Except for the talking turtle, the author's 2022 novel, Merlyn the Magic Turtle: A Story of Love and Justice, was entirely realistic. By contrast, this volume of stories and poems is based firmly in fantasy.
Talking animals and insects, numerous gnomes, and even talking vegetables are among the many colorful characters. Mother Earth gets psychiatric advice, there is a time-traveling sailing ship, and a trickster is tricked.
"Antigravity in the Graveyard," by far the longest story, features a nerdy physics professor and his pretentious nemesis, the dean of the department. The latter gets his comeuppance, as it were, in a most appropriate way.
Jewish mothers figure prominently: sometimes cooking, often criticizing or complaining, but always loving and loved. One man’s mother even proves that clothes do make the man — or in this case, the woman, one with super powers and devastating culinary skills.
The author is an avid gardener, and vegetable gardens are featured in many of the stories. Granted, the non-human characters in those spaces are far from realistic. Among them are a flying deer, a bargaining ant, and even a talking beet. But all are described in such loving detail that the reader can almost imagine that they did indeed appear to the author.
So, for at least a little while, slip the bonds of everyday life and let yourself be transported to these many scenes of adventure: most of them humorous, a few of them melancholy, and all of them brilliantly imaginative.
Centered on the upper part of the cover, a brilliant full moon rises above a lake, which reflects the moon in a silvery, vertical band of light. There is inky-black foliage to the left and right. The main colors on the cover are black, violet, and the gray-white of the moon; it's an enchanting, fairyland-like scene. The graceful cover letters are white, so as to stand out well against the dark background. The spine and back cover are white, with black letters in a plain font.
When Merlyn the turtle meets Leonard the man in the summer of 1968, neither of them can possibly know how their friendship will deepen and endure. Merlyn himself has no idea how he can talk. All they know, after a very short while together, is that they need one another. Each of them proves to be a willing listener to the other's litany of pain and lost relationships.
Several years before, Leonard's wife was badly injured in a terrible motorcycle accident. When the story opens, Leonard doesn't know where Carla is or what condition she's in. After the accident, Carla's father demanded that Leonard stay away from her forever.
Not long before that, Merlyn lost touch with Angela, the human girl he had grown up with. After her family was killed in a car accident, Angela was the only survivor. But where is she now?
Will man and turtle be reunited with the woman and girl from their pasts? And if they are, what will they find?
Complicating things for Leonard is that he has fallen in love again — this time with Kira, the nurse who cared for him after he himself was badly hurt in the motorcycle accident. Only gradually does he learn that she feels the same about him.
Throughout the book, Merlyn the Magic Turtle remains true to himself: often smart-mouthed, but always smart. He might well outlive all his human friends, but by the end of this imaginative and moving story, it's plain that he has enriched the lives of all of them.
Leonard Tuchyner looks back from the perspective of seventy-two years and realizes that life is not a spectator sport. It is filled with beauty, hardship, paradox, joy and suffering, and always there are the options of understanding and growth. Sooner or later, we retire from this life's game, whether we want to or not. The lessons are always about the journey, and the trip is always A Journey to Elsewhere.
He has tried to capture some of the poetry of this voyage in his book, in the hope that it will help the readers to appreciate the bitter and sweet of their own passages through their present lives. Many of his insights and experiences have been gleaned from forty-seven years as a psychotherapist in Virginia and Florida, in which people have shared their most intimate experiences — from the profane to the sublime — from the mundane to the spiritual. A lifetime of gardening, martial arts and love of nature has also been the source of inspiration and understanding.
The paperback edition of A Journey to Elsewhere is available at the following online stores:
Leonard Tuchyner was born in New Jersey in 1940. He has watched the world change dramatically yet remain, in some ways, much the same. His lifelong studies of spiritual and human issues have been strengthened by the counseling work he has done for 60 years. His own gradual path into blindness has brought him to an ever-growing understanding of disability and inequity, as well as compassion for self and others. His work as a counselor is now followed by a second vocation of writing poetry and prose, combined with facilitating writing critique groups and a long–continuing "Writing for Healing and Growth" group.
He has one published book of poetry, Journey to Elsewhere. Merlyn is his first published novel. In addition, he has had hundreds of poems and short stories published in magazines and anthologies.
Leonard lives in Virginia with his wife and two old dogs. His extended family includes four adult children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He is an avid gardener and enjoys playing the harmonica, with his wife on the piano.