Gee is the story of a headstrong, wilful, and most peculiar girl who navigates her way from the early years of the twentieth century through nine decades of living. Its a life filled with the history of those decades and a life filled with everything that goes with life: wonder, sorrow, happiness, fate, unrequited love, and all the rest of it. Shes a most peculiar girl with an indomitable spirit, humor, strength, and a unique perspective of the world and life.
It is also the story of another young woman navigating her way through life in the early twenty-first century. Its a very different world and a very different kind of journey. Gee is the tale of these two women, a tale told with warmth and humor. Its a portrait of lives connecting across generations in ways that are sure to surprise and enchant readers of all ages.
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About the Author
This is Bruce Kimmels eighteenth book. If youve missed the first seventeen, theyre all available on Amazon and other online bookstores. He is Author Houses most published writer. He has a record label called Kritzerland that releases theater music and soundtracks, and has worked as an actor, writer, director, composer/lyricist or record producer for over forty-eight years. His song Simply recently won a Mac Award for Best Song of the Year. His musical, The Brain from Planet X (written with David Wechter), has been performed all over the world. He recently created a new musical revue called L.A. Now and Then, which he also directed. He has the longest-running daily blog in the history of the Internet. A native of Los Angeles, he currently lives in Sherman Oaks, California.
Read an Excerpt
She wanted Sizzler. That's all she ever wanted to eat these days. Since she currently weighed barely ninety pounds, her son Jerry was lucky she wanted to eat at all. So, it was the Sizzler three or four times a week, with her other meals filled with the odd frozen dinner, which she would pick at as if it were her mortal enemy. But she was stuck in her ways and there was no unsticking her. She was, after all, ninety-four now. She ate what she wanted when she wanted and she spent her days and evenings enraptured by the Home Shopping Network and reading the various catalogs that came daily in the mail.
Her husband had finally shuffled off this mortal coil, going on eight years now. That was a good day. His passing had all the emotional impact of her going to Ralph's to buy some grapes. She'd been seventeen when they'd met and married. He'd had a modicum of charm when they met and he was very persistent, not unpleasant looking, but her mother and father were telling her not to do it, so of course she did it, headstrong and willful young girl that she was.
She'd always been headstrong and willful; she'd always gone her own way. But not about the marriage — that she was not headstrong and willful about, that she'd endured. She didn't really know why — she'd never really been in love with him. In the beginning he was nice, was attentive to her, but that all changed almost immediately after the wedding. But she stayed, she endured it because it wasn't bad, there were no horrible fights, it was simply — nothing.
But in the deepest and most hidden places of her, she always regretted not finding the person she knew was out there, the person she knew she could have and would have loved unequivocally, forever and ever, and who would have loved her unequivocally, forever and ever. She'd seen him once, talked to him once and, in the flash of an instant, lost him forever.
Instead she had Harry, good old reliable, boring, Harry, the man she didn't love unequivocally, forever and ever. Harry, who sat in his chair, never coming near her, never holding her, never showing any affection at all. Harry, who provided, Harry, who didn't much like anything or anyone, Harry, who was content to live his dull routine day in and day out, Harry, who snored so loud it rattled the wood floors, Harry, who took her for granted from the start, Harry, always complacent, never striving, Harry, alive one day and dead the next, not that she could tell the difference, really.
* * *
She'd been born Gladys Evelyn Englehart in 1907. She hated the name Gladys from the moment she could actually process a thought and expressed her hatred of her name the moment she learned how to speak. She simply refused to be called Gladys — not by her mother, not by her father, not by anyone.
But she did, however, love her initials — GEE — and insisted that's what she be called — by her mother, by her father, by anyone. And so, she became GEE, that was her name, all capitals, because she was simply not a lowercase person. GEE — not a nickname, a name, her name. She would not respond to anyone calling her Gladys, and that included her teachers at school. She'd made that clear the very first day of elementary school when her teacher, Mrs. Thompson, called roll.
