Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Marie Benedict Packs the Lockport Library

The Wheeler Room at the Lockport Library was filled to capacity and the overflow crowd spilled into the atrium as author, Marie Benedict, stopped in for a visit. This year’s “One Book, One Community” author talk featured The Other Einstein, a book that took a deeper look into the life of Mileva Maric, the first wife of physicist, Albert Einstein. Judging by the crowd Tuesday evening, Benedict’s book was very popular among readers in the NIOGA system.

Benedict was a New York City lawyer for a decade, earning degrees from Boston College and Boston University School of Law. During her time as a commercial litigator, she would sneak off to take classes at Columbia in her areas of interest -- history and archaeology. She wanted to find the bigger truths hidden in history, and decided that she could explore them through writing historical fiction.

She was a gracious guest right from the beginning of the talk, telling her audience that the “One Book, One Community” event was a highlight for her. “Having you connect with my book is such a blessing,” she said. “I want to write stories that I hope will connect with people.”

During her middle school years, her aunt pushed her to think beyond what was written in books and generally known. There is a lot more to learn if you just dig deep enough. A book, The Mists of Avalon, opened her eyes to the hidden worlds and stories possible in history. That female-centric book made her realize that women’s stories from the past needed to be unearthed.

How did this book come to be? It began with her two, young sons who were reading Who Was Albert Einstein? As they were reading the book, they learned that Einstein’s first wife was a physicist. At that point, Benedict jumped fully into the rabbit hole, researching and reading about Mileva Maric and her life.

“I immersed myself in the topic. I discovered a whole new world. This woman was important, not just a footnote in Albert’s life.”

There has long been speculation that Mileva contributed to Einstein’s early works. When a series of love letters were discovered in 1986, revelations of the possibility of Mileva assisting Einstein on some his great works arose. Historians and physicists poured over the new finds, ultimately agreeing that there was nothing to prove the collaboration despite the fact that his wife was more than capable. Benedict counters that finding with one simple sentence.

“Prove to me that she didn’t work with Albert on his theories.”

Marie Benedict enthralled the patrons of the library with her talk about Mileva Maric. She exposed her readers to another voice to historical events. Through fiction, she was able to imagine the world that Mileva Maric lived in, and delivered some of that life to us. It’s always wonderful to hear directly from the author what her intentions were as she wrote the book. Marie Benedict entertained us all again -- first through her writing, and then with her words.

Craig Bacon goes to nearly all the events at the Lockport Library. They have great programs that are a boon to our area. If you’ve never been to one, it’s time to start.