Doc’s first novel sees light through storms
SALEM- His first novel opens in violence, and yet, Clement Binnings Jr. has written a love story.
“Angel Through the Storms” is not for the faint in heart. It begins with 11-year-old Lola surviving her brutish father’s violent physical rages by exiting this dimension for another. The voices of angels soothe her.
Family physician Binnings sets his book in his native New Orleans and marshes of Louisiana. The setting is colored by zydeco music, cocks fighting and slicing “to the frenzied screams of drunken gamblers,” and men guzzling beer after a long day on commercial fishing boats.
For all of its initial violence, the novel has a definite spiritual tone and message, said Binnings, who practices Kriya yoga that he describes as “a deep meditative prayer technique.”
He said he was intrigued by a captured Central Intelligence Agency agent who became comfortable in the silence during his time in a hole in pitch blackness
“No matter what was done to him, he disassociated from the real world,” while being totally attuned to a world that gave him great peace.
And so, Binnings created Lola, a character who had been through horrendous things. “She learns very early to go inward where she is soothed by angels,” he said. “Memories set off the storms in her life as life finds her.”
He started the novel four years ago. Hurricane Katrina planted the seed.
“After the hurricane and watching those people I was riveted to the news. I went to the Gulf Coast on a medical mission with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, and spent a week helping out,” explained Binnings, who practices family medicine at Primary Care Associates’ Lee-Hi building on Apperson Drive in Salem. He has been vice president of Primary Care Associates since it started in 2001, and 24 years, has also been the medical director of Roanoke College’s student health center.
While Binnings was helping to restore some order in lives of people living in post-Katrina destruction, “Angel” took root.
“After about six months of mulling the idea, I sat down and wrote the story in about three months. That was the first draft,” he said, adding, “You have to put these things down for several months before you pick them up and work on them.”
He spent a year revising and polishing his book, which was released in March. On Tuesday, May 31, he will have a book signing at the Salem Public Library, which has already purchased a copy of “Angel Through the Storms” for its collection. Binnings will sign books in the community room from 6 p.m. until closing at 9 p.m.
Binnings is a deeply spiritual man who believes he and his family were meant to settle in the Roanoke Valley. The path that led them here began after he served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War as a ground equipment mechanic, then earned a bachelor’s degree in English education and a minor in science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. He taught science in high school and junior high for three years in Shreveport because the schools didn’t need English teachers.
At the time, he wasn’t thinking of becoming a doctor, though he had wanted to be one “when I was a child.”
His sister was married to a doctor and it was she who encouraged Bennings to go to medical school. He needed only two more semesters of classes to sit for the Medical College Admission Test. He passed, and earned his medical degree from LSU.
“It’s a neat story,” he said, recounting how he and his wife, Joan, came to the Roanoke Valley.
The couple and their young son were driving to Baltimore, Md., to visit his sister. “My son, who was in a child seat, got sick, and we went to a nearby Holiday Inn to stay. I looked out at a beautiful valley. I never did really pay attention where we were.”
After finishing medical school, Binnings did his residency at Lewis-Gale Clinic, and in 1987, began working at West Salem Family Practice and Urgent Care. It was located next to today’s Spartan Field at Salem High School.
“I was leaving work and drove to Wildwood Road to get on the interstate, and I saw the Holiday Inn. That’s when I realized it was where we stayed 10 years before. I couldn’t believe it! I was meant to be here,” he said.
Clem and Joan Binnings have three children: Arrian, 33, and wife Sejal; he is a Realtor with Christie’s in San Francisco; Scott, 29, an attorney in Washington, D.C., and Julia, 24, who is beginning a master’s program in psychological counseling, dance and movement therapy at Naropa University in Boulder, Col.
In addition to his book signing event at the Salem Public Library on May 31, Binnings will sign books starting at 6 p.m. on June 17 at Barnes and Noble at Valley View.
“Angel Through the Storms” is available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. It is also available as an e-book.