LUDMILLA BOLLOW - Playwright & Novelist
Reviews/Comments (Novel)
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*"DR. ZASTRO" - Reviews/Comments


     A Gypsy woman's search for healing leads to a passionate affair with a New York docter in Bollow's uneven but spirited first novel.  Yana Kejako, a volatile artist, checks into the eponymous sanitarium sometime in the 1880's after traditional medicine fails to heal a debilitating arm injury.  Her initial skepticism about Zastro seems justified: despite the doctor's impressive track record, his methods (bizarre machines, magnetic allignments and metallic-threaded clothing designed to cure all female "ailments-- physical, mental, and sexual") are decidedly odd.  But he's a powerful figure, and Yana soon joins with a group of women who venerate Zastro despite-- or in some cases because of-- his bizarre but precise dedication to the healing power of electrical currents.  Though the controlled environment stifles her so much she contemplates leaving, her plans change when sparks fly between her and Zastro.  Yana uses her stereotyped Gypsy wiles to seduce the repressed but deeply passionate doctor.  Bollow's descriptions of Zastro's oddball methods are entertaining, and she sets up an intriguing triangle between Zastro, Yana and a fellow patient, a jealous nymphomaniac. . . .  Bollow shows promise(Copyright - Reed Business)

                                 behler blog

SummerReadTuesday    July 26, 2011 

With the lazy days of summer hitting us full force, it always comes to pass that you need a great collection of great books to entertain you while you hit the beach, travel in your motor home, or simply escape the kids and heat by locking yourself in your room.Well, hold on to your Vickie Secrets, ‘cos I have a doozie for you.

Author and playwright, Ludmilla Bollow, sent me her book when we were still wet behind the ears. Her book was our first Publisher’s Weekly review, so I have a very special place in my heart for this lovely book.

I fell in love with Dr. Zastro’s Sanitarium because it’s populated with so many wonderful, passionate, three-dimensional characters and passionate yet tragic plot that still impacts me seven years later.

This is no ordinary romance. Ludmilla’s literary palette is set in 1800 New York, where the mores of sexual-oppression bumps up against fiercely independent Yana, who comes to Dr. Zastro’s clinic to heal her arm, so she can resume her painting career. The idea of finding love is the furthest thing from her mind because she doesn’t want to feel tied to any man. But the ever-proper Dr. Phillipe Zastro intrigues her.

Unlike women of that time, Yana acts on her growing desire for Phillipe, and in the process, shatters his delicate balance of maintaining professional boundaries and feeling a new awakening of desire he never knew existed. Yana lights up his life and fills a gap in his life that he tried to fill by tossing himself into his work. Where he’d always seen life in the clinical, scientific world of black and white, suddenly the world has shades of gray.

And it’s those shades of gray that threaten his and Yana lives when a patient dies and Dr. Zastro is blamed for it. Prosecuted and sentenced to jail, Yana waits those long years for him. For the first time in her life, she’s taken the ultimate leap of faith and given herself unquestioningly to a man – something she swore she’d never do.

After Phillipe pays his unjust debt for a crime he didn’t commit, he finally returns to Yana and finds true joy in finally feeling complete. But Life isn’t done with Yana, and she is handed one last tragedy that will crush her heart and spirit, yet teach her grace and ease her restless gypsy soul.

I admit it – I cried like a baby, and if I had to rate this with Kleenex boxes, I’d give this a five – meaning that I recommend you have five Kleenex boxes on you when you read this lovely, tender book.

I could relate to Yana because she’s an independent cuss who doesn’t take crap from anyone, yet life and love soften her into a lovely state of grace amid ultimate sadness.  I loved seeing Phillipe release the chains of what's considered proper in order to allow his heart to have a bigger voice in his life.  I loved that they both became better people for having loved each other.  Bittersweet and tragic, to be sure, but dang....what a fabulous book.

Buy this book if you want a beautifully written story that captures the depths of how powerful love is.  And have a lovely reading summer.


Lynn: As a psych/sociology major from back in the early Jurassic Era, I’m intrigued with how people react to challenges. Face it; life is challenging, and I like tapping into stories about people who persevere against all odds. I like stories that make me think, make me a better person, and make me remember their stories long after I finished their book. I call it “scratching my soul.” And that’s what our books do.

zastro One of our earliest books, Dr. Zastro’s Sanitarium, still touches my soul every time I think about vibrant, independent Yana – a woman who didn’t need or want anyone – become transformed by the forbidden love of her doctor and how that love created its own karma, both exhilarating and tragic. Haven’t most of us been transformed by love? It makes us better people in spite of ourselves. Author Ludmilla Bollow brilliantly tapped into that theme with a literary tenderness I could only wish to achieve in my own writing. Still can’t think about it without grabbing for my Kleenex box......

