Monday night’s Skype session with Jenna Blum was just so amazing and beyond words! Jenna was beyond fun and kind, and we all just had the greatest time chatting with Jenna about her book, Those Who Save Us, which takes place during WWII and the present. Honestly, I’m still on cloud nine right now! I came home from our Skype/Book Club meeting bouncing off of the walls with excitement. My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me, and it was a miracle we both got to sleep that night due to me babbling nonstop about my evening. Oh, and for once in my life I was at a loss for words while we were talking with Ms. Blum. All normal and coherent thoughts left my head, and I was lucky enough to not have my jaw hanging on the floor with drool coming out during our whole conversation.
As for what I wore for the evening, well for once it wasn’t yoga pants or anything involving workout attire (it is pretty bad when your 7-year-old son points out that you are always wearing something that involves workout clothing). I ended up going for the casual yet smart look for the evening.
Here are two pics of Jenna from our Skype session. In one she is doing her best to try to be serious (she is really a total ham).
I took a ton of notes during our Skype with Ms. Blum, and I really have no idea how to write it all up for ya. Therefore, bear with me as we explore Those Who Save Us and other little tidbits of info I got from her. I’ll start out with how the novel came to be.
In 1993 Jenna’s mom “made” her go to Germany, where her family was originally from. Jenna was not all that thrilled about going to Germany for a vacation. She was actually hoping for a more adventurous vacation in France, Morocco, Italy, or Arkansas (I swear she said that). Well, Jenna ended up having an amazing time traveling throughout Germany and seeing all there was to see. While in Germany Jenna began asking, “How such a great culture (…known for producing great artists in all forms) could produce the worst genocide in history?” During their time in Germany they visited concentration camps, one of which was Buchenwald. While in Buchenwald one of the main characters, Anna, “came” to Jenna, and the story began to write itself from there. However, it was not a simple process, and the final version you read today took 10 years to develop.
While Jenna was working on Those Who Save Us she was also doing interviews for the Shoah Project. It was her job to interview/document the stories of survivors of the Holocaust. These interviews also helped her develop a better understanding of the time and helped her develop some of her characters.
The main antagonist of the story, the Obersturmfuhrer (or Big “O” as Jenna likes to call him) is, “Not a monster, but a person doing monstrous things.” He is a high ranking SS officer during WWII who forces himself into the lives of Anna and Trudy (mother and daughter/main characters). In order to develop his character and other Nazi officer’s characters, Jenna learned and read as much as she could about Nazi’s from the Nuremburg Trials.
My favorite part of the evening with Jenna Blum was our insights into the characters and what happened to them that was not part of the novel. Honestly, it was so neat to hear about the lives Jenna created for them outside of the novel. For example (and this one is my favorite), Anna’s father, Gerhard, “Is a character with no redeeming qualities at all.” Jenna was kind enough to share with us the story of his “ending”, which is not in the novel. The horrible Gerhard met his demise towards the end of the war, while sitting at dinner eating a big greasy turkey leg. Then out of nowhere a bomb drops on him and vaporizes him. As far as I’m concerned, this is a very fitting end for this evil man! This is just one of the little stories about the characters from her novel, so if you would like to learn more you will have to Skype with her yourself!
I’m not going to be able to write-up everything we talked about during our Skype time, since Ms. Blum was kind enough to talk with us for over 2 hours. However, I will have more from our Skype session for you tomorrow.
In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cannoli’s I made for our book club meeting! They are a bit different from your typical cannoli recipe. Hence the name. Also, this is the recipe for the filling in the cannoli’s. These cannoli’s have Mascarpone cheese in them to make them even richer! Save yourself the time and go to your local grocery and buy premade cannoli shells in the Italian or specialty food aisle. This is what I do, and if I can find the cannoli shells all the way up here in “nowhere” North Dakota, I know you will be able to find them in your local grocery store.
Not Your Italian Grandmother’s Cannoli’s
Ingredients for the filling:
- 1 c Ricotta Cheese
- 8 oz. container of Mascarpone Cheese
- 3/4 c powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract or Amaretto liquor
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
- powdered sugar for garnish
- nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, etc. to garnish with.
Combine all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Then, place the mixture in a plastic bag. Close the bag and place in fridge for a few hours. I put the bag in a glass with one corner of the bag in the bottom of the glass, and then fill the bag. This will make it easier to “pipe” the mixture into the cannoli’s. See picture below. Cut the corner off of the bag containing the cannoli filling and begin piping it into the cannoli shells. The filling is a bit messy and runny, but that is normal. Once the shells are filled, place the cannoli’s in a freezer safe container and freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove them from the freezer and place in the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Dust the tops with powdered sugar before serving, and any other garnishes you would like to add. Enjoy!!!