Lady and the Sea by Sharon Leaf
A novel based on a true story
I was born in sultry South Carolina and raised in sunny Southern California. I’ve always loved to write, but when I caught the ‘running fever’ in the late ‘70’s and finished my first half-marathon, I thought I could do anything! Suddenly, all those endorphins kicked in and within six months I completed two full-blown manuscripts on my Smith-Corona typewriter (not counting the editing, of course). Due to some unexpected events—death and divorce--I never took my writing to the next level of publishing. However, I can still hear those manuscripts beckoning me, “Take me off the shelf! I deserve to be heard too!”
Since turning forty, I have traveled to over fifteen countries, including living in Sweden with my husband, Rob, while attending Bible college, traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, trekking through Israel in 1992, and volunteering on a World War II ship for fourteen months in 1994. I received a degree in theology at sixty, proving that it’s never too late to fulfill another dream. I returned to my southern roots six years ago and now live in South Carolina with Rob and my malte-poo, Popcorn. I consider myself a late bloomer as a published author. Lady and the Sea is my debut novel.
“You cannot discover new oceans until you are willing to lose sight of the shore”
When I read this quote from a poster hanging in an old secondhand shop in 1994, I bought it and hung it in my home office. The message stirred something deep within me that I couldn’t explain. Little did I know that this fifteen-word quote would literally come alive in a matter of months when I came across a flyer with a haunting photo of another aging lady, a rusty, old World War II vessel. The flyer’s message challenged me because, after two failed marriages, I was living the comfortable life with my prince charming. Then I remembered the quote. How could I pass up this dangerous assignment to transport Russian Jews from Sochi, Russia, to Haifa, Israel? So in spite of my fear of water and the unknown condition of the ship, I said yes to that inner voice that was saying GO, and I left my comfortable shore and dived into a new ocean.
After living on the Restoration—the ship of miracles—for fourteen months, I was inspired to tell her story, but it was after several influential people in my life heard about our journey, looked me in the eyes and said, “You must write this story for the world!” I rolled my eyes and thought, easy for you to say, thou person who has never written a letter, much less a book. But they were right. Thus, Lady and the Sea was birthed.
When I was soliciting Lady and the Sea, two traditional publishing houses challenged me on two fronts: They didn’t want the World War II ship to have a voice, and they didn’t want the backstory of Rosie and Resti (Rosie’s nickname for the old ship). I wanted both, so after much prayer and research, I decided to become an indie-author to keep control of my story (and of my time—I can be as busy or as laid-back as I choose with no pressure). Those who have read Lady and the Sea loved Resti’s convincing voice in the beginning of each chapter, and they loved traveling through five decades with Rosie and Resti up until the time that the two ladies meet. Yay! I’m so glad I listened to that inner voice.
Perhaps, like me, you will relate to Resti’s story. After World War II, the old vessel sat in mothballs for almost fifty years, thinking her glory days were over. She had her fifteen minutes of fame on the China Sea. But at the right moment in time, she was restored to her natural beauty and was christened MS Restoration. She wore her name well. She restored faith in the crew and the volunteers who poured their hearts into her mission, and she restored hundreds of Russian Jews to Israel. Now I ask you, if God can do that for a mere ship, how much more does he want to do for each one of us?
After you read Lady and the Sea, I hope you will find faith for your forgotten dreams. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or both, I encourage you to follow that inner voice that says GO.
I wish you smooth sailing and oceans of blessings!
Lady and the Sea, Chapter One ~ July 1995
Within minutes of the MS Restoration entering the Haifa harbor, an Israeli gunboat sped from the port and circled the World War II vessel. As two soldiers aimed their deck-mounted machine guns at the ship, another shouted instructions in Hebrew through a loudspeaker.
The captain of the MS Restoration responded over the ship’s radio, “Please, speak to us in English!”
Rosie grabbed the rail. “Do they think we’re terrorists?”
Jesse touched her arm. “Rosie, calm down.”
“Do they think we’re pirates?”
“Just calm down,” her husband repeated, holding out his hand.
“Will they make us jump overboard? I don’t have my life jacket,” she spoke, fighting back her fear of water that was trying to surface once more.
“Rosie, you must get hold of yourself.”
Her mind raced as she gazed up at the man who had brought her on this unpredictable journey. Jesse’s right; what’s come over me? Rosie asked herself, all the time wishing she didn’t have to go to the bathroom. She didn’t dare leave his side.
The ship, her fellow crewmembers, and their special passengers—the Russian Jews—had finally reached their destination. No more troubled waters. No more hurricanes. No more delays. On this hot July morning, they were home free—or so they thought.
Rosie looked at the crew, poised as if they were ready to hit the deck. “Isn’t this ironic? We’ve traveled halfway around the world, and this is the welcome we get.”
“Stop your engine!” the soldier shouted.
Within seconds, they were dead in the water.
Rosie’s stomach churned. She hung her head over the side of the ship and let it rip. After wiping her mouth with a hankie, she grabbed hold of Jesse’s arm. She’d heard stories about people who had experienced close calls. Her seventy-year-old father once told her about the time his ship almost went down in the China Sea during the war. “At that moment, my whole life passed before me,” Talmage said.
Now feeling lightheaded as the Israeli soldiers glared at the Restoration through their binoculars, Rosie knew that this was her moment.
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Want to know more about Sharon Leaf ? Visit her blog at sharonleaf.blogspot.com.