This has been an eventful year for Meredith “Marty” Price ’66, who launched his first book, Gretel’s Cross, in March and celebrated the 50th anniversary of his Franklin College gradation in May. He gladly accepted an invitation from the alumni relations staff to march during Commencement with the class of 2016.
“What a neat opportunity!” said Price. “Being at Commencement brought back some great memories.”
Preparations for the latter didn’t take nearly as long as drafting, rewriting and producing his book of historical fiction. That production took approximately three years, but the stories it reflects were collected for nearly 35 years. During that time, Price was becoming better acquainted with and accepted by his in-laws, the family members who shared real-life stories that inspired his work.
Price explained, “It is somewhat unusual that an American decided to write about his same-sex partner’s German mother, Gretel. My own mother died while I was attending Franklin, so it made my eventual relationship with Gretel even closer.
“Gretel had a delightful and lively personality even though she had lived through decades of tragedy and many challenges. Writing about her was a great pleasure for me, and, fortunately, my work about her was accepted by her sons, Helmut and Hubert (Price’s spouse).”
Price’s book is set in Uberauen, a medieval walled-town in Germany, and takes place during the turbulent time between the two world wars. The book illustrates the impact of the economic collapse and the rise of the 3rd Reich on Gretel’s family. There was forbidden romance and suicide, as well as the normal joys of life.
The historical research the book required was literally a labor of love, according to Price.
“Going back to the town that inspired the book gradually grew to be like returning home myself. The family members, locations and German language associated with that place and time became a very dear chapter in my own life’s journey,” he said.
However, there were some challenges. After some of his in-laws saw a draft of the book, they didn’t want to identify their ancestors because of the scandalous nature of some of the stories.
For this reason and others the fictional aspect of the book was a necessity.
“Since many family members had died in the early 20th century, no direct contact was available to describe them in detail, so I just made up personalities and plots that created an imagined life cycle. We knew the end of their stories but not about their real lives, so I had to invent them. I later discovered that fiction literally imitated real life, as two characters in the book met through a newspaper ad as did the real-life individuals, Price said.
Price lived in Germany for 17 years and taught school there for the U.S. Army, giving him a foundation in the language, history and culture. He self-published the book with the help of Sagaponack Books & Design, of St. Augustine. It’s available on Amazon. He currently resides in Florida with his spouse.