ENCOUNTERS: A BOOK REVIEW

Encounters

Creativity is wondrous gift and one that has no expiration date! 

This thought came to me whilst reading ‘Encounters’ by Fred. H. Rohn. Fred Rohn came late to writing after a two hugely successful careers in public accounting and venture capital investment behind him. His first book, ‘A Fortunate Life’, was published last year when he was aged 91, followed by ‘Encounters’ this year.

I admire and am in awe at the ease he seemed to have entered his third career. Age was no boundary for him, nor for many other artistic people as he explains in the preface, stating that ‘creativity doesn’t stop as you age’ and Herman Wook still wrote at 102.

I myself also aspire and hope to be writing to the last of my days!

‘Encounters’ is a collection of stories of varying lengths which explore ‘Relationships in Conflict’. All the stories are brilliantly written and immediately pulled me into their scenarios. I was always intrigued by the seemingly innocuous beginnings, compelled to read on and unravel the lives of the characters.

Consequence of one’s action is a theme explored in many of the stories as the conflict is deftly outlined. A conflict often followed by reconciliation. Fred Rohn demonstrates skill in placing the reading in the middle of a scene and gradually letting the story unfurl, mostly to delicious unexpected twists.

The first story of ‘The Painting’ highlights many of the writing elements that makes ‘Encounters’ such a great collection. The story begins in the middle of an art show along with an artist called Carrie. This supposedly understated opening quickly becomes a story centred on deceit, and a conflict with no possibility of resolution as Carrie’s actions cause irreparable damage to her marriage. This story, like the majority in the book, is told in the third person. This stylistic technique, which can seem rather distant at times, works perfectly for the stories.

Fred Rohn had a particular interest not only in observing and documenting conflict in relationships but also wanted to show an element of reconciliation in some of the pieces.

This is particularly evident in ‘Doc Brunner’  which is set in a small town in America during World War II. The era is beautifully captured as is the tension of the society at the time as the pastor becomes embroiled in a fight with the local council and bank in an attempt to save his church from foreclosure. His actions, sometimes verging on those of a showman, win new supporters amongst the youth, especially as Doc Brunner also seeks to ease the town’s restrictive rules regarding their freedom to socially meet-up.

There is a quiet, under-stated feeling to all the stories and this is particularly true in ‘Reunion Deals’. Here the sneaky and egotistic nature of Harry Long is brilliantly revealed and one cannot help but be pleased for the long-term deceit he has endured and will continue to experience.

A variety of locally divisive issues are tackled by Fred Rohn, and one of bullying is sensitively handled in ‘The Piano Recital’. Where many earlier stories feature adults, here 12-year-old Jeremy Twitchell is relentlessly bullied by Bill Parsons. With the help of a piano teacher, a music concert and a surprise suggestion by Jeremy a rewarding and heart-moving reconciliation is achieved.

A few stories centre around the hiring and firing of staff … in itself a most unlikely topic for short stories! However, these are all terrific reads and as usual I was hooked! The lack of empathy and understanding of certain characters is conveyed with expertise.

Two of my favourite stories are slightly unusual. ‘Bicycle’ is deceptively simple in itself with hidden depths and is profoundly moving and full of wisdom as a younger brother is helped by his morose older brother. ‘The Old Man’ is uniquely centred on just one character who remains nameless throughout. In a series of everyday situations his confusion, loneliness is shown as he fails to comprehend his own state and merrily signs up for a most unusual course!

I am particularly struck by the last two pieces in the book – which I assume are autobiographical. Both these are in the close first person. ‘My Red Bible’ is a personal essay about a red-covered bible which was received on the 17th birthday. This thoughtful and reflective piece takes us from Fred’s travels and musing, showing how important this gift has been to him over the years.

‘Reincarnation – Chance Encounters with The Past’ is a wonderful finale to ‘Encounters’. In this eerie work the writer describes the visits from the departed, particularly from his mother. Bizarrely in some of the visions she has adapted to the modern world, even to the extent of checking emails and using an iPhone! Whilst the author longed for a hello from his mother, the readers can only hope that Fred Rohn was aware that his written work is a testament to his mother’s belief: ‘She always said that imagination and intellectual curiosity were two of most important attributes one could possess.’

26042545-5C3F-428F-8E54-20F2FE593BBCFinally, it was with deep sadness I learnt that Fred Rohn passed away earlier this month. As some of you know, his daughter Barbara Vitelli at Book Club Mom helped him on his publishing journey. My sincere condolences to both Barbara and her family.

