Romance, coming of age, unexpected complications and more, unfold "Beneath the Crimson Maples." Mark Schoedl's heartwarming novel transports readers to an idyllic northwest Milwaukee Sherman Park Community where a cast of characters' lives intertwine, resulting in heartaches, life-changing realizations, and unexpected opportunities all over the course of a fateful summer.
Inspired by his memories of Milwaukee, Schoedl did considerable research on the communities of Sherman Park, its people and realized the universal similarities shared by most cities, which serve as a canvas for an intricate portrait of human drama.
The novel weaves its way through the comedic and tragic ways and means the people of northwest Milwaukee delight in and fight each other to no end. As Schoedl says, it is not just about being happy about what you've got, it's about coming to terms with "why am I so happy?" and what blocks individuals from finding oneness with another person.
"Uncertainty is in each and every one of us," Schoedl says. "Life is not a game."
This cast includes 38-year old siren Genie Bartusek, a forlorn housewife who hopes for a passionate dalliance with a special someone when a no-nonsense Paul stumbles into her presence, giving both weary souls a chance at a new beginning. There is young Jasmine Padilla, who struggles with relating to the adults around her, particularly her successful mother, all while she attempts to balance her pursuits as an accomplished flutist and the leader of her junior varsity basketball team. And there is the old neighborhood cat-owner Paul Bogdanov with his two Burmese cats, ignored by the locals and sometimes harassed by the neighborhood youths.
He juxtaposes several main characters of varying ages against each other. What becomes evident is that everyone is a bit unsure of themselves, no matter how ideal their family lives are. From the Orthodox Jewish peoples to the Hispanic and African-American inner-city families, he shows how it becomes hard to envision just who is the victim.
While every locale and population has its various idiosyncrasies, Schoedl explores the universal traits found in people. Thus his story follows a cast of characters who are connected by bonds of friendship and trust as they navigate life's hurdles. Schoedl says his book is unique not for its colloquial text, though a little bit of humorous entertainment goes a long way, but from how it depicts the innermost feelings of the characters and portrays how they strive to be better while never finding that elusive peace within.
He captures how a person's life can take many twists and turns before becoming disillusioned with existence. Fear plays a major role in holding them back from becoming fully actualized. Yet, there is always hope for a better tomorrow if they take a chance and if they have strong bonds with a community of friends and loved ones who care. He depicts that delicate balance between the self's separation from others and the rest of the world, that creeping feeling of aloofness and isolation so prevalent in modern life, with the ties connecting one to the wider community. "Beneath the Crimson Maples" shows that this applies to all, whether raised in a wealthy family or from the inner city. Life's hardships can wear down the soul, and it is a struggle to avoid falling into the pit of cynicism. But there is still a chance to emerge from all this with one's soul intact.
"Each one of us is always alone. So, truth and love stir freely in a sea of green. Will your new car and home be the trick to find your soulmate? Or will the unknown (infinity) connect with your innermost Being? It is not easy for anyone to allow the Unknown to bring about this graceful new life. Nonetheless, your answer to all your secret travesties may come to fruition when you least expect it (call it God or call it what you will)." Schoedl says. He intends this tale for readers who are tired of comparing themselves to other people and inquiring about their own central problems in order to live anew, not to be burdened or constrained by past events. In his words: "After all, today is brand new. To live in today's ever-changing world, one must first be in tune with oneself."
About the Author
Mark Schoedl was from Sherman Park but now resides in southeast Los Angeles County. This is his first novel.