Monday, January 6, 2020

I am happy to share my favorite reads of 2019

Literary Fiction
The Walls of Lucca
by Steve Physioc

A wonderful family sage
set from WWI to the Rise of Mussolini
—history, drama, humor, spirituality all in one story

Best Short Novel
Tortilla Flat 
by John Steinbeck

Sweet tales of Mexican-American people
in post-WWII era Monterey, CA
2019 Religious nonfiction

Paul: The Apostle
by N. T. Wright

Excellent insights into Paul, man and apostle;
top-notch scholarship and spirituality

The Universal Christ
Richard Rohr, OFM

A reminder and reawakening of the true,
everlasting nature of Jesus the Christ

Jesus and the Jewish Roots
of the Eucharist
Brant James Pitre

masterful biblical scholarshipties the events of the Last Supperto the fulfillment of Passover

 Rain and Embers
Ali Nouri

Beautiful, heart-rending poemsin a cycle of love lost and love found

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bishop Myriel--in his own words . . . new novel to arrive in early 2020

Early in 2020, I’ll be releasing my 8th novel, “Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words.”Les Mis fans will enjoy this inspiring story. 

Current tentative cover

Writing in the voice of Victor Hugo’s beloved fictional character is requiring me to climb inside the body and soul of this great yet very humble man. 

Writing in the bishop’s own voice is a personally rewarding challenge. It requires me to “channel” Hugo’s bishop, Les Mis’s catalyst character. 

The bishop’s generosity and personal challenge (“to become an honest man”) sent the former convict,  John Valjean, on his way to becoming the courageous, exemplary man who served to the poor and suffering (les miserables). 

Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Coming in 2020--Wisdom of Les Miserables. Book 2

I'm working hard on the second book of my Wisdom of Les Miserables series. It's tentatively titled, The Beauty of Goodness.
My focus in this second volume is on Bishop Charles Francois Myriel, the catalyst character in Victor Hugo's masterpiece novel. Myriel, you'll recall, is the man who launched the paroled convict, Jean Valjean on his life of compassion and social justice.

What many Les Mis readers do not recall from the book is the fact that Bishop Myriel had a dream of writing his first--and only--book. The theme was to be Duty in the life of a Christian. (Not exactly a winning title were it to be published today.)

Victor Hugo Statue
St. Peter Port
Isle of Guernsey
Photo by Toni DiModica
Hugo provides a fairly extensive and complete outline of the book. But it ends there. He (the author and "puller of literary puppet strings") did not let the bishop complete his treatise. In The Beauty of Goodness, I dare to write my own imagined "first draft" of the bishop's book--using the first person voice of Myriel.

The book will also contain my own personal reflections on the the bishop's themes and chapters. I am also adding original poetry and questions for the reader's reflection as part of the structure of each chapter.

I'm looking at a 2020 release for this work and invite you to contact me with any comments, suggestions, cautions . . . whatever, if you'd like to share them with me, as I move along through the text and draw it to completion.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Father's Day Homily 2019

The following homily was delivered on Father's Day 2019 (June 17, 2019) by Alfred J, Garrotto, owner of this blogsite, and his daughter, Cristina Garrotto, at Christ the King Church, Pleasant Hill, CA.  

Click the link below to view the video:


The Following is the text of the homily in print.

Part I


Good (morn/aft/eve) . . .
(Introduce Cristina, who is sharing this Father’s Day homily.)
We’d like to share with you a very personal family story. How our family came together . . . and something about our lives together over the past 30 years. 

Every family needs an origin story—ours is best told in a bedtime story I used to tell the girls when they were little:

God commissioned two angels . . . each was to deliver a little girl to the Garrotto Family in Martinez . . . . On the way they made a wrong turn!
. . . . . One ended up in El Salvador . . . the other in Honduras
. . . . .Esther and I had to travel thousands of miles to find those lost children.


Dad talked about “lost” angels. I want to share my story of finding my angels.
I was almost 4 when I first saw my parents. My first impressions were:
  my “knight in shining armor” . . . most beautiful woman I’d ever seen—still today.

Some years later, I wrote a poem about my experience:

“Never shall I forget . . .”     
It began….. Never shall I forget
the day that changed my life forever,
the day that made me so excited
and so scared
at the same time.

Part II


6 years ago, our family hit a very rough spot in our history. . . Cristina made a choice that resulted in her leaving home . . . . and living on the streets . . . practically right in our own neighborhood.

