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Holly Christine

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The Nine Lives of Clemenza
by Holly Christine   

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Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Holly Christine ISBN-10:  0557056209 Type: 


Copyright:  March 19, 2009 ISBN-13:  9780557056200

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The Nine Lives of Clemenza takes us on a heavenly journey to the outskirts of the universe. Here we meet Clemenza, a new soul in heaven, waiting patiently to meet God and decide what form her first life will take. As we follow Clemenza through her lives as air, the northern lights, a bald eagle, and human beings, we learn important life lessons. Roles are reversed and souls intertwine during Clemenzaís many lives, as she learns the meaning and importance of pain, grief, loss, love and passion.

If you were able to choose what form of life you would live, what would you be? The Nine Lives of Clemenza explores the realms of spirituality and reincarnation. It introduces the possibility that as complex souls, we choose our lives, thus giving us the ultimate capability of free will. Clemenza starts out as a new soul in heaven, contemplating what form of life she will take to begin her journey. God grants each new soul nine lives, provided they bring back a moral lesson learned. Clemenza is diverse in her choices, exploring every facet of existence from air to the northern lights to a human being. Roles are reversed and souls intertwine during Clemenza’s many lives, as she learns the meaning and importance of pain, grief, loss, love and passion.

The Beginning

Clemenza started out as we all do. Billions of miles away from Earth. Just outside of the universe. In heaven. There are millions of people who debate and philosophize religion, but its actually really simple. Our universe is gigantic. And full of energies. Just outside of the universe is heaven. You can never see it until you are there and you can never imagine what it is actually like until you are there. And God created all of the energies in our universe. He created the energies and then let them roam. He has given each ball of energy the ability to choose its own destination. This is the choice that we have. And sometimes we make mistakes. So, because of these mistakes, we get a few chances. Nine, to be exact.
She waited patiently in line as we all do, waiting to meet her Maker and waiting to meet her fate. She was faceless then. Just one body of energy. No legs, no arms. She had no distinct characteristics of any being, because she wasn't one yet. Only a voice and a mind that allowed her to make choices. She was only her self, her soul. This was her first time in line to meet God.
Waiting in line in heaven is just like waiting in line for anything else, but much, much faster. God sees millions of His creations a day, all around the clock, and helps all of them with their choices. Itís a line with white velvet ropes on each side, though no one would dare to jump line. No one could possibly be that impatient. There is no real, solid floor; only a white powdery substance that a smart Angel threw down so that those with a fear of heights could handle the view.
And what an amazing view. Those bored in line could watch the distant planets and stars spinning, some in control, some very out of control. They could see the stars beginning and the stars ending. Black holes, quite a spectacular sight to see, were enveloping everything around them. More energies were popping up at the end of the line every few seconds.
The two in front of her were more experienced. Clemenza could tell that they had already had a life or two. One was some sort of reptile from Earth, and the other was a microorganism from another planet... the one that God was still experimenting with. The microorganism named himself Sally. When he introduced himself as Sally, Clemenza asked, "Isn't that a female name?" to which Sally replied, "There is no such thing. You must be new."
Sally was complaining and that is also how Clemenza knew he was experienced. Sally said that God had better hurry up with his plans for the other planets. He said that God was playing favorites with Earth, that all of the other planets were suffering because of this favoritism.
"Do you know how many organisms exists on Earth, Clemenza?" Sally asked.
She was dumbfounded. Didn't they already establish that Clemenza was new? How would she know anything yet? If Clemenza had a mouth, it would be opened, jaw dropped. But she didn't yet. Before Clemenza could get a word in, Sally continued.
"Billions. Not even a million are on Mars, and he burned up the Sun. He made the Earth green. He made it smell wonderful. He gave it water to support life. Everyone who goes there succeeds. I have only visited once and I plan to go back this time."
The reptile cleared her throat to interrupt Sally's ranting.
"Excuse me, but what were you on Earth?" the reptile asked.
"I was a fly. I was there less than three days. I was happy, too. Flying around all over the place. Then on the third day, there I was, minding my own business, when WHACK! I flew right into a spider's web. I was eaten that night."
"Why didn't you just beg the spider to eat something else?" Clemenza asked. She thought it seemed pretty simple.
Sally laughed. "You are too young! Lemme tell you this... wherever you go, you only understand your own species. That spider had no idea what I was screaming, and good thing, too. Terrible words were coming out of my mouth. What a disappointing life! Anyway, itís only in heaven that we all understand each other. When you go to other places, you will see."
