By Leslie O’Donnell
For the News-Times
The close friendship of three Newport women — Carla Perry, Sara Lou Heimlich and Jess Bondy — has led to the publication of their first novel, filled with adventure and romance, and laced with real-life livability challenges.
The trio of authors of “The Jew Girls Adventure Series: You Can Call Me Andy” have been friends for 20 years. They decided to create a book that spoke to their many long, serious and humorous debates around the dinner table, but the underlying goal has always been to help each other stay sane during COVID, and to have fun.
“When COVID started, we were able to get together in our isolated bubble,” said Carla Perry, one of the book’s authors. “I wrote up a proposal and asked if anyone wanted to write a book. I was looking at it as a way to have more joy in my life.”
“My thought was, ‘let’s see where it goes,’” said fellow author Jess Bondy. “Carla was our inspiration. I never knew I’d be involved with the creative process, but it gave me some confidence to do something new.”
“We wrote mostly to keep ourselves sane during COVID,” added author Sara Heimlich. “We would tell each other stories about growing up.”
“It’s truly been a collaborative process,” said Bondy. “The process was new and fresh to me. We would get together and have fun. And we’d take our time.”
“It was writing by committee,” Heimlich said.
“We spent months developing characters before we ever started to write,” Perry said. They devoted those months to getting to know the characters, each friend taking one character and developing its mannerisms and personality.
“Once we had a character, they could be put into any structure and we’d know how they would react,” said Perry, noting they taped conversations, then transcribed them for dialogue.
But in spite of the work, the women had fun, which was the point of their effort. “The best time was when all of a sudden, something clicked and we’d all start laughing,” Bondy said.
The book follows three Jewish friends “of a certain age” as they visit Maui to save a solar project. Also traveling with them is Andy, a talking German shepherd/collie “Secret Service” dog, inspired by a dog once owned by Perry. A pet iguana awaits their return home.
The authors weave a story that starts out seeking revenge and quickly becomes a fast-paced adventure. In Maui they encounter nefarious characters, end up at a Jewish commune’s Purim celebration, and sleuth their way to a seat at the table of a solar investment group. It’s full of shenanigans, romance, and long-lasting friendship even as the trio plots to solve real-life livability problems in Newport. And just as inescapable as it is in today’s world is the presence in the background of “a certain big shot ex-politico now ensconced on a golf course in Florida.“
The three main characters frequent locations local readers are likely to know, with references to such places as Oceana Natural Foods Coop and the Lincoln County Humane Society thrift shop.
The book also touches on local issues, including affordable housing, sexism and solar power. And the authors say there are places in the book that still make them laugh out loud.
And then there are the Jewish holidays — celebrated together by the authors as well as the book’s main characters. Both the writers and their creations affectionately call themselves the Jew Girls.
The book is published by Bubbelah Press, a new imprint of Dancing Moon Press. Bubbelah is a Yiddish term of endearment, which falls right within the writers’ description of the book as filled with fun and joy.
And it’s not over — Perry has started a file for the group’s next book. “It’s our hobby,” she said. The authors say the book is reminiscent of the Nancy Drew adventure series.
While Heimlich and Bondy are new to fiction writing — Heimlich was a whale biologist and graphic artist and Bondy was a senior planner with Lincoln County for more than 30 years — Perry brings decades of experience as an award-winning writer and publisher and founded Writers On The Edge and the Nye Beach Writers’ Series. She has written several books of poetry and the novel “Riva Beside Me,” which was transformed into a stage play.
Former local resident Sarah Gayle created the cover illustrations of Maui and Newport.
While the three writers are Jewish, they each came to embrace their culture later in life.
“I always knew the book was going to be Jewish-based because we were the Jew Girls to ourselves — that’s what we’ve affectionately called ourselves for years,” Perry said. ”And that’s why the title of the book is “The Jew Girls Adventure Series.”
Some people may see that as a derogatory name, but that’s far from what is intended. “As we worked on the book, we felt it was very natural to use that term,” Perry said. “We knew some people might take offense, but it came naturally to us. It is an affectionate term.”
Heimlich said they discussed the title and the possibility people might be offended, but emphasized, “it’s an endearing term that we use ourselves.”
“We stand by it,” Bondy added.
And while writing the book has added to the trio’s closeness, it has also boosted their sense of being Jewish.
“I was not raised religious but I always felt culturally connected,” Bondy said. “Having this group of friends is very meaningful and helps me connect to Judaism. The Jew Girls was our eating group!”
“We told stories about how we ended up in Newport and how our ancestors ended up where they did,” Perry added.
Heimlich said the group’s Passover Seder meals began more than 20 years ago — Perry was invited to host them because she had a table that could seat 14.
“And we all knew how to make the food,” Bondy said. “When I think about our boisterous conversations, I can taste the chopped chicken liver!”
“Every year it fills me with identity, connects me, and gives me hope,” Perry said.
Heimlich added that attending the Passover meals taught her what it means to be a Jew in a way that makes sense to her.
“I’m proud to have my name on the book,” Bondy said.
“It’s been fun,” Perry concluded. “That’s why we did it, and it worked.”
Copies of the book will be for sale (cash or check only) and available for signing at a book release celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the South Beach Community Center, 3024 SE Ferry Slip Road, across from Fish Tails restaurant and Aquarium Village. Admission is free; light refreshments will be available, and brief readings will occur every half hour.
Also, a book reading is set for the Nye Beach Book House, 727 NW Third St., from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 10.
The book can also be borrowed from local libraries.
“The Jew Girls Adventure Series” can be purchased directly from any of the authors for $15. If the book needs to be mailed, add $5 for shipping and handling, and send a check for $20 made out to Carla Perry, Bubbelah Press, P.O. Box 832, Newport, Oregon. For more information: visit firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 541-574-7708.