Book: The Wisdom of Les Miserables - Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean by Alfred J. Garrottocategories: Book, Victor Hugo, Inspirational Nonfiction, Catholic Nonfiction, Spiritual Memoir, Journaling, Spirituality, Jean Valjean, Catholic Spirituality, Douglas M. Lawson, Les Miserables
Alfred Joseph Garrottoabout this book: My goal with this book is to offer Victor Hugo's flawed protagonist, Jean Valjean, as a model for anyone in search of practical wisdom for everyday living. One of fiction's most beloved characters, the former convict and life-long fugitive, represents humanity in both its brokenness and its potential for selfless—even saintly—living.
• What inspired you to write this book?
I have read Victor Hugo's novel from cover to cover several times over my lifetime. With each reading, I am more impressed at the author's storytelling skills and his depth of understanding of human spirituality (expressed mainly in his protagonist Jean Valjean). In 2007, I decided to examine my own personal life and faith in light of Hugo's insights into human nature, when at its best and at its worst. I was also greatly influenced by the stage musical, which I have seen twice in person and a number times on DVD.
The result was a three-tiered meditation in which I mined the depths of the novel, reflected on my own life journey in light of novel, and invited readers to journal about their own lives (based on my personal reflection and the novel).
• Who are the primary readers for your book?
My primary audience is the reflective reader who will will follow me down the path of self-examination and journal about what they discover about themselves. Secondarily, any reader who loves the novel and the stunning stage version might enjoy seeing how Jean Valjean's story influenced one author to live and write about his experience.
• How did you come up with the title?
The main title came easily. "Les Miserables" is a gold mine of wisdom. What came after the colon, the subtitle, was very hard to nail down, but I finally settled on "Lessons from the heart of Jean Valjean." That felt right and it has stood up well since publication.
• Why did you choose this cover?
A friend and local SFO Bay Area artist named Douglas M. Lawson showed me a piece of art that he titled, "Val." It is a view of the inside of the human heart. I immediately recognized it as the perfect cover image for a book that is really about the human heart (spirit). Doug graciously consented to let me use the artwork on my cover. I have subsequently used another of his pieces on the cover of my novel, "The Saint of Florenville."
• What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Hardest was stripping away the layers of resistance to telling my story in its rawest form. I accomplished this only with the prodding of my insightful, supportive, and professional critique group.
• Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you love the novel and stage versions of "Les Miserables," you will appreciate my focus on the pearls of wisdom that lie hidden within every scene. If you are a journaler, you will find added value in the many reflections on my life as they might challenge you to explore your own life experience.
what to read next: if you read and liked this book...
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