Rating:        4 out of 5 stars

Price:        Amazon US  $8.99 (paperback) $6.64 (Kindle)

Amazon UK  £7.95  (paperback)  £4.99 (Kindle)

107 thoughts on “ENCOUNTERS: A BOOK REVIEW

  1. roughwighting says:

    I guess I missed your review the first time! Probably because I was off computers for most of the earl summer. But I’m so glad that Barbara tweeted it because now I am so inspired by Fred Rohn’s ability to continue writing and being creative in his 80s. To be honest, I’ve always worried-what if my creativity and ability to write goes away as I get older? Barbara’s father proves that we can use our imaginations and talents no matter our age. Excellent excellent review. And Barbara, what a gift to be able to work with your dad on this book. 🙏

  2. jjspina says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book, Annika. Thanks for sharing your review. Sad to hear that this world has lost another talented author. His books will be his legacy and linger on to insure other writers like us. hugs xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Janice, it was so sad to hear about Fred’s passing and for a while I just couldn’t complete the review. Writers are always inspiring but it’s especially fantastic and inspiring when taken up as a craft later in life, or as my earlier in post, in still tender young years. A great book and I am now keen to read his first autobiographical book.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Julie, it was so sad learning that Fred had passed away and at first I couldn’t settle to write the review. I have a speical interest in short story collections now – for obvious reasons! – and couldn’t wait to read Encounters. A terrific read and yes, part of a wonderful writing legacy. Inspirational I feel.

    • Book Club Mom says:

      Hello Julie, thanks for taking a look at Annika’s review of my dad’s book. I am comforted by the fact that I can go back to these stories and hang on to a piece of him! He would be very happy to know that I’m typing away right now, talking about his writing!

  3. Baydreamer says:

    What a descriptive, engaging review, Annika, along with acting as a lovely tribute to Fred. I’m sorry to hear about his passing and convey my condolences to his family. It is important to reiterate that any creativity has no expiration date. So, that alone leaves your readers with great inspiration and encouragement to continue on their journey. Fred’s book sounds very interesting, so I’m adding it to my list. Thanks for this wonderful review and introduction. Hugs! 💕💕

    • Annika Perry says:

      Lauren, thank you so much for your tender and thoughtful comment. I was taken with Fred’s interest in writing and so impressed that he published not just one but two books – in his 90s. A third was on the way. It was hard to write the review at first since I’d just learnt of his death – and I wanted to do both him and his book justice. It means a lot that you found the review engaging. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, my friend. hugs xx

    • Book Club Mom says:

      Hi Lauren – it’s so nice to see you all talking about my father’s book. He would be so pleased. I am happy to have his books to remind me of how productive he was all through his years. Thank you for reading Annika’s review.

  4. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Thank you, Annika for this wonderful review. It’s almost like a tribute, and testament that creative doesn’t have an expiry date, indeed.

    “His first book, ‘A Fortunate Life’, was published last year when he was aged 91, followed by ‘Encounters’ this year”. What an inspiration!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Khaya, I think it is wonderful to have lived such a full life – it’s never easy to commit to writing and to start so late takes guts and courage! I agree, this is an incredible testament that creativity lives within us, whatever our age and hopefully for more to share their work. ‘A Fortunate Life’ is on my reading list, but just the title resonates with the positive energy of the man.

    • Book Club Mom says:

      Hi Khaya, Thank you so much for visiting Annika’s blog and for reading her review of my father’s book. It was such a pleasure to work with my dad on these two books – a real gift from him to me! I will be hanging on to these stories – they are a great comfort to me!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Tina, I was shaken when I heard about Fred’s death and must admit it stalled the whole review for a little. Then I realised it was an incredible achievement and only part of a whole legacy of his amazing life. So glad you found my review engaging and enjoy the book when you have a chance to read it.

  5. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I too want to write and be creative until the end of my days, Annika. I’m sorry to hear of Fred’s death, and yet how wonderful that he leaves this legacy to the world. The stories sound like they are rich with emotion, sensitive, thoughtful, and poignant. My condolences to Barbara. It must have been a treat to spend time with him while helping him along on his writing journey. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, how true that working on these books together must have been a wonderful time for both Barbara and her father. There is always so much to discuss, one can imagine the hours long conversations, discussions … treasured moments. Fred’s keen observation of the everyday, his wry take on events makes these unique and I was continually surprised by the endings. Here’s to writing!

  6. Jacqui Murray says:

    This sounds good, Annika. I think paying attention to consequences is a great theme. I had to laugh at ‘creativity has no expiration date’. True but as you get older, what seems creative is too often something you used to know and have now forgotten. My husband and I laugh that old shows we saw years ago now seem new!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, the detailed and keen observation in both detail of the time and of human behaviour makes this book such a success … all around conflict, and its consequence. Now I’m smiling at you and your husband seeing shows again as new … not bad when you can find the creativity there once again. I tend to see shows I’ve seen before and just squirm … some poorly made, scripted, acted … I question my judgement of the time but remind myself that this was then ‘new’ and ‘in’!

      Hope you’re having a great week!

  7. Davy D says:

    Thank you for the heads up and excellent review of this book Annika and I will endorse the thought that hopefully we will be writing well into old age. Another one for the summer list 🙂

  8. dgkaye says:

    Wonderful review Annika. I definitely will check out this book as I gravitate to reading such stories. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Fred. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Debby, a rewarding and fascinating collection of stories and one I am sure you will enjoy. I only recently saw an interview with Fred about his first book and he was so excited about being published, chatting about his writing and life – a sad loss indeed.