"Gladys Evelyn Englehart," Mrs. Thompson called out.
After a moment of silence, she said it again, "Gladys Evelyn Englehart."
"GEE," she'd replied in her loudest and best voice.
"I beg your pardon?" Mrs. Thompson said.
"My name is GEE. G-E-E, all capital letters. Please do not call me Gladys. I will not respond to Gladys."
The class was snickering but she didn't care.
"All right," Mrs. Thompson replied, with a half-smile.
"GEE it is. Class, please call Miss Englehart GEE."
Mrs. Thompson's half smile widened just a little. "You know, I don't like my first name either: Isabel. But I don't have a middle name so if I did what you did, I'd be called 'IT.'"
The class laughed, GEE laughed, and all was well from that day on, with all her teachers and all her classmates.
In school she'd always been at the top of her class, straight A's straight down the line, even in the classes she didn't care about.
Her favorite high school teacher, Miss Holcomb, who taught English, called her the GEE Whiz Kid, because there was no assignment she didn't ace, no book she couldn't devour, no essay she couldn't write beautifully. She had a few friends, but she was fundamentally a private person and her social activity was pretty much limited to going to the picture show, something she did two or three times a week, from the time she was ten.
Her favorites in that seminal year of moviegoing, 1917, had been Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Little American, both with Mary Pickford. Oh, how she loved Mary Pickford. She was so pretty. The movie magazines called her "the girl with the curls," and she radiated innocence and tenderness, and yet she also had gumption and pluck to spare.
She identified with her completely. She'd sit in the darkness of the movie theater living each story as it unfolded in beautiful black-and-white, the images so powerful and real on the screen.
She also saw anything with Charlie Chaplin — Easy Street, The Immigrant, The Cure — she loved Charlie Chaplin because she loved to laugh and Charlie Chaplin made her laugh so hard that tears would stream down her face, so hard that she thought she was going to die right there in the theater from lack of breath.
She'd come home from the movies and then walk around the house enacting the photoplays she'd seen. She'd do her best Mary Pickford impression, pantomiming the scenes she remembered, or she'd use her father's shoe polish for a black mustache and waddle around the house like Charlie Chaplin. Her mother would watch her shenanigans and say, "Must you be so peculiar?"
Her tenth year was also the year of her journal. Her mother had given it to her on her birthday. She'd unwrapped it and looked at it quizzically.
"I thought you might like to keep a journal," her mother explained. "You are, after all, a most peculiar girl and I thought you should have a place to write down your thoughts and your days and your dreams."
Before her mother even finished explaining, she'd run to her room to write her first entry.
Today, my tenth birthday, my mother informed me that I am a most peculiar girl — and because I am a most peculiar girl I should put my thoughts down in a journal, this journal, which I have decided to call "A Most Peculiar Journal in the Key of GEE, a Most Peculiar Girl."
She liked being a most peculiar girl and she wrote in her journal every single day, sometimes a few lines, sometimes a page, sometimes much more. She wrote down her peculiar thoughts, she wrote about her peculiar days and nights, she wrote whatever came into her peculiar head. She wrote in tiny, neat cursive so that each journal lasted two years, at which point her mother would buy her a new one at the nearby five-and-dime.
As each journal was finished she would carefully put it on a shelf in her closet and label them by the year and volume. She would never go back and read earlier volumes or entries, she just wrote as she lived, day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year.
Her father, Samuel Englehart, was forty by the time GEE was ten, but he looked much older than his years, with a craggy face, round glasses, a thin mustache and gray-flecked hair. He stood all of five-feet-six and was trim and tidy in his dress and manner. He was a jeweler and he made a decent living at it, providing a decent life in their modest house in their modest neighborhood, neither poor nor rich. He'd met Esther Mabbett in 1905 when she'd come into Samuel's Jewelry Shop with a necklace that needed a new clasp.
