This Saturday afternoon was an event that I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it was years in the making: a Zoom reading of David Zarko’s play based on Daniel Grotta’s novella Honor.
I wasn’t the only audience member with tears in my eyes throughout the performance, and that wasn’t unexpected. Readers of Daniel’s small book have long reported how soulful and emotional the story is. Hardened, street-wise individuals have written me (and when he was alive, Daniel) that Honor made them openly cry, even in public.
Honor is the story of Jeff Smith who, as his bully of a brother-in-law Gene Engelhardt is fond of retelling, is “what the cat dragged in.” He’s a scruffy, bearded hippie who Gene’s sister Bonnie fell in love with decades ago, after meeting at a Washington peace rally against the Vietnam War. Even shaved and doing whatever the Engelhardts wanted, his in-laws never accepted or approved of Jeff. Now, Jeff is saddled with a family, a dead-end job, and, after Bonnie died of cancer, a mountain of debt. Only Jeff has a secret and a unique possession that could possibly solve his financial problems and help his daughter realize her dream – if he can ever overcome the guilt and shame that has haunted him for over thirty years.
Set in Black Bear, PA, Honor asks us to consider what it is to be honorable, in the eyes of others and in your own heart. Is it what you’ve done or who you are? But mostly, it’s a story about the fragility and power of the human heart. (Incidentally, Black Bear is also the setting of my novel Jo Joe, and of one of my current works-in-progress Women of a New Moon, as well as an as-yet unpublished novel by Daniel: Adam V.)
I was thrilled to see Daniel’s vision come alive on my computer screen, as I watched the Zoom reading. David has done a top-notch job translating the story into a powerful script. And the cast gave a performance that was riveting, with rich, fully textured characters. Daniel would have loved it.
Keep an eye out for this play. It’s going to be a WOW when it eventually comes to a live theater. (For information about the availability of the Honor play for production, contact David Zarko.)
In the meantime, if you want to read Daniel’s novella Honor, it’s available in print and eBook, and may be purchased from all bookstores, including Amazon, Bookshop.org and an independent bookstore near you.
P.S. It was Daniel’s wish that I provide a free eBook of Honor to any U.S. veteran. Please use this site’s contact form to tell me about your service, and what eBook format you would prefer – Kindle mobi, ePub or PDF.