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Novelist Writes of Her World War II Memories

Strangers and Memories: The Odyssey of a War Bride

This past weekend, Massapequa resident Frank Nappi was able to experience the thrill of seeing his novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, being adapted into a television movie, as A Mile In His Shoes, starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder premiered on the Gospel Music Channel.

Now, another Massapequa resident, Franca Lippi Mills, has published her own novel, one that also has the making of a fine movie. 

Strangers and Memories is a novel that tells the journey of a young Italian woman, Marianna, as she makes her way from war-torn Italy to a new life in the United States as a war bride and later as a mother and grandmother.

The novel introduces the reader to the fractious circumstances that existed in Italy during World War II, even after a portion of that Mediterrean nation was liberated by the Allies in 1943. In the mid-1940s, Italy was still marred by internal divisions, as the Partisans, some of them Communists, others Democrats, resisted the alliance Benito Mussolini made with Adolph Hitler’s Germany and also competed for what kind of nation Italy would become after the war ended.

Much of the novel concerns Marianna’s life-threatening journey, along with several strangers, as they attempt to break through an Axis frontline as the war was winding down in 1945.

The inspiration for the novel came from the 60th anniversary of the ending of World War II in 2005. In the opening chapter, the novelist realized that by that year, many World War II veterans and survivors “were losing their ability to accurately recall events.”

“Watching, hearing, and reading these survival stories inspired some of us to write down our memories of that war,” Ms. Mills continued. “That is how I began to jot down events that came to mind and amazingly, once I put them down on paper, more and more came flooding back. I stored them in a desk drawer for several years until I came across them last summer.” By the winter, Ms. Mills was ready to put the notes into book form and that is what happened.

The novel opens with World War II and ends with the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. In the bicentennial year of 1976, the author recalls gaining a new understanding of her adopted country as Ms. Mills and her husband were now inspired to embark on several cross-country vacations, in the process discovering the “feeling the vastness” in the United States along with the “personal natural treasures” of the different regions of America. Finally, on 9/11, the author realized the tragic events of that day not only heightened her awareness as an American, but also as a New Yorker.

Strangers and Memories is published by PublishAmerica, Baltimore, MD. It is unique not only with the story it tells, but in the fact that the author wrote, edited and published the novel when she was into her eighth decade.

Strangers and Memories is autobiographical. “Most of the stories are real events that happened to people whose names I have forgotten with the passing of time and I have never met again,” the author told The Massapequan Observer. “For years my children and my friends encouraged me to write down some of my memories, which eventually became a book. I would like to encourage all seniors to write down their personal account of history, as they lived it, before their memory fails them. Computers can offer a world of information, but there is nothing more precious than to preserve your special little piece of history for your family, your friends and maybe, posterity. It is never too late to start a new chapter in your life.” Which is exactly what Franca Lippi Mills has done with the publication of Strangers and Memories.