                              BEHLER’S PICK OF THE MONTH -                                      February2009                                  

I remember vividly when Ludmilla’s manuscript crossed my desk. I was knee-  deep  in a pile of submissions, and all of them looked like the same ol’ same ol’. The   title of the manuscript was so different that I picked it up and looked at the first page.

Agents and editors have this ritual; if you grab us with your first sentence, we’ll read on to the second sentence. Then it progresses to paragraphs, then pages. Then chapters. It’s what British agent Peter Cox calls his "walking to the couch" moment. Only in my case, I never made it to the couch. I sat at my desk and read it all the way through.                      

Playwright Ludmilla Bollow has a knack of making her characters come to life; something that’s hard to do with a period piece – circa 1880’s. First off, you have to capture the essence of how people would behave in that era – the men are strong and all-knowing and the women are delicate, fragile flowers, and dump the whole thing into a very cool plot. What attracted me to this beautiful love story is how Yana’s fierce gypsy independence awakens Dr. Phillipe Zastro to feelings he never knew existed. She comes to his hospital to recover from a sore arm – she’s an artist – and no matter how attracted she is to him, she isn’t willing to give up her own identity. Love is the glue that incites compromise in their different worlds. It’s a very modern story that takes place in another time. How many people lose get so lost in their relationships that they lose sight of who they are?

I wouldn’t classify this as romance as much as I would say it’s about love, devotion, and faith; three things that are often missing in today’s relationships. While there is a tragic turn to this book that had me sobbing my way through a box of Kleenex, it also ends on such a sweet, triumphant note that I simply had to have this book. All these years later, it’s still one of the coolest love stories I’ve ever read.

I remember when our marketing person had a meeting with the reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly, they ooo’d and ahhh’d over all our books spread out on the conference table. They grabbed Dr. Zastro’s and smiled sheepishly, "Whoever said people don’t pick a book by its cover is nuts."

The next month they came out with lovely praise for Dr. Z’s, as we fondly call it.  Ludmilla, you so rock.

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW                                                                                                                                            

     Dr. Zastro, a renowned physician of the 1880's, specializes in hypnosis and electromagnetic healing, utilizing machines that employ electrical stimulus.  Every year, Dr. Zastro selects six women, each with a different ailment, for treatment at his sanitarium for a period of three weeks.  Although Dr. Zastro is devoted to the care of the women, he holds the popular belief among males of the 19th century that females are the inferior sex.  As a disciplined, self-isolating physician, Dr. Zastro is initially irritated by independent, free spirited Yana Kejako, who has come to his sanitarium for treatment of an arm injury due to a horse-riding accident.  Half-Gypsy and half-Irish, Yana is an anomaly among women of the 1800's; she is not afraid to speak her mind or question those in authority and does not submit to males.  Although the two are diverse culturally and in mindset, they are drawn together with a passion that cannot be denied and which is freeing for both.  When it seems they have found common ground through their love, an unforeseen event threatens to separate them forever.  

       Ms. Bollow has written a spellbinding story filled with yearning desire and heart-wrenching loss.  Her characterizations are deftly portrayed and her depiction of the developing romance between Yana and Dr. Zastro delivered with sensitivity and sensuality.  This historical peek into the views and practices of the medical field during the late 1800's regarding the treatment of women is fascinating to read, as is the manner in which females were perceived and treated by men.  A compelling book and one I recommend without reservation.  (Christy Tillery French)                             

