With the publication of her first novella, “A Modest Silence,” local pianist Sheila Coral Grimes can add “author” to her list of personal achievements. By the same token, she can help dozens of area veterans and wounded soldiers find a better life.
With the publication of her first novella, “A Modest Silence,” local concert pianist Sheila Coral Grimes can add “author” to her list of personal achievements. By the same token, she can help dozens of area veterans and wounded soldiers find a better life.
A long-time resident of Arlington with a rich history of life abroad, Grimes wrote “A Modest Silence” out of an interest “in contributing to those who have served our country,” she said.
She is the wife of John Grimes, a former officer in the U.S. Foreign Service and a Marine who saw action in WWII, and whom she married at age 18, leaving behind her childhood home in Alexandria, Egypt. For a career, Grime is a concert pianist who has performed in the U.S., at the renowned Salle Gaveau in France and abroad.
Grimes said her eldest son’s military service in Iraq several years ago compelled her to find ways in which she could support U.S. soldiers. “I was worried about his well-being during his tour in Iraq, and so thankful for his safe return, that I thought about how I might help those who returned but were not as fortunate to return unharmed,” she said.
Although Grimes wrote “A Modest Silence” singlehandedly, she had Simon as a
proofreader and supporter. The book is also Grimes’ first endeavor as a writer. “I have been a lifelong concert pianist and enjoy oil painting, but writing a tale in English was a new and particular challenge for me,” she said.
Grimes, a native of Egyptian-Jewish descent who spoke French as a child, said she grew up mastering French and Italian in the written form before tackling the English language. “Some friends joke that my English prose carries an Italian melody.”
All proceeds of “A Modest Silence” will go toward The Fisher House program, Grimes said. The Fisher House is a public-private partnership that donates homes near military hospitals to families of veterans and wounded soldiers. The program serves more than 10,000 families, and depends on outside donations to maintain the homes.
“A Modest Silence” is not the first initiative Grimes has undertaken in support of The Fisher House, she said. In 2008, Grimes recorded a music album “Pianissimo” – a collection of Classical and modern music pieces for the piano. She sold more than a 1,000 copies of the CD, with proceeds going to the organization.
With her latest effort, Grimes said she hopes readers are drawn by the personal adventures of her youth.
The book focuses on Grimes’ protagonist and personal substitute, Gaby, as the young girl matures in post-war Egyptian society, a time marked by personal exploration and growth as a pianist, as well as a time of growing unease between the Europeans and the Arab majority.
“It was such a different time before terrorists began to target Western quarters,” Grimes remarked. “When I was young there was no fear of movie theaters and public places. Even early on, there might be a terrorist bombing at a theater, and by the following week, the theater was open again.”
In the book, after meeting her future husband, Simon, in Alexandria, Gaby takes on a whirlwind adventure in Paris, France, where she finally marries Simon and embarks on a professional career as a concert pianist.
Over the subsequent decades, Gaby’s life as the wife of a Foreign Service officer carries her and readers to far-flung embassies, from Panama to Scotland to Japan. Along the way, Gaby faces crucial decisions between leading the stressful but exciting life her husband’s career asks of her, and following her dreams as an aspiring musician.
“‘A Modest Silence’ is part-truth, part-fiction, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the reader’s imagination by disclosing which is which,” Grimes said. “I had plenty of fun putting my story to pen and paper, and going toward the benefit of our wounded soldiers.”
She added that she hopes the latest project “will allow even more wounded soldiers to benefit from The Fisher House.”
Grimes hosted a book signing at the Jefferson, an Arlington-based independent living establishment for older adults in January, and is offering her book online at www.sheilacoralgrimes.com. More information about The Fisher House project is available at their Web site, www.fisherhouse.org.