the day.
The birthing was no exception. It was going badly, hours longer than it should, and the young woman’s thin body, pear shaped with a distended belly, refused to release the child. Screams reverberated in the small upstairs room, as to the east, near the rail yards, bombs shook these medieval walls, rattled arched windows, and kept the pendant light above my head swinging. “I can’t do this anymore,” the young woman said, her voice a hoarse whisper. “Mia,” I said firmly. “You must push again.” Mia had labored with this child for nearly eighteen hours, and she was growing weaker by the minute. “I can’t,” she whimpered. “It hurts.” Our landlady, Signora Marcella Fontana, hurried into the room with more towels tucked under her arm and a clean white porcelain basin filled with water. “The doctor is not coming,” she said. “The city is exploding. The Allies are bombing the rail yards again. No one can be bothered with a simple birth.” There was nothing simple about this birth, but saying so or cursing the doctor, the Allied planes swarming the skies, or the Germans crowding Rome’s streets would not bring this child into the world. That task rested solely on the three of us. I placed my hand on Mia’s drum-tight belly. Her normally vivid brown eyes were watery, and her blonde curls were plastered by sweat to her pale forehead. “Mia, it’s just us now. Only you, me, and the signora can bring your child into the world.” “Where is my brother, Riccardo?” she wailed. “He said he would not abandon me.” Mia’s brother had vanished six months before. Some said he had joined the Resistance, and others said he had hidden like most of Rome’s men, avoiding conscription. There were also rumors he had been transported to a labor camp. Or perhaps he could not bear the shame his wild younger sister had brought upon the family. “He does not matter now. Only you and the child.” I smiled but feared the expression was far from soothing. “Don’t you want to meet your baby?” “No.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as another contraction tightened her belly. “Her father abandoned her, so she’s better off not coming into this world.” “But she must.” My voice sharpened like a knife fresh off a whetstone. “Signora, get behind Mia, and push her forward. We must do this. Now.” Another explosion rocked the area near the rail yard ten blocks from our home in the Monti district. Signora froze and looked toward the open window as fresh black smoke rose above the buildings. In July, the Allies had hit the San Lorenzo railroad marshaling yards. The BBC had reported no civilian casualties, but, of course, that was not true. The news accounts failed to mention the destruction of the little shops containing the baker who gave his day-old bread to hungry children, the umbrella maker who kept five cats, or the watchmaker who always said, “Grazie mille.” The news reports did not speak of the children whose laughter had gone silent, the damage to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, or the homes reduced to rubble that crushed and buried the occupants. The heavy lines on Signora Fontana’s face deepened as she met my gaze. When her husband, a well-known shoemaker, had been killed by the Fascists in the late 1930s, she had begun renting out rooms to earn money. I had first arrived on her doorstep in 1941 hoping for a new life away from the war. The signora was a kind soul, generous with the children when they came looking for food, and she was always willing to offer a bed to those in need.

 

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