This led to a lot of self-questioning on my part . . . sense of failure as a father/parent . . . I needed to let her go . . . I had to find that fine line between helping her . . . . and enabling her to remain in her addiction (which would have made her situation even worse).

We never stopped loving her . . . never stopped wishing her well . . . never stopped praying for her . . .
We committed ourselves to providing a safe port—if she ever decided to change her life . . . and come home to us.

During that whole time, our parish community joined with us in praying for Cristina . . . .
Every week, people asked about her and supported us with their love and promises of prayer . . . .
Some of you may be here today . . . . for which we will be eternally grateful.


When I chose to leave my family. I felt broken and didn’t know how to fix myself. I made many poor choices. I lost my identity. At the same time I lost my family, my career as a Social Worker . . . all that used to be important to me.
Shame and guilt had built up so much that I couldn’t come back home. I didn’t care about the damage I caused my family.

I did to my parents what I feared most myself—I abandoned them.
I reached a point—my rock bottom—where the pain was unbearable.
I remember one specific day, just 15 months ago….
 • when 3 random strangers said, “You look like you need a hug.” Each one hugged me and I felt some sort of connection to their spirit.
  The very next day . . . I called my mom who told me about her prayer the day before . . . “Jesus, find someone to put your arms around her today and guide her back home.”

At the point when I surrendered, I received the gift of desperation. This is when I reached out to my Higher Power.

Part III


Over the past year our family has experienced the miracle of reunion . . . . This has been a time of healing for our family . . .
laughter has returned to our home . . . . . We rejoice over finding again the one we had almost lost.

We didn’t get the old Cristina back . . . . she was a whole new person
. . . . the Cristina we had not seen for many, many years.


This journey has inspired me to be a beacon of hope to others in recovery and in my social work career, assisting the underserved homeless population.



Dads (and moms, brothers, sisters), is someone in your family “off the rails” -- TODAY?
Today we heard St. Paul writing to Christians in Rome:

trials produce patience, /  from patience comes merit; /
 merit is the source of hope, /  and hope does not disappoint us, /
the Holy Spirit has been given to us, /
pouring into our hearts the love of God.

So, never give up hoping . . . Don’t stop praying . . .
Be the Christ for your son, daughter, or loved one . . .
Be a safe harbor in the storm . . . when they find their way back.

Make your own the prayer that Esther prayed . . . .
Jesus, find someone to put YOUR arms around my loved one today . . . . and guide them back home.” Amen!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Reviews: Walls of Lucca -- Above the Walls

The Walls of Lucca

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A multigenerational romantic saga in the tradition Alessandro Manzoni’s 1827 Italian classic, “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed). Physioc weaves his beautifully drawn characters through the destruction WWI to post-war rebuilding, heading toward impending disaster again as Benito Mussolini rises to power and WWII threatens to blacken the skies and hearts of Europe again. Along the way, the story treats the reader to lessons on Tuscan cuisine, the joy of vineyard life, and the wine-making process. The author adds more than a dash of humor to his narrative style, along with a spirituality that is both earthy and heavenly. Above all, “The Walls of Lucca” is about family, with all its human messiness and undying love. Family is the common link that speaks to readers of all ethnicities and citizenship. The sequel, “Above the Walls,” picks up where the first book ends. It deserves its own review. Combined, the two volumes provide a worthy companion—not rival—to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

Above the Walls

book cover

This sequel to The Walls of Lucca continues from the preamble to WWII to its devastating end. The plot revolves around three intertwined Tuscan families caught up in personal and global horrors of wartime Italy. Together, they strive to hold the middle ground of sanity and faith amid events that are both insane and antithetical to even the most basic spiritual and ethical values. Reading this book eighty years after the end of the war puts us at a disadvantage. For some readers, many of the close calls and narrow escapes of various family members strain plausibility. Had we lived in the conflicted Italy of the 1940s, we might not be so critical. This is a great read, offering tons of suspense and native wisdom, supported by a deep sense of spirituality amid the unimaginable evil surrounding one of the darkest periods of human history.

When Steve Physioc isn't writing, his other job is radio/TV commentator for the MLB Kansas City Royals.

