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Great expectations for local author's first novel

Robert Friedland's new work darker than his book of short stories

The pages of Robert Friedland's new book, The Second Wedding of Doctor Geneva Song, transports readers into a cross-cultural world filled with lust, adultery, murder and forgiveness.

The Richmond author is already garnering rave reviews in the literary world. His first novel, but second book, has just hit the bookshelves.

If the reviews from prolific Canadian author R.G. Morse and CBC Radio-Canada producer, Jess Milton, are true, this novel will be a Canadian stand out.

The Second Wedding of Doctor Geneva Song tells the tale of a beautiful, strong willed young Chinese immigrant who falls in love with a man 20 years her senior.

The story follows their 20-year love affair, which is wrought by deceit and human frailty.

"In the book, I share an immigrant's journey, one who leaves her world behind in the great wave of immigrants from Asia to Canada," he said.

"I'm an immigrant myself and I still sometimes feel like an outsider."

Although the characters, Dr. Geneva Song and her husband Sam Victor, experience many difficult times, there is a tender love story that shines through.

"Geneva is a 30-something doctor who falls for her patient, a much older Jewish lawyer, and even though they love each other, everything goes wrong," said the 63-year-old human rights and employment lawyer.

"Yet, they bond and survive and work through difficult times and in the process discover surprising things about themselves.

"You see lots of Geneva through Sam's eyes, her struggles and all the things she overcomes."

Although, Dr. Song and Sam Victor are central characters in the book, prominent, too, is Sister Deri, Geneva's Spirit Sister - an ordained Buddhist nun, who later becomes a concubine and the most powerful woman in Canada's financial world.

"I don't want to divulge too much, but Deri is very much key to the story," said the author. "She starts her life as a country girl and you see her change as she creates economic wealth."

Friedland acknowledges some of the storyline is loosely based on his own experiences.

"I did once date a much younger Asian woman," he said, adding this novel is much darker than his first book of short stories, Faded Love.

"I understand the conflict that arises from dating a younger woman."

Friedland went on to say that because he deals on a daily basis with conflict and resolution issues in his private practice, it made writing about them in the book much easier.

The eight-year Richmond resident also said he found penning this novel cathartic.

"It's a great way to express situations in your life, whether frightening or troubling, that you might otherwise not talk about," said Friedland, a twice-married father of eight and grandfather of seven.

It took seven months to write his novel. As a practicing lawyer, Friedland had to write in the evenings and on weekends.

"I love to write in the Richmond Public Library or in coffee shops," he said.

Friedland vetted his manuscript to a few Asian friends for authenticity before he sent it to his publisher, Libros Libertad Publishing Ltd.

"I did my due diligence," Friedland added.

He said putting pen to paper thoughts of lost, unrequited or doomed love helps give meaning to difficult times he's experienced in life.

Meanwhile, Friedland recently learned that his first book, Faded Love (released in 2010), was selected by Canada's ReLit Awards for its long list of Best Books for 2010.

"From thousands of books, ReLit whittled it down to 100."

Many of the stories in Faded Love were also taken from his own experiences. The short stories tell poignant, funny and often sad yarns about human loss.

"A couple of stories from Faded Love are woven into the new book," said Friedland.

"The reason I wrote the novel was because after reading Faded Love, lots of people, friends, family and clients, told me they wanted more.

"This book is more fully realized as a novel, a much different form than Faded Love - I could have made it two times as long."

A native New Yorker, Friedland immigrated to Canada in 1978.

Although he went on to study and practice law, writing was a childhood passion which only burgeoned over the years.

"I took writing courses when I did my BA and MA," Friedland said.

It was writing political commentary that honed his skills.

At one time or another, Friedland has been a sheriff of a judicial district, an investigator for the United States Treasury Department, regional director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, Human Rights advisor for Malaspina University-College, a two-term city councillor in Victoria and chief lawyer for a group of seven First Nations in the Interior of British Columbia.

Friedland will hold a book launch with wine and appetizers on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, 950 West 41st Ave. in Vancouver.

Is there a sequel in the works?

"Yes, there is a whole second generation of characters to come out of this book which I can write about," he said.

For more information about The Second Wedding of Doctor Geneva Song or where to purchase a copy, visit www.bobfriedland.com or www.amazon.com.

mhopkins@richmond-news.com