    • Book Club Mom says:

      Hi Debby – thank you for taking an interest in my father’s book and for reading Annika’s lovely review. It’s very comforting to know that his stories are getting some attention. Best wishes to you!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Eclectic is the perfect word to describe them, Mae! It was an honour to review the book here … and having publshed my own collection I am interested how others approach this genre – not as easy as it may seem!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Me too! His passion for life never seems to have wavered and I feel inspired by his love of life and never seeing any barriers to new adventures! Enjoy when you have a chance … some of the twists had me laughing out loud! Just perfect!

  9. Book Club Mom says:

    Reblogged this on Book Club Mom and commented:
    I am reblogging this wonderful review of Encounters by my father, Fred H. Rohn. What a great Sunday surprise! Thank you, Annika Perry, for such a thoughtful post. He would have been very pleased to know how much you enjoyed reading his short stories!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Barbara, it was an honour to read and review his book – a treasured book on my kindle!

      I am so sorry for your loss … and also that he never got to see how loved his book has become. The stories are all wonderfully varied, some had me laughing out loud, others so moving and tender – amazing versatility and skill in his writing.

      Love & hugs xx

  10. Book Club Mom says:

    Thank you, Annika – my father would have been so pleased to read your review. He was especially proud of Doc Brunner, which was a bigger undertaking and whose character is based on the pastor of his church in Hillside, New Jersey. My father really appreciated how this man understood teenagers who were about to face the realities of WWII. I’m sure he also would have loved how you “got” the subtleties of his other stories. As with any writer, these stories contain bits and pieces of his own experiences through his life. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Barbara, it was a delight to read ‘Encounter’ and to review it here. Thank you for saying he would have been pleased with it … it is so sad he isn’t here to ‘chat’ about his book. ‘Doc Brunner’ is one of a few stories I reread, there are so many nuances in that one alone … intricate and so many themes raised. It’s interesting to learn that it is based on a pastor at his own church … and how forward thinking to try and breakdown some of the restrictive practices of the society. On the one hand these young people were heading off into the world to fight, on the flip side, they were not even allowed to dance next to each other! An eye-opener for me!

      Was I right is saying that the last two were straight-forward autobiographical? He led the most amazing life and I am now keen to read his first book. An inspirational figure.

      I thought of your father at the weekend again as I met a 93-year-old man who was giving tours on a boat (more in a post later). The guy was incredible, fantastic stories, full lof joys of life despite losses, in the Royal Navy and in war at the age of 15!

  11. balroop2013 says:

    What a glowing tribute you have paid to Fred Rohn through your in-depth analysis of his stories! I agree with you Annika, creativity has no expiration date and an artist finds pleasure in creating till the last moment of his life. Fred seems to have lived a fulfilling life. May his soul rest in peace.
    Encounters seems to be a fascinating collection of stories as they explore relationships…a complex topic. I like the way you have described each story and how compelling it is due to the element of emotions that it carries along. Thank you for a brilliant review. Stay blessed!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Balroop, thank you very much for your lovely thoughtful comment. As you can tell I was captivated by every story but I hasten to add the ones I have written about here are just some of them! My original notes were of most of the stories as I became carried away with my note-taking but there was no way this would have made a viable review post! I think it is wonderful how he came to writing later in life and then approached it with such passion and dedication – an inspiration to us all! i haven an enjoyable week, Balroop. xx

    • Book Club Mom says:

      Hi Balroop – thank you for leaving such thoughtful comments about my father’s book. Annika wrote such a terrific review and portrayed his stories just as my father would have liked. It’s a great comfort to me to read these words and know that his book is getting some attention.

  12. Bernadette says:

    I, too, was taken by your quote. It now resides in my table side, handwritten quote book. This is a fascinating author. I definitely will put his writing on my to read list.

  13. delphini510 says:

    Thank you Annika for taking us along to meet this authour and doing it in such a loving
    and giving way.
    Your own quote : ” Creativity is wondrous gift and one that has no expiration date! ” got
    me from the beginning and I have that now among famed quotes.

    I love the way you show that age doesn’t matter when it comes to creativity. As a matter of fact the passion of what you do is probably what keeps some people so full of vitality.
    From your review I feel that Fred Rohan was a close observer of people and what made relationships work ….or not. As well as bringing in social norms.

    I am fascinated how his last story turns para normal with his dear mother visiting and even knows how to use computers. His mother’s quote is another one I will keep. How true and succinctly said. 💕🦋 .
    Brilliant review.

    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, thank you so much for your wonderful comment – it is filled with warmth and kindness. Are you sure you haven’t read the book?! You intuitively refer to his close observation of relationships and I feel this is something he studied all his life. I agree that a passion in life can help keep one full of vitality and Fred seems to have approached writing with dedication and exuberance! Here is to all of us following his mother’s wise words & Fred’s inspiring steps to become an author – to life our lives brimming with ‘imagination and intellectual curiosity’. xx

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