Dear Reader by Elisabeth Amaral

The Writer’s Life newest feature, Dear Reader, gives authors a chance to talk to their readers - YOU!  
Today's guest is Elisabeth Amaral, author of the memoir, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup: A Memoir of Marriage, Mime and Moving On.


Dear Reader…

I am so pleased to have this opportunity to talk with you about my memoir, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup.

I wanted to write this book for so many reasons, yet the idea to do so came to me unexpectedly, while I was waiting in line at a Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. I was there to pitch a mystery book I was working on when I realized that what I really wanted to write was the story of my years from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies.

It had been an incredible time to be young, and my first husband and I, in our early twenties, were right in the middle of it – the sex, drugs and rock and roll era. I wanted to leave our history of that time for our son, born a year before the “Summer of Love.” And I wanted to recapture, for myself, the incredible, serendipitous journey that my husband and fell into.

We planned very little. We gave up our jobs and our New York City apartment and moved to Boston so that my husband could study mime. To support ourselves we made and sold beading earrings in the stores and on the streets of Harvard Square. To supplement that income he sold incense, and an order of two sticks of incense started us on a path that led to opening a children’s boutique that we named Czar Nicholas and the Toad. A few years later, a snowstorm led us to open Duck Soup, a popular restaurant in Harvard Square.

I rekindled former friendships from those years because I needed others’ recollections. Those renewed friendships pulled me through the three years it took to finish my memoir, because everyone I reconnected with was enthusiastic and offered their own memories, recipes, or photographs, and all are included in the book. The enthusiasm was so infectious that much of the writing was a joy.  A three-year labor of love, though there is much more to my story than a happy trip through memory lane.

I was twenty-six or twenty-seven years old when I first realized that my husband was gay. I could barely admit it to myself, and spoke with no one about it, because in those days homosexuality was hardly talked about and barely understood. Yet our friendship was so solid, our life so filled with our creative life and valued relationships that my new awareness changed nothing of our day to day existence. But it gave me a slow-building and profound self-doubt about myself, about my own sexual identity and desirability. This led me to make some risky choices, including a failed second marriage.

And yet, dear Reader, today I am with my third husband, and we have been together for almost three decades. That is another reason I wrote this book, because even at my darkest, most insecure times, I knew I would find happiness. I knew it. So I suppose you can say that my memoir is a book about hope, and it is told from my heart, and with humor. It is often quite amusing. I hope you enjoy the read. I have enjoyed talking with you. 

About the Author:

A native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.

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About the Book:

The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.

In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.
With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

"A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction.  The characters come alive on the page."  – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor's Wife and A Stranger Like You.

“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.
With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.”  – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician

“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach

For More Information

  • Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

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