MICHELE COZZENS - REVIEW   (Author and Book Reviewer)     "Once upon a time there was a man named Phillipe and a woman named Yana... and then what happened?"   "Dr. Zastro's Sanitarium For the Ailments of Women", a love story between two seemingly mismatched individuals, has a fairytale essence. Set in the 1880s, this is the story of Dr. Phillipe Zastro, founder of a pioneering healing place for women, and Yana, a flamboyant and intelligent Gypsy who enters his three-week program. Both strong-willed individuals, they inadvertently fall in love, and the story revolves around their secretive coupling and the complications that arise around them and because of them. 
     Filled with colorful and provocative secondary characters, there's rarely a dull moment during the initial three-week period, when a handful of selected women of varying classes and degrees of education come to the sanitarium for Dr. Zastro's special and famous form/s of electrical healing. The women face a myriad of ailments, from sore limbs due to injury to nymphomania. The author, Ludmilla Bollow, transports the reader to this time and place, through artful prose and excellent storytelling. I don't think I've ever read a more tasteful and sensitive account of a couple experiencing lovemaking for the first time. There are several beautiful moments in this book, particularly when we learn about "the Gypsy maxim" through Yana
     Beyond the three weeks in the Sanitarium, the story takes twists and turns into the future and paints a full portrait of this couple, for better or worse. A true delight to read and I highly recommend
(Ms. Cozzens is the author of "I'm Living Your Dream Life," and  The Things I Wish I'd Said"  - McKenna Publishing Group)

OnceWritten - Book Review - by January Keck      This pre-turn of the century romance, a resonating tale of epic proportions, in which a respected man of science (Dr. Zastro) meets his artistic and most expressive alter ego in the form of Yana-- a fiercely independent Gypsy woman.  

A physician devoted to the methods of scientific treatments amidst the soothing and colorful environs of his most respected establishment, Zastro uses his electrical machines to deliver soothing impulses and colored light therapy to relieve the troubled senses and over-stressed bodies of his female patients rather than resorting to the more drastic and popular surgical techniques of his day. 

 Against the good doctor's very dedicated, logical and orderly will, he awakens to unearthly attraction and delight in the most unexpected mind and spirit of the person of Yana-- who is high-spirited, assertive, and seeks to change his beliefs as to whether science and the creative temperament can be opposing, yet cohesive. 

Yana, steeped in the tradition of her Gypsy heritage struggles to remain faithful to her nature while embracing the love that sparkles in the air around her.  Dr. Zastro's destiny is foreshadowed by dark events at work within the personalities that abide within the confines of the sanitarium.  Old ideas must be cast aside and reborn into more wondrous undertakings of the heart before these two unlike and equally attracted souls will be allowed an experience of time in togetherness.  A tale that will leave you altogether quickened and breathless as it did me.

What They're Saying--

" ...A delightful book by a talented writer, with a beautiful cover.  A gift sure to please any reader, but especially history buffs, healthcare professionals, and women of all ages." (Nancy Gall-Clayton, Author.)

"In this immediately captivating novel.... From the first sentence I was hooked, and as a male reader, found the women's lives both historically accurate and refreshingly stimulation (sometimes shockingly so.)  (Gary Park - World Traveler)

"I read only the first page, and already I'm hooked... What a rich beginning.  You get off the ground immediately..." (Barbara Vroman - Novelist, Author)

"Wow, "the sanitarium" is destroying my well-laid plans to start Christmas shopping.  I can't put it down!"  (Peggy Dean - Author & Columnist.

"The book is terrific!  The contrast between the tight, controlled world of the clinic and the gypsy freedom works well, and the medical detail is both powerful and frightening."
(Alan Woods - Ohio State Professor & Admin.)
"Just finished reading Dr. Zastro.  I wanted to tell you that I really loved it!  Found it kept getting better and better right up to the last page, choking me up quite often."  (Annie Sosman - Author & Artist)
"POWERFUL-HEART WRENCHING-SUSPENSEFUL & SURPRISING.  I just finished reading the book today.  When I got to the last chapter, I had tears in my eyes! (I am a man.) The entire story has "WORD PICTURES" that are so vivid that I could actually SEE, FEEL & SMELL the atmosphere, flowers and all the other elements present in the various scenes....  I not only learned from this story but also received an insight into HUMAN BEHAVIOR under very unique circumstances."  (Sonny Marcus - Business Owner)

"Wonderfully sexy.  What a world Ludmilla has brought alive from the past.  Reading Dr. Z. every night... such dreams it kicked off!  Still reading it and wishing it was twice as thick.  Wowza!"  (Robin Rice Lichtig - Playwright)
"I enjoyed this book.... I was able to see the way women were thought of and sometimes treated at this time period....  I think if one is looking for something a little bit different, this is the book for you."   (Elizabeth B. - Mount Mary Student.)

"Set in the 1880's America, Dr. Zastro pits the good doctor against the fiery young Gypsy named Yana.   It's patriarchial zeal versus feminist fervor, science against mysticism, establishment versus bohemian rhapsody." (Shepherd Express)

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