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Salisbury author's book 'Snowflake on a Spider's Web' is inspired by her grandmother's secret

Snowflake on a Spider's Web is Salisbury resident Patti Fogt's first novel.

Salisbury resident Patti Laughlin Fogt is a travel nurse. She records veterans’ stories for the Library of Congress and she has also written a book titled “Snowflake on a Spider’s Web.” It’s set during World War II and the Holocaust. The novel deals with historical events of that period and it’s also a love story between families and a young couple trying to find peace during stressful times. Fogt says the idea for the book came from her interest in history and her grandmother’s heritage.

Patti Fogt: I found out my grandmother was Jewish later, in age, probably my thirties, and I wanted to honor my grandmother and honor the Jewish traditions. So I started studying the Holocaust, World War II, Jewish religion and I went to temple to figure out what my grandmother would have told me if she felt comfortable telling me.

Gwendolyn Glenn: Now, did your grandmother go through the Holocaust? Was she in a concentration camp? And why did she not tell anyone she was Jewish?

Fogt: We don't know all the things that she went through because she didn't tell us anything. And she was of that time period, of World War II, that something happened to her, that it was so monumental that she couldn't even tell us that she was Jewish. She didn't practice it because of fear. She didn't want us to go through anything that she had gone through. And that's all that I could get out of my father, who told me the story later in life.

Glenn: How did you find out she was Jewish?

Fogt: Well, it's funny because at Christmas time, she had this light that was in her front window. And it was later I realized it was the menorah. I just thought it was a Christmas decoration on my youth. And I asked my dad about it and he said, yeah, she was Jewish.

Glenn: Well, let's get to the book itself. The setting, where is this?

Fogt: Tokaji, Hungary. It's wine country. It has a river running through it. They have volcanic dirt! And that's what makes the wine so special.

Glenn: And all of that is in your book. There is the family that owns the winery, and the volcanic dirt, and then there is a family that own a butcher shop. Then there there's the couple who fall in love. Tell us a little about those two.

Fogt: They met on the river bank in this little town and she was trying to paint -- she's an artist. And you find out later in the story that he's a world-class violist. And they fall in love, eventually, and they are both Jewish and it's very, very dark in some areas and very lighthearted in some areas and very human.

Glenn: There are a lot of just wonderful times where there's lots of laughter, where the families are just so close and have all of these parties with dancing and humor -- but in the midst of it, they also talk about the war. And I love how each chapter you start with music. Chapter one, it says "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Judy Garland. "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday. Then you have a history note: "The Dual Alliance was an alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany, which was created by a treaty, October 7th, 1879, as part of Germany's Otto von Bismarck system of alliances to prevent the war." Chapter two, "Jeepers Creepers," Louis Armstrong with Orchestra. "Long Gone Blues," Billie Holiday. Then you talk about how Hitler orders planned the five year naval expansion program. How did you come up with that idea? I love it, I think it works great.

Fogt: Thank you so much. I studied the time period so much that I wanted music to be involved because the main character, male character, is a world-class violist. And music is very important to this family. And when you hear music, it jogs your memory -- that point in time, when you first heard that song. And I put the songs in order of the years that followed the succession of the book. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland was popular the same year that "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday was popular.

Glenn: And "Strange Fruit" referred to lynching and it was even banned for her to perform it at times. And then you add the history -- so as these people, as you say, as they're living their lives and falling in love and harvesting their grapes and all of that, all of this serious history is going on in terms of the Holocaust and World War II.

Fogt: Exactly. Isn't it true of us, at almost any period of human life, there is this juxtaposition of horror and terror going on in the world. You know, we look at Ukraine now. Life is going on still for the people there, but horrendous things are happening around them. And yet there's some part of us that still has love in the world. It's just -- parallels almost every generation. And this is what was happening in this generation. Sad, horrible things. And yet loving, wonderful things is.

Glenn: You could turn to page 92. The characters, Edgar and Eva. And you write about when they decide to leave the area and the war is getting closer and closer. And they are on the train and they're approaching Munich and they're terrified because the Nazis have boarded the train to see who's Jewish and who's not. So if you could read that for us.

Fogt: Eva made sure her hair was fully covered with a scarf to protect her from being recognized as a Jew. She did not make eye contact with the Nazi. Edgar would speak for her. The soldier took his whip and snapped it at her forehead, pushing her scarf back to reveal her thick black hair. Edgar wanted to beat him, take him down and shove the whip where he would never see it again. Wisdom and well-understood restraint stopped him in his tracks. The soldier looked at Eva in the eyes and gave a threatening grunt to her. She stood firm as a rock on the outside, dying on the inside, hoping this moment would pass as soon as possible. Disgruntled, the soldier stepped back into alignment with all the other soldiers. He must have been the one in charge. He marched all of them off the train. It left an indelible mark on Eva and Edgar. They would be sharper and more on their toes should anything like this ever happen again.

Glenn: And one of the songs that you have for this chapter is "I'll Remember." And as they said, that was something they would never forget.

Fogt: Exactly. Exactly.

Salisbury resident Patti Laughlin Fogt’s novel is titled “Snowflake on a Spider’s Web.” She will have a book signing on July 1 at Mean Mug Coffee in Salisbury, July 2 at Mean Mug Coffee in Charlotte, and a reading of her novel during the Hemingway Festival in Key West, Florida in mid-July.

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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.