Samuel had been taken with her from the moment he looked up. When she came back a few days later to pick up her necklace, he found the courage to ask her out, she said yes, he didn't charge her for fixing the clasp on her necklace, and six months later Esther Mabbett became Esther Englehart. Esther was soon pregnant and nine months later Gladys Evelyn Englehart entered the world in an especially painful birth, during which Esther repeatedly screamed out that she was dying and for God to please take her so the pain would end. God didn't take her, the pain ended, and she went on with her life.
Samuel Englehart spent eight hours a day hunched over his jewelry table, came home and had his five o'clock dinner as he read the evening paper out loud. A dinner did not go by when he did not read his paper out loud. He railed on about everything as he read, making comments, mostly about The Great War and how it had taken the life of a third cousin once removed, crying out as if he'd lost a son of his own.
Esther would beg him to stop reading aloud, to stop going on about The Great War. She'd had it with The Great War. GEE had had it, too, because she did not understand how any war could be a Great War. There was nothing great about war and people fighting each other and dying every day.
The Great War, as she heard every night, was devastating — all the deaths and carnage, described in detail at the dinner table. She would bolt from the table as soon as she'd finished eating. She'd retreat to the safety and calm of her room, where she would read whatever book she was reading or write in her journal or just dream of being Mary Pickford in a wonderful black-and-white world.
The Great War passed and she grew up, although her mother always told her she was an old person in a young person's body, because from the beginning she'd always thought like a grownup and acted like a grownup and never like a child.
She and her family were thankfully spared from the 1918 flu pandemic. Every night at dinner, her father would read aloud from the newspaper about the newest death tolls from what they described as the greatest medical disaster in history, worse than the Black Death. It had killed over half-a-million people in the United States.
In 1920, she turned thirteen. By that time she was practically living in movie theaters — they were her avenue of escape. The movies were different than books. In books she had to imagine everything; in movies there it all was, alive on the screen, the characters and stories and other worlds.
In movies she didn't have to hear her father read the newspaper out loud at the dinner table, she didn't have to listen to her mother who'd begun to criticize her every move and utterance, she didn't have to endure the pettiness of some of her schoolmates, and she didn't have to think about how weird and off-putting the daily changes to her body were.
Her favorite movies in her thirteenth year were first and foremost Pollyanna and Suds, both starring her beloved Mary Pickford, but she'd also loved Something to Think About with Gloria Swanson, Way Down East starring Lillian Gish, who she liked almost as much as Mary Pickford — almost, but not quite — and The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks, who she was mad about. How dashing and daring and beautiful he was. She also saw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was so scary she almost ran from the theater.
She was sad that there weren't any new Charlie Chaplin films in 1920. The last of them had been the year before and she so needed to laugh. But the following year he was back with The Kid, and that was a whole new kind of movie, longer than his short movies, and she laughed and cried along with the rest of the audience and then she stayed and saw it again and then again.
High school was fine. She continued getting her stellar grades, but certain subjects, subjects she didn't really have an interest in, required more work and concentration from her, unlike English, which she continued to breeze through. She wrote in her journal every day about her peculiar life and her peculiar feelings.
She must have been attractive in some way or other, because the boys began buzzing around her when she was fifteen. She wasn't interested and she found most of the buzzing and the boys insufferable. They, in turn, called her stuck up and aloof, which bothered her not at all. It made her laugh that one minute they were buzzing because they obviously thought she was worth buzzing for, and the minute she showed no interest then she was stuck up and aloof and not worth their time. Boys.
In 1923, her sixteenth year, she contracted measles. She spent a month in her room with little light allowed in, because her mother had read that too much light could cause blindness during the measles. Every day her mother came in and said in an alarming voice, "You could die at any minute, you know that, right? Remember the flu epidemic, how many died." The measles were serious, too, and could be life threatening, if one didn't take care of oneself.
She'd caught them because there'd been an epidemic at school. It seemed like more than half the students had them. She was covered with red dots all over her body and face. She was scarier than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She only looked in the bathroom mirror once — that was all it took, and from then on she refused to look at that wretched, horrible image that greeted her in the mirror.