Clemenza started to create a picture of life. She knew that when it was her turn, that God would ask her what she wanted to become. God would create her into whatever she wanted, but it was up to her whether or not she would succeed. That was why everyone was given nine lives. After nine lives you could choose to retire and live in His Tenth Life Retirement Community, you could choose to go back to one of your previous lives, or you could apply to work with God as an Angel. The requirements for the position were strict, and all depended upon how you lived during your nine lives.
As she got closer to God, she could hear the infamous Angelic Harmonic Orchestra. Clemenza immediately felt inspired and beautiful. The parts that she loved the most were the deep percussion of the drums and the gorgeous melody of what Sally told her were Angel violins. Moving along the line, Clemenza stared at the Angels, with their white robes and ever changing faces. Their wings were long and thick and pointed towards the skies of heaven when they got to their own solo parts in the song that never ended. She decided then that no matter what she chose to be, in the end, she wanted to be an Angel.
"You'll get used to the noise, kid. Once you get down to wherever you're going, the music stops." Sally was trying to sound like he knew it all and was unimpressed by the sounds, but Clemenza could tell by the waiver in his voice that he too was moved by the music as they neared God.
As they neared the gate that led to the walkway that led to God's room, Clemenza asked Sally what he wanted to become now.
"I've only got three lives left, kid. And I want to be a human for all three of them. God told me the last time I was here that with my strong personality and will, I could help other planets to thrive. But I don't want to. You never know what is going to happen. I just want to be comfortable."
Clemenza watched as Sally entered the white gates and walked along the cosmic clouded path to God. Sally turned back once, or so Clemenza thought. It was hard to tell what direction a microorganism was looking.
Outside of the gates were brochures for all of the destinations you could imagine, or really what God could imagine. They were endless. He was probably the most creative guy ever. But the most popular brochure was the one on Earth. Clemenza gazed at the front cover, and wondered why Sally said that God favored Earth. The front cover was simply a picture of Earth from heaven. With its mixture of greens and blues and whites, Clemenza thought that it looked like the right place to start out.
Most of the other planets, all throughout the universe, started out the same as Earth. But a few things happened that made the planet so habitable. The first was its position to the Sun. Not too hot, not too cold. It also had water, to support life. Earth also possessed a singular, loyal moon, which created the seasons and the tides. It wasn't that God favored Earth, things just worked out there. In the beginning, He had imagined little planets just like Earth everywhere throughout the universe, but it just didn't happen. Because he gives everyone this freedom, to do as they wish during their lives, He has no control over what happens. He made everything, sure. But He can't make it any better or any worse. Itís all up to us.
The second page of the brochure was an alphabetical listing of all of God's creations. Next to each creation was a number to let the reader know how many had chosen each creation. The numbers were always changing. Even as Clemenza stared at the page, the numbers increased. Down the list she saw a short three-letter creation that seemed very simple, and simple was probably the best place to start off.
When God called out for Clemenza, she heard the Angels playing the violins and when she turned back, she saw one of the angels wink at her. Why would anyone want to leave here, she thought, but then again, there were so many places to go, and if God created each one of them, they had to be just as good.
God was exactly what Clemenza expected. He had a long white robe just like the Angels. He had big brown tired eyes. He probably never slept. His arms were very long and his voice was very gentle. His eyebrows were gray and bushy and he had a long beard that Clemenza could see growing, just getting longer and longer and twirling around him and covering his office. By the time she was in the office, the beard had covered nearly everything.
And then he spoke. "That is because I know what you expected, and I want you to be comfortable. I am ever changing, and I am everything to everyone. But all together, we are just balls of energy, and you have just as much power, you just don't know how to use it."
With that He smiled. Clemenza was speechless. She handed Him the brochure and pointed to the word that she wanted to be.
"Air. An interesting first choice, Clemenza. The only advice I can give you is this... prepare to be amazed, violated, choked, and loved. No one will know what to do with you, and no one knows all that you do. You have chosen to be one of the most essential parts of life on Earth. Good luck. Also, when you get back, I would like for you to prepare a short speech on your life as Air. I want to know what lesson you learned. That is the only way that you can move along to the next life."
With that, his beard disappeared and his head turned bald, glasses came from somewhere, his robe became a short white jacket. Someone must have pictured God as a doctor of some sort.
Before she could say anything, she was tumbling fast to her first life.

Professional Reviews

The Nine Lives of Clemenza by Holly Christine
From The Self Publishing Review, Henry Baum

The Nine Lives of Clemenza bears a resemblance to C.S. Lewisís Space Trilogy - a trilogy of science fiction novels with Christian parables. It would be totally inaccurate to call this book both science fiction and Christian fiction, as it revolves around the concept of reincarnation, which is not readily a part of Christianity unless you go all the way back to the Gnostics. The novel does originate in ďheavenĒ so it has Christian echoes, but it is more of a general story about spirituality and morality with more universal appeal than a book that adheres to one religion.