Reviewed by Alfred J. Garrotto
Author and Manuscript Editor

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Why "Les Miserables" Will Always Be--TODAY

It's no mystery why Victor Hugo's Les Miserables will forever be timely to every human society everywhere. It's all there in Hugo's own preface to the first edition . . . .

Preface to Les Miserables

Victor HugoSo long as there shall exist, by reason of law and customs, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human frailty; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; as long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and form a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Victor Hugo
Les Miserables
Hauteville House, Isle of Guernsey

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Carribean Tremors Trilogy--Now Available Online

Destiny brings Leah Barton, USA director of Prisoners of Conscience International, and Fr. Javier de Cordova together again after parting ways 14 years earlier in the Caribbean Islands nation of Santo Sangre. The tiny country’s dictator, Raúl Montenegro, has lured the priest into a sham diplomatic mission to meet with European and American POCI leaders, pleading his country's case—innocent of imprisoning political prisoners. Armed only with government misinformation about the issue, Javier agrees to represent this man he distrusts for one reason only. It will give him one last opportunity to see the woman he once loved and lost. Javier intends to admit to Leah, now a widow with two children, that he made a terrible mistake in rejecting her love to remain faithful to his calling. During Leah and Javier's brief reunion in San Francisco (CA), they discover two life-changing truths. The very love that once drove them apart still burns within them. But it may be too late. Javier discovers that he has led an assassin to her doorstep and that her son is targeted for death. Putting their rekindled love and lives on the line, Leah and Javier pool their meager resources in a seemingly hopeless attempt to avert an unstoppable, cold-blooded murder.

Purchase on Amazon.
Adoptee Analisa Marconi loses her family—for a second time—when her parents die in a private plane crash in which she is the only survivor. The trip was to celebrate her completion of grad school and the start of her new career. Devastated and alone in the world, now, and finally recovered from her own injuries, she sets out on a perilous journey of self-discovery to Santo Sangre, the Caribbean country of her birth to search for her birth mother and siblings. In a chance meeting, she meets and is immediately drawn to Arturo de Cordoba, a local music icon. But, these days, her island birth-country is a dangerous place for young women adoptees who innocently escaped lives of destitution through adoption. Thrust into this unwelcoming environment, Analisa is brutally kidnapped from her hotel room by domestic terrorists calling themselves Los Dejados (“those left behind”). Their insane cause is to recapture Santo Sangre-born female adoptees, get them pregnant—again and again—and thereby make up for the perceived losses to their nation. When Analisa pulls off a daring escape from her captors, Arturo volunteers to accompany her to the interior of the island where she hopes to find those ruptured familial links to her past. At last she finds her birth mother and her child self, but again faces danger from Los Dejados. Love a great read packed with tender romance, life-threatening danger, and heart-stopping suspense? Finding Isabella is waiting for you.

Purchase on Amazon.

Liberty “Libby” O’Neill has it all. A business partner-fiancé she adores. A thriving Victorian restoration business in San Francisco, a city forested with raw material sufficient to keep them employed—and comfortable—for years to come. Then, why the sense of dread stirring her from sleep at 3 a.m.? Why the sudden terror? The cold sweat? This makes no sense, she tells the darkness. But it does. Libby awakens to reality of imminent bankruptcy after her fiancé abandons her, absconding with all the company’s cash. In desperation, she hires a half-demented street person, known only as Painter, to help her complete a Victorian restoration that can save her from ruin. As work progresses, Libby discovers a surprising reserve of wisdom in her new assistant. The restoration of the grand 19th century house parallels the transformation both Libby and Painter lives, as individuals and, over time, with each other. Their working relationship faces a severe challenge, when she discovers that her homeless day laborer is someone quite other than a street person who spiraled into booze-driven self-loathing. Can their mutual healing survive revelation of Painter’s true identity? Or are they each too irreparably broken to put their lives together and become whole—for themselves and for each other?

Purchase on Amazon.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Memora--To make present again

RE-ALLY – re-connect with my true self

RE-COMMIT – promises made are not to fade but find new faces

RE-CONSTITUTE – re-assemble the broken pieces of life for re-use as building blocks for the future

RE-INVIGORATE – revive earlier vitality from the dust bin to its former place of honor

RE-MEMBER – the past is only the present waiting to come alive again

RE-MIND – hold in the present what is so easily forgotten

RE-MOVE – quit false obstacles; live to the full till death—and beyond

RE-TIRE – time to renew what is worn but still good and life giving

(c) 2018 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved