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A Berlin Wall During the Dark Ages

Reed Deer, Alberta, Canada – WEBWIRE

This Gothic novella, set in 17th century, follows Mara Liebman’s escape from Livonia to Germany in the wake of a witch-hunt. Mara is the orphaned daughter of a baron’s first rights.

The Berlin Wall during the Cold War (1945-1990) gave rise to countless stories about fleeing, oppression, suppression, poverty, torture, execution – all born out of the Communist and Nazi occupying regimes of World War II. To author Astrida Barbins-Stahnke, of a refugee family, it was a source of material for a gothic novel that came to her, as she sat on a train passing through the now-iconic concrete structure—The Berlin Wall, enforced by the Iron Curtain.

“The Coveted Recipe,” set in 17th century, tells the tale of our heroine, Mara Liebman, escaping Livonia to Berlin, Germany in the wake of a witch-hunt. When she also had to escape Berlin to free herself from a sexually aggressive uncle, she found herself trapped in a moat-guarded town. Cleverly, she used her baking skills and her knowledge of herbs as medicines to survive, until she fell victim to a voracious mayor and his family that accused her of witchcraft because she refused to obey the mayor’s covetous and unjust demands.

Although “The Coveted Recipe” is a novella, drawing parallels of the Dark Ages and the Cold War, the author seems to invite us to be mindful of our own time and place, for “isn’t the story just another parable of human nature that in changing remains the same, where innocent people are caught in webs of fears, jealousies, greed, covetousness, and  other common passions, sustained by laws and regulations of despotic power?” The answer lies in the book, as its plot of what happens to smart, beautiful and resourceful Mara grips us with thrilling suspense.

“The Coveted Recipe” will be displayed in the upcoming Word on the Street, the biggest literary events in Canada this year on June 9 in Saskatoon, September 14 in Halifax, on September 21 in Lethbridge, and lastly on September 22 in Toronto. Grab a copy of her books at Boku and your favorite online book retailers. You can check out more about her books from her website at

About the Author

Astrida Barbins-Stahnke was born in Latvia and lived in Germany until 1949, when the Barbins family immigrated to the United States. In 1977, she dared to visit her native land, where she keenly felt the prongs of the Iron Curtain. In the 80ies, she spent brief periods in East and West Germany, while her husband observed the political currents on a Fulbright grant. Riding the Berlin U-Bahns, they saw the subtle preparations for re-unification and demonstrations for freedom. Since 1975, Astrida has also worked as translator of Latvian classics, published bulk of her writing, and still keeps close ties with writers and scholars in Latvia. On every visit, she proudly feels and sees the progress of a re-awakening nation, pulsing with many more stories to be told.

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 Maple Leaf Publishing
 Alberta T4n 2g7
 Astrid B. Stahnke

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