By all standards, Kirk Raeber, D.O.’76, had an epic dream 25 years ago. He held it in the back of his mind for years, eventually sharing it with his wife and friends. “You’ve got to write a book,” they told him. More years passed. He had a busy career as an emergency medicine physician. In 2007, the Raebers lost their rural San Diego, CA, home in a fire. Finally, in 2012, he began transforming his dream into his 2016 self-published historical novel, Forgotten Letters.
“Writing it was very exciting, and so much different from practicing medicine,” he says.
The poignant and engaging novel tells the story of Robert Campbell, who at age 8 travels with his father, a Methodist pastor, and mother to Yokohama, Japan, in 1924 to rebuild a church after an earthquake. There, the family meets the Asakawa family, including a young girl, Makiko. Robert also befriends a classmate, Kaito, who shares his love of baseball. The Japanese government’s hostility toward foreigners led the Campbells to return to America seven years later, but Robert’s, Makiko’s and Kaito’s paths cross again, in life-changing ways, during World War II. The boys’ love of baseball, Robert’s distinctive birthmark and letters he and Makiko exchange over the years help shape events.
“The book has all the elements – war, love, religion and history,” says the author, who retired from practice in 2018. “I learned a lot doing the research for the book.”
Raeber, who was stationed in Japan for one year while serving in the U.S. Navy, also learned about the process of publishing a book. He Googled “ghost writers” and eventually connected with Mario Acevedo, a bestselling fantasy/horror writer who became his co-author.
“I needed help because I’m not a trained writer. I didn’t take literature classes in college,” Raeber says.
That didn’t stop him from writing and publishing a second book, for children, titled Don’t Step on the Spider, this year. It uses an element from Forgotten Letters – when Makiko’s mother, Yumi, stops young Robert from killing a spider. “You must learn how to respect all life,” she says. “Even the lowliest of spiders has a place in the universe. Remember, all life is precious.”
In the children’s book, which Raeber co-authored with Mark Graham, young Tim is dissuaded from killing a spider by his grandfather, who instead “introduces” him to a caterpillar, ant, earthworm, bee and other creatures who pollinate plants, keep the soil healthy, eat harmful insects and otherwise benefit the environment. The book was illustrated by Marc Zapata and has been translated into a Spanish version, No Pices la Arana.
The literary “bug” has bit Raeber, who’s planning a sequel to Don’t Step on the Spider as well as another historical novel, this one set in Germany before and during World War II. For information about his works, visit TheForgottenLetters.com.