I’m not sure if readers are aware of how much authors love hearing from them—it really does make our day! It’s always a thrill to hear from people who’ve enjoyed reading your book, and it’s even more special when they share their own stories and memories prompted by something you’ve written.
Since my novel’s been published, many readers have messaged me with touching reflections on my story and about their own lives. I’m chuffed people want to share their personal stories with me, some of which are sad, but many of which are heartwarming. Some are just tiny incidents they’d forgotten until their memory was prompted by my book. It really is the best thing about publishing a story, knowing that people are reading and enjoying it, that it has touched them, and that it has given them cause for reflection.
I’ve had a couple of heartwarming experiences recently. Last week, I was invited to the Retired Teachers’ Association to give an author talk. One of the members, Molly, couldn’t come on the day, which also happened to be her 97th birthday. As soon as I heard, how could I not give her a copy of my book as a birthday present?!
Later that day, I was thrilled to receive this:
Then another member of the association sent me this message, and which I share here with her permission:
‘Dear Louise,I have started reading my copy of The Sisters’ Song and can’t get my nose out of it. Well done!Funnily I am finding some parallels with my family history. My father was from an old Hobart family and his mother was a highly qualified pianist. I never knew her, but without knowing details there was drama in her life.Relating to places and stories and at times have a tear in my eyes.Congratulations on writing such a good book. Must close so I can read some more.Kind regards,S.’
The following day, I received another message from the same reader:
‘Dear Louise,I have just finished reading your book. The storylines struck many chords in my personal memories and family history. Some of them painful to review. You are a gifted storyteller.For some unknown reason it brought to mind an elderly lady in a hostel where I worked in the late 1980’s. She had no children and mentioned that her mother used to massage her head if she had a headache. My mother, who was a hairdresser among other things, did the same for me. I offered to massage her head for her and she was delighted. She was a tiny little lady suffering emphysema. She had been a nurse. When finished she would offer to pay me. I would always say please recite me a poem, that is payment enough. In a breathless, birdlike voice, enunciating very correctly, she would introduce her poem by saying, ‘I learnt this poem when I was eight years old sitting on my Grandmother’s knee. I am now eighty.’ Then she would beautifully recite the poem ‘Somebody’s Mother’.I inevitably had a tear in my eye when she finished.I have just googled it and found it is a famous poem by American poet Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913). Strangely it is ‘Poem of the Week’. I guess that is synchronicity! If you have a moment it is worth reading.Thank you again.Kind regards,S.’
I’m delighted that my story brought back such a unique memory for a reader, especially a memory of kindness. My book is full of anecdotes and memories from my childhood, of things that happened to me or stories I heard while I was growing up, and it never ceases to amaze me how many of these resonate with readers. Sometimes, too, it’s the more mundane events that affect someone.
I included the ritual of washing hair in my story deliberately. Firstly, hair is beautiful, like music, and Ida (my protagonist) notices and appreciates beauty, especially natural beauty.
I included it, too, because when I was a young girl, before we had an electric hair dryer, my grandmother used to towel dry my hair. She’d sit me on a stool outside while she took my hair, strand-by-strand, and rubbed it until not a droplet of water remained and my hair felt light and feathery. I loved the whole sensation of the rubbing and feeling lighter and fresher afterwards.
I also included hair washing because it reminded me that small acts of service and kindness are a way of showing love.
I love that my book has been able to stir dormant memories, and is a link not only to my past but to the past of others, too. These really are the moments that make writing and publishing a book special.
Lastly, if you’d like to read it, here’s a link to the poem, ‘Somebody’s Mother’, by Mary Dow Brine.