Two authors, two very different books, each telling an inspirational tale that’s grounded in the sands of our local shoreline. And beyond the pages of these two recently published works, there exists a personal backstory of love, loss, self-discovery and reconciliation — one that should resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like a fragmented object, cast adrift on a vast and chaotic sea.
When Middletown Public Library hosts the latest in its ongoing series of author appearances Thursday evening, it will offer readers a double-header book signing event that spotlights the skills of two writers who make their home on the greater Red Bank Green: Guy Cash Fleming, a retired pharmaceutical industry professional whose “For the Love of Sea Glass” represents his first published work — and Yolanda Navarra Fleming, the young veteran journalist who collaborated with Leo Cervantes on the local restaurateur’s engaging memoir “Chilangos in the House: The True Story of a MexiCAN.”
The authors’ common surname is no coincidence, as they were husband and wife for some 15 years. It was a time during which they brought two children into the world, pursued interests that ranged from woodworking, coin collecting and membership in a Springsteen tribute band (him) to playwriting, visual art and belly dance instruction (her); saw the shadow of 9-11 cast a pall over their wedding anniversary; rebuilt their home in the aftermath of Sandy. But — as Yolanda wrote recently in a candid post to the website Elephant Journal — a subsequent affair, separation and divorce left both of them ready to once more “be our best selves to work together as a team;” not only as parents, but as partners in a creative project that’s all about rediscovery, renewal, and rededication.
Described as “an adult storybook” and illustrated with color photographs by the author, “For the Love of Sea Glass” was inspired by numerous walks on area beaches taken by Guy in the wake of his marriage’s dissolution — solo excursions during which he discovered “an engaging new hobby that provides a looking glass for new direction that eventually leads him from darkness to light and the pursuit of happiness.” Photographing examples of sea glass — those variously colored bits of onetime detritus that find their way back to shore after tumbling in the ocean, sometimes for decades — led the amateur craftsman to begin creating custom jewelry items from the colorful objects he reclaimed from the sea.
That newfound interest in “how sea glassing satisfies an array of human needs, such as the need to clear one’s mind, the hunting and gathering need, the shopping urge, the hobby of collecting, and taking the time to walk and think to sort out the mysteries of life” also led Guy to approach his ex-wife, a former correspondent for the Asbury Park Press and a contributor to numerous periodicals and websites, for assistance in editing the manuscript. The couple’s collaboration on the highly personal project sparked a renewed partnership in creating handcrafted items for the home under the name Groovy Beach House, and inspired Guy to double down on his “Zen hobby,” by offering his jewelry items for sale through Etsy and other outlets.
As Yolanda writes, a seaside walk with Guy yielded another unexpected treasure, when “he said he had written a new section of the book that needed attention. It was a written marriage proposal that rendered me speechless. Then he handed me an engagement ring he had made out of beautiful green sea glass.”
The daughter of Middletown’s Tova Navarra, author of the 2015 volume “New Jersey Artists Through Time,” Fleming collaborated with the owner/ chef/ host of the acclaimed Highlands restaurant Chilangos for her first book credit, as Cervantes spins an inspiring account of his poverty-stricken childhood, his absentee father, his loyal siblings, and the smart, creative, hard-working mother who taught her children how to make the best of any situation. It’s a positively charged story of a self-described “Mexi-CAN” and his love for both his old-country roots and his American home, laced with an appreciation for “the sensuality of Mexican food, and the power of human connection.”
Signing copies of “For the Love of Sea Glass” and “Chilangos in the House” will be available for purchase at Thursday evening’s event, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the MTPL Community Room. And, if you’re wondering what happened after that little walk on the beach, Yolanda reports that October 25 has been set as the date in which the Flemings — authors, artists, partners, storm-tossed drifters who found their way back to each other — reaffirm their vows of marriage.