It’s great to have not one but two fine writers from my own home town contributing to the hi-jinx at Dr. Johnson’s Corner.
Penticton writer Francie Greenslade’s debut novel Shelter, (published by Random House Canada this August of 2011) caused quite a stir at the London Book Fair earlier this year. Rights were acquired by German, Dutch, British and U.S. publishers. Though set in a very particular rural B.C. setting, the theme resonates what is clearly a much broader level as the story follows two young girls whose mother disappears, exploring the nature of motherhood itself.
Francie introduces her “orphaned” cut from the novel, below:
So here’s the story:
In about the fourth draft of my novel, Shelter, I had the sisters go to Vancouver looking for their mother. It was about an 80-page section which my ever-incisive agent pronounced “boring.” The whole section. But there was a Supertramp concert and a parade! On re-reading it, I knew she was right. All 80 pages had to go, which also meant I had to re-write the last section of the book.
I was particularly attached to the parade, modeled after a real one in about 1975. Here it is:
Your birth was ushered in by the Daughters of the Lost City of Shangri-La, or something like that, the exact name lost now in the fog of history. Smiling women in gauzy orange harem garb waved to the crowds lining the PNE parade route. Men in tasselled fezzes clapped cymbals, while a marching band clad in yellow suits picked out a vaguely exotic rhythm, and majorettes in knee-high white boots tossed sparkling batons into the Pacific mist. We sailed up Hastings Street, Jack, who had been the first to hop aboard the Daughters’ float, pleading, “We’ve got a girl who’s about to have a baby here. Can you give us a ride?”, myself and your mother, smiling between contractions and waving pleasantly at the spectators. Wrapped in an ornate gold and orange cloth, half banner, half cape, and with her red hair glowing softly in the coastal mist, Jenny looked like the Queen of the Lost Daughters of Shangri-La, or whatever they were called.
The Daughters fussed around her, insisting she take the best seat, the throne, which was set beneath a cream white minaret. Jenny, whose water had broken while we were standing on Hastings eating cream empanadas, protested, “But I’ll get the throne wet” and the Daughters replied, “Don’t be silly; you’re the queen today.”
One wore a watch; she thrust her slender white arm out from beneath the gauze and timed Jenny’s contractions. Jenny’s eyes rolled back alarmingly with each contraction, and she rested her head for relief against the velvet throne. Ahead of us, a team of black horses stepped lightly, a drum tattoo sounded, and a man in Aladdin slippers with curled toes swung a mighty sword from side to side.
“I may not be getting this right,” the Daughter with the watch said, “but I think you should get out at Main and catch a cab to the hospital.”
At Main Street, Jack mobilized us. The Last Daughters of the Lost City of Shangri-La halted their float. Behind us, the whole PNE parade halted to disembark Jenny, shivering in soaked leotards and gold and orange cape. She raised a grateful hand in a farewell wave and we slipped away into the fog.
To visit Frances Greenslade’s website,