At my first book signing for Pray, in my home town of Kent, Ohio, I met an elderly woman who was friends with my grandmother. She already had a copy of the book, presumably given to her by my grandma. She told me that she really enjoyed the book, and that she hoped her grandchildren were able to think of her the way that I thought of my grandparents.
I told her that it took me a long time to get to the point where I was able to really appreciate my grandparents. And, I think, this was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome when it came to writing this book. I go into a good amount of detail in the book itself about the difficulties in researching my grandparents’ life together, particularly my grandfather’s history. But writing the book took me a few years – getting to the point where I could actually even start it took me three decades.
I don’t think it’s particularly unusual; I would imagine most people don’t really give much thought to their grandparents’ lives. It seems that, growing up, you go through phases of self-absorption. Everything is about you. It’s not a conscious decision and I don’t even think it’s a character flaw. We spend a great portion of our lives trying to figure out who we are, which leaves little time to consider others, at least in any great detail.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence, then, that two things happened just before I started writing Pray. My then-girlfriend-now-wife Nicole and I celebrated our one year anniversary. And I turned 30.
Hitting the three decade mark impacted me more than I thought it would. I had older friends who had told me that turning 30 had mellowed them out, had made their life seem less hectic and more defined. I found that hard to believe, and yet that’s exactly what happened. Leaving my 20s gave me perspective. My focus was no longer solely on my own life.
Being with Nicole also played a huge part in that. It was the first relationship that felt real to me, the first one that felt mature. I couldn’t be selfish anymore because I spent so much time thinking about her! And doing that made me realize how much more was out there if I just opened my eyes, if I quit focusing on myself and spent at least a little time looking at others.
It’s not easy to look at your family as people, particularly if your family isn’t especially close. It’s much easier to just think about yourself. In a lot of ways, I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At was a water mark for me, a sign that I’d grown up. It was yet another gift that my grandparents gave me.
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Mr. Garret is giving away one print copy of I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At to a Sugarpeach reader. This giveaway is open to all residents of US and Canada, ends on October 24th.
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After the attack on Pearl Harbor, eighteen-year-old Robert Stuart had a decision to make: keep working at the steel mill in Warren, Ohio, or volunteer to serve his country. Stuart’s father had served in the first World War, and service was in his blood, so he enlisted in the Marines.
Anne Davis had a decision of her own to make. The girls in her high school were going to send letters to alumni who were going off to war. She looked at the list of soldiers and saw a familiar name: Robert Stuart.
The letters Anne sent would mark the beginning of a relationship that would span sixty years, two marriages, two children, and three wars.
Over half a century after those first letters were sent, the Stuarts’ grandson, Kyle, began chronicling their life together. He would discover pieces of a family history that only he dug deep enough to learn. But in the back of his mind, one concern lingered: the story of a person’s life can only have one ending, and his grandfather’s health was deteriorating.
I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At is a true story of love and war, of three generations and two romances, one of sixty years, the other of just a few months. Pray deals with one generation trying to —-connect with another and how it affected them both.