The Apple of My Eye (2014) by Mary Ellen Bramwell enthused me once again with the fun and childlike eagerness found in reading mysteries—much like when I first read The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew or Agatha Christie.
When the protagonist, Brea, falls in love with and later weds Paul Cass, the story is only just beginning when Paul is shot and killed in a robbery, leaving Brea with more questions and grief than she is comfortable with. But it is Bramwell’s handling of the characters and their emotions that allow you to become so easily invested in reading on:
“I wondered how anyone could be sleeping at a moment like this, but I knew their lives were not hanging on what was happening at the hospital a few miles away. They could not feel my anguish nor see the concern in my eyes. They would wake up in the morning as if nothing had happened and make their breakfasts and go to work or school or take care of their children as if the day were like any other. But it wouldn’t be, and I knew it, regardless of what greeted me ahead” (p 21).
Mary Ellen Bramwell
(photo by Rachel Horn)
And Bramwell is apt to move you deeply when you least expect it with her ease of writing and storytelling. While the pages build into a story of romance and heartache that grip you by the collar and refuse to let you go with its raw prose—as if you’re reading the woman’s diary and confession—you will be drawn into Brea’s pain as she is dealing with a newborn son, Noah, and the death of her new husband:
“I remember there was a police officer who came and found me in the waiting room. Gently he led me to a quiet place. I’m fairly certain he gave me the official word that Paul had died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital, but since I already knew, what did the words matter. I do recall he used the word ‘hero,’ although it made no sense at the time. I believe he asked me some questions, but I don’t even know if I answered them or not. At some point, a friend of mine was called to come drive me home. Amy delivered me back to my place either in my car or hers, I couldn’t tell you which…
“Looking from every angle I could imagine, all I could see appeared gray and rough. I couldn’t sink my teeth into the tough hide of the reality of my life. I have never known such despair. My mind was blind to everything but my indescribable grief. It was bigger than my soul, and I felt it would crush me before morning.
“Surely if I just let the grief in, it would run throughout my body, and the elephant would win. I would fade away and die, be gone, feel nothing, but all I felt was crushing weight that would not kill me…
“And so the tears came, slowly trickling at first, and then in rushing torrents soaking my face and my pillow and our bed, a bed meant for two, now home to only one. I sobbed in great body shaking sobs that echoed throughout the hollow house. I cried for Noah, who would not long remember the father who bounced him on his knee, who tickled him, who kissed him and threw him in the air to the sound of baby giggles. I cried for Noah, and I cried for me” (p 23-25).
But is Paul the hero the town makes him out to be or is he something Brea never expected? And was his love for her ever real? Until all the pieces have fallen into place and the natural order of things have been restored, you might need to redefine your definition of heroism, of honor and of trust as Brea begins to ask herself the hard questions:
“Paul had admitted that his interest in me started because he couldn’t have me. I had always assumed that it continued because he got to know me. Was I simply the challenge at hand, the one to conquer? I hoped that wasn’t the case, but I couldn’t be sure, wasn’t sure of much anymore. If it was true that I was merely a trophy to be won, was there any emotion involved? I loved Paul fiercely, but what had I been to him?” (p 108)
There is, however, so much more than one woman’s quest to understand her love life and marriage. As she digs deeper into the robbery that led to Paul’s death, Brea discovers Paul had much more to do with the crime and other similar robberies across town. This leads her to speak with Detective Lentus and together the two embark on a life and death journey which will start to unravel the mystery behind Paul Cass and his evil genius.
But can a hero ever be completely good? Can a villain ever be partly a hero? Can a villain love deeply? Can a hero be a villain? And can either really ever love someone in the end?
“I spied a perfectly shaped apple just above my head,” Bramwell writes of Brea, “It was without blemish. Eagerly, I reached for it. Just before my fingers could touch the apple, it dropped from the tree into my waiting palm. I stared at the beautiful apple that had been placed in my hand. Slowly I lifted my eyes to the sky and whispered, ‘I love you, too’” (p 244).
Bramwell takes the reader for an emotional ride of turmoil and intrigue and she will not leave you dissatisfied. With the skill and intensity of an Agatha Christie novel, The Apple of My Eye is without question a fun read that won’t be afraid to ask the hard questions about love and loss, truth and deceit—all of which can be a mystery to even the noblest of people when they become blinded by death or by love, for both love and death are bound by the same powers that keep us honest in the end.
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5