Hearts of the Morning Calm is a bittersweet, Amerasian love story. The novel features an appealing couple who share few experiences or similarities, but nonetheless, fall quite unexpectedly in love. They encounter joy and sorrow while fighting prejudice, taboo, and the inexorable press of time as they struggle to solve their increasingly intricate and complex puzzle.
Jason Fitzgerald, an Army aviator, is stationed in Korea, or, Chosun, Land of the Morning Calm. Jason has no interest in Koreans or their culture, believing Korean history began the day he arrived “in-country,” and Korean women are “prototype people,” little more than disposable necessities.
Lee Kwang Young is a woman raised in the rich traditions of her country’s ancient culture. However, in conflict with her heritage, she’s unwilling to accept the Asian woman’s centuries old, subservient “pillow-role.” Unlike Jason’s bar girls, she is educated, witty, independent, and dangerously curious about the western world.
Normally, American soldiers and Korean civilians don’t meet--much less form relationships. Koreans consider American soldiers barbarians. The Americans view Korean culture as inexplicably bizarre. But fate intercedes, and despite the hindrances and hurdles, Miss Lee’s Asian curiosity and Jason ’s Heartland America innocence combine to spark the changes and conflicts both endure. The Result? A mutual journey neither seeks, expects, nor can control.
To survive, Jason and Miss Lee must resolve questions of culture, courage, honor, and most importantly, sacrifice. At journey’s end lay a surprising truth, despite their challenges and choices, they’ve become what they wanted, and, what they feared . . . Hearts of the Morning Calm.
|Publisher:||Avid Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.54(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.65(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Despite its twenty years, his sole remaining photograph had aged gracefully. The left edge was just slightly tattered. A long ago corner-crease was nearly imperceptible. The once white border was only now turning a mature shade of ivory; even the fading colors remained, New England-autumn crisp. Seemingly, the remarkable snapshot was inoculated against the bacteria of time and touch.
Saunders held the picture with both hands and again, marveled at the stunning landscape. In the far background, dark, saw-tooth mountaintops sliced sharply across a cloudless horizon. Closer in, afternoon sunlight reflected from a wide river in a thousand silver-sparkles. The bright water flowed slowly across the print, finally disappearing through a narrow gap in rocky, precipitous cliffs. In the left foreground, two gigantic statues were, like the lost city of Petra, literally carved into the reddish-brown rock of a vertical cliff-face.
Certainly, the terrain’s panoramic scope, nature’s magnificent touch, and man’s bold artwork were on breathtaking display. Even so, the picture would never be considered a landscape. A single, powerful presence made this photograph an accidental portrait.
At the far-left stood the apparently reluctant, unintended subject, a young Asian woman. Effortlessly, she muted and subdued her dramatic surroundings. A classically simple white blouse accentuated short black hair and faded jeans emphasized her long legs. There was a supple, almost athletic look about her. She was attractive, but not striking. Yet, she was absolutely compelling.
Saunders knew the woman’s commanding presence stemmed from the triple nature of her character. She possessed in full-measure the gifts of strength, grace, and compassion. They radiated from her like powerful searchlights, guiding, comforting, redeeming.
Leaning his considerable bulk toward the large bedroom window, Saunders squinted and adjusted his bifocals. Gray December twilight seeped through the rain-streaked glass. Tilting the photo to catch the diluted light, he tried again to capture the woman; to find and hold her elusive, multi-stream essence. As on a hundred previous occasions, he found her unchanged. She stood facing the photographer, chin raised, head tilted, leaning against a platform’s metal railing, the sparkling river hundreds of feet below. In contrast to the nonchalant pose, her earnest expression was almost humorously serious. Saunders shook his head in warm bemusement; no matter the time or distance, she remained what she was, very much like her nurturing Asia, a wonderful, contradictory enigma, an elegant, intricate, delicate, paradox.
With a rueful half-smile, he turned the photograph over. On the back was a promise, its faded characters carefully and methodically doled-out by a steady hand. It was a melancholy pledge, sufficient to bind a wound, but not stay the bleeding. Feeling like an emotional Peeping-Tom, he was nonetheless compelled to read the words. The simple phrases brought her to life; illuminated her humanity; and without fail, moved him. They’d never met, but he’d all too easily fallen under her spell. Secretly, he wished the pledge were for him . . .
Remember my promise. I will hold you in my heart, always. You will never be far from me. We will be together. Y.
He thought the message was oddly mixed, and like the woman, simultaneously ambiguous and forthright. The inscription began with a command; but softly tendered. The message didn’t close with ‘love,’ but love was clearly present. The promise held strong commitment and connectivity, but hauntingly . . . in-absentia. Most interesting was the final, equivocally clear sentence. Did it mean ‘together’ in some future reality, or was it tied to the preceding, and meant metaphorically? Impossible to know.
Saunders gazed wistfully across his sick friend’s bed and through the window at the storm-enraged breakers and the coastal gloom.
“It’s really amazing. We’ve looked at her, thought about her, talked about her, everyday for months. But, even after all that, the more I . . . focus on her, think I know her, the more,” He hesitated searching for a word, finally settling on, “obscure she becomes.”