What makes it similar to C.S. Lewis Ė a theologian as much as a novelist Ė is its inventiveness when describing complex spiritual issues. Holly Christine is a clearly spirited and inventive writer and she finds unique ways to describe her subject. The novel is about Clemenzaís many reincarnations and wisdom she learns in each new body. For example, in one reincarnation she becomes the wind:

Clemenza watched him grow. And it was a tough life on Earth for Clemenza. Strong winds blew her around and sometimes right near the faces of unknown humans. She had close calls with death, each and every dayÖ.She watched the boyís mother and father leave for work everyday. She watched the boy catch the bus every morning for school. She caught the wind and watched him through the window of the bus, just as she watched him for the first time on the plane. And he watched her back. Wherever he was looking, Clemenza was always there. She was there when his parents were screaming at each other downstairs. She was there to watch him cry himself to sleep and sometimes gasp for breath between his cries.

Not to be too much of a spoiler, Clemenza eventually saves the boyís life whoís suffering from an asthma attack Ė killing herself in the process by being absorbed in his body. There was some concern in the early going that the novel was going to be a bit episodic Ė a book in nine sections, each with a self-standing reincarnation story and a new life lesson - a kind of Aesopís Fables about reincarnation. But she does a good job of connecting these different lives together. For example, when she becomes an eagle, she is eventually shot by the same boy she saved earlier.

Thatís as far as Iíll go with spoiling how the book unfolds. The basic theme in the book is how weíre all connected and everything is alive. Itís a spirited and fun book to read, and even if you donít believe in reincarnation, itís thought-provoking to wonder what it might be like if it were true.

All that said about the book - and all Christine does to try to weave the stories together - it does have a more episodic feel than the traditional novel. It might be even more effective pared down as a childrenís book with fewer words on a page and illustrations for all of the different things the character witnesses in heaven and on earth. Itís a highly colorful and creative book, but it might be better served as a shorter work, which would be more page-turning and maybe even more expressive than the book is in its current state.

Generally though, itís an interesting premise told with humor, rather than proselytizing, and people who enjoy religious fiction will find a lot to enjoy in this book.

The Nine Lives of Clemenza by Holly Christine
From, by Phil Owens

This is probably the hardest book Iíve read so far to review; it is certainly the most unusual. Holly categorises her book as spiritual fiction, but I think she is underselling her market. I think this has a much wider appeal than that, I would certainly add it to the philosophical genre. Whilst I enjoy stories with a spiritualist slant (The Left Behind Series), I donít like it rammed down my throat. Holly has a very light touch when it comes to religion, and I enjoyed the scenes with God that were told with almost a touch of irreverent comedy.

Each chapter is a story in its own right, but each has the common thread of Clemenzaís enlightenment running through them. I use that word in its lightest sense, as while Clemenzaís story is one of enlightenment, it is full of actions and consequences that could be applicable in most peopleís lives.

I am not sure that Holly would agree, and Iím positive that most deeply religious people would be aghast, but I found quite a few similarities between this story, and Robert Heinleinís Stranger in a Strange Land. This is not a sci-fi book, and itís certainly not as questioning about religion, but the theme somehow reminded me of that.

As someone educated by Jesuits, I have an automatic aversion to anything, or anyone, pushing religion. As with most of us who were educated by these soldiers of Christ, I now have my own beliefs that bear little in common with their teachings.

What I Most Liked:
I loved the way that this book made me think. I donít think Iíve read a book for quite some time, that caused me to pause for thought after each chapter.

What I least Liked
I must admit, there wasnít much to dislike about this story. I donít think itís for everyone, but saying that, it should appeal to most people.

Will the general public buy this book? I donít know. But if they donít, then they are missing a great little story that is very well told. I would be more than happy to buy a book from Holly, and I look forward to her writing another.

Authorís Information:
Holly Christine is writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She studied English and Philosophy in college, and currently works in the financial industry. The Nine Lives of Clemenza is her second novel, and Holly is currently working on her third. She lives with her husband, and loving dog Clemenza. You can keep up to date with what she is up to at her website.

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Reader Reviews for "The Nine Lives of Clemenza"

Reviewed by Claude Bouchard 7/23/2009
The Nine Lives of Clemenza is a clever depiction of how we can be whatever we want to be since we are the ones who choose our destiny. Clemenza is presented in an innocent, almost childlike manner in the way that she continues to be awed by her experiences throughout her various lives, Funny at times, touching or sad at others but enjoyable throughout!

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