Reading Corner | Author’s training brings authenticity to ‘Incense and Peppermints’

The most unpopular war in the history of this nation is brought to life from the viewpoint of a nurse in “Incense and Peppermints” by Carole Bellacera.

Her eighth book combines some of her own experience as a medical technician in the Air Force with an intense amount of research and passion. Although she served during the Vietnam War, Bellacera herself was not actually sent to the country. She nonetheless fulfilled her desire to honor the men and women who did, and in quite a realistic fashion.

Bellacera’s novel follows Cindy Sweet through her year of service in Vietnam as a nurse, which means a year of gruesome deaths, exertion to the point of mental and physical trauma, and disillusionment, but, above all, intense love. Just as Cindy came out of her time in Vietnam a different person, the reader does as well.

Cindy begins her service in the war-torn country as one could imagine most, if not all, men and women did. An understandable nervousness tore at the main character long before she set foot off the plane, but a determination that becomes one of Cindy’s defining traits steels her spine. She also possesses the ability to lock her emotions away in the back of her mind in order to function – a power that proves invaluable many times during her tour.

As is the course of war, Cindy loses whatever naivete she had, and through this forced age of growing up, she also bravely tries to see the best in humanity (which becomes increasingly difficult with each loss). These conflicting pieces of Cindy reach a peak when her fiance is declared killed in action. Just when she is about to go crazy with the anguish of loss, she is saved by the love of others.

In spite of the many great and terrible personal losses Cindy faces, or perhaps because of them, she begins to love more strongly than ever, even as the emotion fills her simultaneously with dread and fear. Again and again, in the midst of the terrible Vietnam War, Bellacera’s characters are beaten down only to return stronger than ever.

Thanks to Bellacera’s knowledge of being in the medical field of a military branch, her novel has a definite amount of authenticity, with the vocabulary and procedure to back it up. This self-published author also provides plenty of what life was like outside the hospital, making the backdrop of the Vietnam War all the more real.

While there are some grammatical and publishing errors spread throughout the book, Bellacera’s novel of loss and love does not forgo any heart. Through all the tragedy, this is a story of humanity and how war affects the perception of government, of God, of themselves. Most importantly, Bellacera has represented the men and women who served their country and wrote an epic on the wounds of life and the healing that follows, a healing that hopefully transitions into strength.

Emily Smith, For The Sun News

NMB Library Friends program to feature Hare

Sally Z. Hare, distinguished professor emerita at Coastal Carolina University will join the Friends of the North Myrtle Beach Library at “Coffee With Friends” April 2 at 10 a.m. in the Meeting Room of the library. Light refreshments will be available.

Hare has just released her new book, “Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do: Stories of the Journey to Live Divided No More.” The book has been described as “an extraordinary glimpse inside the human journey, to live with integrity, with wholeness, by 21 diverse people who share their stories with stunning honesty and openness.” She has invited three of the contributors to join her and speak about their individual journeys that have been shared in the book. Questions will be taken from the audience.

Hare is a senior facilitator of the National Center for Courage and Renewal. She was dean of graduate and continuing education at CCU for 12 years before retiring. She has received many awards, including Phenomenal Woman of South Carolina in 2003 and the 2002 Woman of Achievement Award from the S.C. Governor’s Commission on Women. She also has written a children’s book, works with Courage to Teach and is president of still learning inc.

The program is free and open to the public. The North Myrtle Beach Library is at 910 First Ave. S., North Myrtle Beach. Call 915-5281 for more information.