I was both thrilled and surprised to learn that BookWorks, the Self-Publishers Association, named my short story “Ino’s Love” their Book of the Week.
I was surprised it was selected because it’s not a new or current release. It was published on Amazon in 2013,* and, although it has gotten excellent reviews, it doesn’t get much traction. I promote it during Christmas, obviously, and also during my annual Christmas in July events. But it’s a niche story so it spends a lot of dormant time in the basement of the Amazon bookstore. Still, Ino is a treasured character of mine and her story is one of my favorites.
Sometimes the people who love us best are not family.
Elderly Ino prepares a delicious Italian Christmas feast for her successful CEO son, but when he’s too busy to spend the holiday with his mother she shares her dinner and gifts with her home health aide. A heartwarming story about giving and forgiveness.
21 pages. Rated 4.7 out of 5 stars.
I don’t remember what inspired me to create the characters of Ino and Ruby, but it must have been work-related because I was working as a hospital case manager at the time. My days were filled helping patients and their families find ways to remain comfortable and cared for at home when faced with long-term illness or disability. I have a soft spot for patients like Ino, and respect those who care for them with integrity and help them to maintain their dignity. I wanted to share their story, the story millions of our elderly citizens and their home health aides live each day.
When I started writing, I temporarily named Ino “June,” after a lovely patient of mine, but I didn’t feel it was right for this character, an elderly woman living in New York’s Little Italy. As I wrote I pondered many old school Italian names. Nothing seemed right, until I stumbled upon the name “Innocenzia.”
I saw it on the business card of a physician I worked with and asked her about it. “Everyone calls me Ino,” she said, and I knew at once that was the name of my heroine. The title naturally followed as this was the story of Ino’s great love not only for her son but for Ruby, the home health aide who brings pleasure and comfort to her small, lonely life.
The dinner was also a pleasure to imagine and write. My own family’s Christmas celebrations always include Italian specialties like manicotti, homemade tomato sauce, garlic bread, Chianti, and cannolis. I am very familiar with preparing these meals and delighted in showing Ino hard at work in her tiny kitchen, attempting to pull off this meal on her own, exhausting herself in the process. But it was for Ray, her beloved son, coming to visit on Christmas Eve eve, and nothing would deter her: Not diabetes, nor heart failure, nor Ruby.
I thanked the folks at BookWorks for honoring Ino in this way, and they said they thought it was “perfect for the holiday.” And it is. Ino’s Love is a story of love and forgiveness, of kindness and generosity, of doing and caring for others. The perfect Christmas message.
* Ino’s Love was originally published in 2009 by Kaleidoscope Magazine through United Disability Services, Akron, OH.