BOOK REVIEW: ‘Carry Me,’ by Peter Behrens

The narrator in Peter Behrens’s 2011 novel “The O’Briens” speaks of “a restless instinct in the family, an appetite for geography and change.” The German couple at the center of his new novel, “Carry Me,” share a similar, near-mystical pull toward the American landscape they read about in their youth. “In my most daring ­fantasies,” Billy writes decades later of the woman he loved, “she and I were riding across boundless open country together, Texas or New Mexico, under wide blue sky.” This yearning sounds through the novel’s pages like a refrain, and it will deliver Billy Lange and Karin ­Weinbrenner, though not wholly intact, from the terror of Kristallnacht to the untamed promise of the American West.

PeterBehrensOf Irish-German extract, Billy’s an outsider wherever he finds himself. He knows suspicion and discrimination as a boy in Ireland and England, where his German father was interned during World War I. Now in Frankfurt in 1938, Billy works for the export sales department at the chemical firm IG Farben. He is an observant and deferential narrator for the most part, and in love with Karin, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish industrialist for whom his father has worked for decades. Karin’s distant and oblique presence haunts him; she is perhaps lesbian and, Behrens hints, quite possibly in love with a popular female scriptwriter in Berlin.

When Billy gets Karin pregnant, the prospect of bringing “one more ­German” and “some sort of Jew” into the world weighs on them. “We were jumpy from doubts, fears, dreams of America, the prospect of ourselves as parents.” Structured around the autumn of 1938 as they organize passage to America, the narrative wanders back in time to excavate lengthy tracts of family history that hobble the novel’s pacing a bit. (Archival documents loaded between sections, said to be housed in “Special Collections, McGill Library, McGill University,” seem especially adrift, uncommented on as they are by a narrator who is in a position these many years later to offer analysis and context.) But the weeks leading into Kristallnacht tighten the focus, and it’s here that Billy becomes a fully engaged protagonist. Karin’s father, trapped in a coma after being set upon by a gang of thugs, is the last obstacle between the lovers and their dream of the American West. Only a terrible act of mercy will guarantee their freedom.

Behrens captures his narrator’s naïveté and the casual anti-Semitism of the times with great skill and intelligence. Billy remembers that in the years before the full catastrophe of the age pronounced itself, “we were mostly concerned with ourselves, each of us with sex, love, loneliness probably foremost in our minds.” Contrasts expose striking truths. When he witnesses a Hitler rally in Heidelberg on the same day he loses his virginity to a prostitute, his mind is not focused on momentous historical pronouncements. He’s a kid who’s just scored, after all. “After the first 10 minutes or so I gave up trying to listen. I tuned Herr Hitler out, watched bats fluttering around the rafters, scanned the crowd for my companions and daydreamed exciting sex with Lilly.” As he stares into the eyes of history he sees, instead of portent and impending chaos, little more than his own yearnings, which seems to me as true an observation about human nature as there is.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 2.24.22 PMJoin Peter Behrens for Memory & Myth: Transforming Personal History October 14 – 19, 2016.

Why Does Attraction Diminish?

By Michaela Boehm who will be presenting Yoga of Deep Intimacy in Vancouver on Sept 20 – Oct 2, 2016.

This week I gave several interviews and was asked a similar question each time: Why does attraction diminish as we are getting further into a relationship?

The answer to this question has several parts, many of which have to do with relational dynamics, logistics, and psychological considerations. But the single most important part has to do with what we call “Erotic Friction”, a translation of a Sanskrit term from my lineage of Kashmiri Shaivism.

This topic comes up often – whether it’s keeping the passion hot in an existing relationship, or understanding the dynamic of attraction that creates the spark when looking for a partner or with someone new. Continue reading Why Does Attraction Diminish?

Writing for Wellness

By Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, who will be presenting Writing for Wellness at Hollyhock on Sept 23-28, 2016!

Journaling and expressive writing are among the best creative inner work tools I know of for living a healthier and more peaceful life. In our fast-pace, often stress-filled lives, it is easy to get disconnected from the inherent sense of harmony, balance and peace that is always available within us. Writing is a way to tap into and cultivate this inner state of well-being that already exists.

Have you ever been told that writing or journaling can be good for your health? Perhaps a doctor, counsellor, life coach or friend has suggested; “You should write in a journal,” or “it might help to journal about this.”

Journaling is recommended, in many instances, without any guide or road map or “how to” along with it. Often it is assumed that people just know what to write about to get the results they might want from this creative and self-expressive process. Continue reading Writing for Wellness

The Seven Secrets of Perfect Relationship

By Zuza Engler, who will be presenting Soul Motion™: Body as Living Presence  with Scott Engler at Hollyhock on September 18 – 23, 2016

Yes, you too are in relationship, even if you’re technically single. Pick any important person in your life, or yourself, and see if these apply. 

1. Spend time on your own before you venture into relating.

This is a no-brainer, but so often disregarded, especially in emotionally fused relationships. Sometimes we have to be reminded that some answers are found within, and the intimacy we so long for begins at home. (Meaning, at home inside each of us.)

2. When you look at your partner, focus on space rather than form.

This has taught us to open up our vision when we look at each other. Especially when I feel like I’m not getting what I want: to see my partner as the big, mysterious Life that s/he is, not just the answer to my need. Continue reading The Seven Secrets of Perfect Relationship

How to use Constellation Work to Gain Traction and Invite Change

By Sarah Peyton, who will be presenting Constellations and Empowerment: Living at Full Strength at Hollyhock on Sept 2-7, 2016.

The mother could not let her son go. As he moved around the room, she followed him, always trying to maintain the same distance and orientation to him, standing about 3 feet in front of him and watching his face. This was very uncomfortable for him, and he kept trying to get away from her. “Leave me alone,” he said.

“This is being a mother,” she said. “No other place or distance would be right. If I’m anywhere else, I’m not his mother.”

This strangely transparent conversation was taking place within a healing modality called “Family Constellations,” or “Systemic Constellations.”

Constellation Work, the experience of placing people or objects into space to represent parts of an issue or family, and then exploring what develops between these representations once they are placed, initially seems like it might be a little strange. People unfamiliar with constellation work seem to think it might be sort of like casting bones or telling fortunes, not realizing that all of the parts being located in the constellation space, sometimes called “the knowing field,” have previously only existed in relationship to one another inside someone’s brain, in non-conscious awareness. As the work progresses, what was previously only held inside, in a frozen state, becomes available to both external vision and to change. Continue reading How to use Constellation Work to Gain Traction and Invite Change

Hollyhock exists to inspire, nourish and support people who are making the world better. Our learning centres are located on Cortes Island and Vancouver, BC.