Launching a book is a transcendent experience. I quote Mark Winston’s words from his book: Lessons From the Bees that describe my experience. ‘It is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, much like I imagine bungee jumping or shy diving. It takes a great act of faith to leap, believing that the chord will hold, the parachute open, the book will not fall flat on its face.’
So it was for me before my launch at McNally Robinson Booksellers back in September 2012. I was so fearful I asked the folks there to be prepared to rescue me if need be. It takes courage to rewrite history, but I’d made the decision to go ahead, and I couldn’t back down with eleven hundred books hot off the press.
I could not foresee the positive reception For Elise has received with 2 more printings and four scrapbooks of appreciation letters to reread in my ‘old age’. Nor did I dream of being a finalist in the Whistler Independent Book Award now in 2016. Response to positive letters is a pleasure, and I’ve tried to reply to everyone. They assure me that my great grandmother is no longer a forgotten woman. I’m so very thankful to completed my task and opened the door for others’ awakenings to their own fore-mothers. History I’ve discovered holds a lot of secrets.
No author can control how readers will respond to their book. I expected controversy and have fortunately had only a few critical letters. There were two soon after the book was published from readers unhappy with my approach. They wanted to keep the picture Alma Criddle painted in her book, Criddle-de-diddle-ensis, of the happy family living under Percy’s benevolent leadership.
Then I found a short review on ‘Goodreads’ that surprised me since I had included footnotes to make clear that this was a true story based on facts.
Cheryl gave it 3 stars and wrote: “Too depressing and although heartbreaking ….found the book a little unbelievable for a true account. Even considering the era, I found myself feeling there is still much more that has NOT been told. Left me feeling empty.”
Wendy found the book in Brandon last year on a cross Canada trip to her daughter’s wedding. Within the pages of For Elise she found her Bellhouse family. I met wendy on my travels in Ontario.
Wendy rated the book five stars and wrote: This book is an excellent read.
Elise was a close neighbor and friend to my Ancestors. I can assure you that the pains taking details that Oriole writes in this book are very actuate. Not only does Oriole provide a voice for Elise, she provides many factual based accounts of what our Ancestors were faced with when they came to Manitoba and homesteaded.
Elise was a trusting woman who did what she needed to and believed in, she provided for her family. Given the time period “Victorian” to “Edwardian” – women really did not have a voice.
I have admiration, respect, for what she did. I felt the sorrow for her on many levels, most importantly the single word for Elise is: Benevolence
A must read for anyone interested in Early Canadian History – Thank you Oriole – my family stories and what was in this book is like holding hands – and to find out that we have a distant family connection via the Clarks.
I received this letter from history professor emeritus at McMaster University.
Dear Mrs. Veldhuis,
I’m reading the 2013 edn. of _For Elise, I’m on page 177. Hard to put down! I stay up late, reading another chapter to find out what happens to her, Percy, and the children. I find the lives to be compelling.
I’m wondering about your sources for the italics – Elise’s thoughts. These are fascinating. They appear to be your reconstruction of what she must have been thinking, based upon your understanding of your subject. Is that correct? Percy’s diary (as cited in your book) does not appear to even hint at her thoughts. He appears to have been untroubled, uninterested, in her thoughts. The 2 really interesting aspects of your book are the Percy diary entries and Elise’s thoughts. Love to learn how you reconstructed the latter.
I posted my replay on my webpage (Elise’s thoughts) under Story. This is his response.
Thank you for writing such a splendid reply! And, there must be many, many people who are very glad that you carried this project to successful completion.
Elise was clearly a very strong person. She survived so much. The inner struggles of hiding so much from her Mother (when alive), her brothers, Mrs. Criddle (?) and the Criddle children, and her community, must have been heart-breaking. From your book, it seems clear that it was Elise’s faith which kept her upright, doing good, every day. It is wonderful that her families remember her with so much affection.
Bye for now