“Yeah, she . . .” A retching, cough barged into Wilson’s sentence, forcing him to a partial sitting position. Grimacing, he eased slowly back against the pillows.
“She was like that,” he finished weakly.
Saunders nodded and without comment leaned forward and returned the picture to the frail man who placed it on the nightstand between the water glass and pill jars.
The wind-driven rain tapped louder against the cold, single-pane window. In defiance, the fire popped twice, the wet wood sizzled. The scent of burning pine wandered about the room. The old Oregon coast house, like most of its day, was built with a fireplace in each bedroom. When the December rains sprinted-in cold and unrelenting from their anonymous North-Pacific birthplace, a fire’s warmth soothed primal fears and the firelight dispatched the demons.
Saunders reached down and picked up a woolen afghan from the wooden floor. Shaking it open, he draped it across his knees. Settling back in the wicker chair, he looked briefly at a small, faded print of a Parisian street corner hanging above Wilson’s brass-frame bed. He noted absently that the plain wooden frame was rather nicked and in need of replacement. Like most chores in Wilson’s recent life, this one would probably go uncompleted. Finishing the novel had been an exhausting trial. He had little energy--or now--time, for extras.
“So. Can you believe it’s done?” Saunders asked, affectionately fingering the manuscript in his lap.
Wilson rolled his head listlessly toward the rain-streaked window pane, looked out at a distorted, disturbed ocean, but did not respond.
Saunders rubbed his chin, and struggled with how to broach the next subject. They had covered this tender ground before. Wilson, the final authority on story-line, consistently objected. Saunders, the vigilant editor, called it ‘full-circle information’ and believed it was material readers would want. If Wilson could be persuaded, the novel could still be modified without postponing publication.
“Uh, Keith?” Leaning toward the bed, Saunders tapped the manuscript with two fingers. “Look-it, just one thing. We oughta’ re-think the Korean Airlines double-oh-seven stuff.”
“Christ, Bill, not again.” Wilson looked wearily at the ceiling. “I’m a sick man here. How ‘bout giving me a little peace on this, huh?”
“Hey, I’m just trying to improve it, make it better. I gotta’ . . . you know, a feel for this kinda’ thing. I do it for a living. It’s why I get paid, remember?”
Wilson closed his eyes and grunted.
Undeterred, Saunders continued, “Listen, I just think it’d give the reader closure. I guarantee their gonna’ wanna’ know what happened to her. To him. It just closes the loop, that’s all.”
“No.” Wilson raised an emasculated hand, the skin almost translucent. “Why can’t you get this? It’s fiction . . . or mostly fiction.” He picked up the photograph and holding it toward Saunders continued in a subdued, almost regretful tone, “I just used her as a model. It’s all made-up, all, uh . . . make believe. The people in there don’t exist, not then . . . and certainly not now.” He looked at the picture briefly, then placed it on the blanket near his side.
“Well, readers aren’t gonna’ think so.”
“Tough. Readers can think what the hell they want. It’s my last book, and it’s fiction. Period. Besides, that other stuff ain’t germane! It happened years later ands got nothin’ to do with the story. And, most important? Bill? You listening? Uh? Most important? I don’t know the details. I don’t wanna’ know the details. I just plain don’t wanna’ think about it! So . . . no. Let it go.”
Saunders sunk back in his chair but looked up in time to catch Wilson’s wicked smile.
“The only way you’ll include KAL 007 is over my dead body.” A convert to gallows humor, Wilson laughed loudly. The sound was bitterly sarcastic and surprisingly robust in the small, dim bedroom.
“Christ. I wish you wouldn’t talk like that. Besides, there are gonna’ be no changes you don’t approve.”
“Umph. Well, I don’t approve of this one . . . again, and hopefully for the last time.” Wilson pulled the blankets to his neck. “Always so Goddamn cold anymore.”
The rain slackened. The fire waned. The darkness intensified. The white ceramic table lamp, always on in Wilson’s near sleepless world, cast an unhealthy yellow glow. In the downstairs hallway the antique wall-clock slowly chimed six times, the sound muffled and weak. Saunders shifted his weight, placing both feet on the bare floor, the tan wicker-chair squeaked loudly.
“You gotta’ go?”
“No.” Saunders looked up quickly, ashamed he’d been thinking of an excuse to leave. He cleared his throat and said a little too emphatically, “Not at all. You need something?”
Wilson answered softly, “Yeah, can you read me some? Just a little.”
“Sure, Keith, glad too; you know I’m in love with her. What part you wanna’ hear?”
Wilson turned toward the window. The world was quickly darkening, sharp images fading to soft edges, only the rain was audible. A silent minute passed; then two. Saunders had seen these lapses before, though they were now more frequent and their duration longer.
Finally, his voice weak from disease and encumbered with distant joy, Wilson said, “The front. Start at the beginning.” Pausing, he closed his eyes. “The world was . . . new then, brighter, still unspoiled. Things seemed . . . possible. The future wasn’t the past. Start at the beginning.”
Saunders ran his hand across the manuscript. Melancholy tried to press against him, but he pushed it aside. Wilson was correct. The beginning was bright. Possibility was reality. Opening the manuscript’s maroon cover, he turned to Chapter One, smiled at what he knew was there, and began to read .