She had no visitors. She was confined to her room and her bed and her only solace were her books, her movie magazines and, of course, her journal. But her mother would not allow her to write in it more than a few minutes a day due to the potential blindness and impending death she was warned about daily.
"Can you please stop telling me I'm going to die every day? That is a horrible thing to say."
"Well, you could die, people die from the measles."
"I don't want to hear about how I could die anymore, so just stop saying it."
"Don't tell me what to say and not say. I'm your mother. Show some respect."
"I will, if you stop telling me I could die every five minutes."
Every day her mother would put cold compresses on her forehead to keep the fever down, and day after day she lay there in bed, doing nothing but sleeping, writing for a few minutes, and eating what she could, mostly soup — barley soup, vegetable soup, bouillon — and then occasional turkey sandwiches. She lost ten pounds and looked like a stick.
Even though she hated when her father read aloud from the newspaper at the dinner table, she'd asked him to come into her room at night and read from the movie listings, so she'd know what was playing and could imagine what she was missing. She wrote down the titles and hoped some of them would still be showing when she was finally better. There was a new Mary Pickford, Rosita, there was The Pilgrim with Charlie Chaplin, a new Lillian Gish picture, and from the description her father read, the spectacle to end all spectacles, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.
She was sure the red spots would never go away, but eventually her fever calmed down, and they began to disappear. Even when she was completely better her mother made her wear sunglasses outside, just in case her eyes might still be susceptible to blindness. It was the worst month she'd ever had in her life, but that was about to change because the following year she would meet the man who would become her husband.
* * *
Of course she met him at the movies. She was seeing The Thief of Bagdad for the third time. She was obsessed with it. It was so exotic and filled with wonder, and Douglas Fairbanks was even more handsome than in The Mark of Zorro, with his customary leaping and bounding — he had the grace of a dancer. The settings were eye-popping and spectacular, and then there was the magic flying carpet and the magic rope and the flying horse and a cast of thousands and the whole beautiful spectacle was just enchanting from start to finish. There were even some tinted color scenes in the movie that added even more splendor to everything.
She wanted to be on the magic carpet with Douglas Fairbanks. She was seventeen and she could think of nothing more romantic than flying through the air with Douglas Fairbanks. Of course, that might upset her beloved Mary Pickford, to whom he was married. What a dream couple they were, what a romantic marriage it must be. They looked so happy and perfect together in all her movie magazines.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Gee"
Copyright © 2018 Bruce Kimmel.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I first picked up this book, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. With the title GEE, all caps, I wasn’t sure WHAT this book could have been about. But, as soon I started reading it, I knew I was in for a wild ride. The story recalls the life of a ‘rather peculiar’ woman who lived to see all the magnificent changes that occurred from 1907 leading up to the twenty-first century. The recollection of her life was humorous yet extremely heart-felt with deeply touching moments. The second half of the story beautifully ties in with the first and creates a story filled with history, emotion, and passion. As I, a teenager, read this book, I felt and cared for the narrators, and thoroughly enjoyed the story from beginning to end. I would recommend this book to people of any and every age, and I am sure that as you read, you too will be touched and will relate to the character that is GEE.
This was recommended to me by a friend whose young daughter had read it. She's twelve and loved this book so since I have a daughter that age I thought I'd check it out. This book is absolute magic. I loved it. I don't want to say too much but its story resonated with me so much. It is very funny at times and very moving, too. The ending is sublime. A lot of history is covered in the book's first part - over ninety years in one woman's life. She is an incredible character.. The second part of the book takes place currently and is about a teen. I wasn't sure where it was all heading, but when it got there it made so much sense and was so right. As soon as I finished it I gave it to my daughter and she couldn't stop until she'd read the whole thing. She loved it as much as I did and we talked about it and continue to talk about it. I can't wait until the book itself is available. I want to share this with my sister and her kids.