HOW ACADIA LOST CAME TO BE WRITTEN: A note from the author
Some folks reading this note might find it a bit strange. I know I did when it happened to me.
In September 1995 we visited Nova Scotia for a week’s vacation. Driving from Yarmouth with no particular itinerary or destination, we came to Grand Pré just as the rays of the late afternoon sun slanted across the fields, defining the shapes and colors of the garden, the statue of Evangeline and the reconstructed church of St. Charles-les-Mines. To my eye, there is no light as painterly as an equinoctial twilight, and this one made things stand out in colors crisp and bold.
As I stood in front of the present church, which may or may not stand on the exact site of the original church before it was burned in 1755, I felt I could not even make myself go inside. Dread, anxiety, and fear seemed to seep from the ground and into my consciousness. I felt the pain of others in another time, as if what happened to them was happening to me. All I wanted to do was flee from it.
While browsing in a bookstore the next day, I found my souvenir copy of Longfellow’s epic poem EVANGELINE. Reading the compressed history of the Expulsions in the introduction made my skin crawl. Long afterward when I began work on this book in earnest, I came to believe I must have stood that evening in the place where the women and children waited for the men of their families who were locked inside the church.
Now I’m not an Acadian descendant – at least that I know of, but for a good part of my life I’ve lived within a short drive of John Winslow’s 17th - century home in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Winslow was responsible for the Deportations of Acadians from Grand Pré, and he didn’t like having to carry out Governor Lawrence’s orders. Except for a 200-year gap in time, he could have been my neighbor.
During those years, we lived in a house built circa 1675, as near as we could tell. It was a couple of decades later, in 2006, that I began my research for ACADIA LOST. In one important reference I came across a familiar name, that of one of the 18th-century owners of my (by then) former home. He was mentioned in conjunction with the plight of an Acadian family deported to Boston. Could that family, who were living in a house rented from the owner of my old house back in 1755, have actually lived in what became my house a little over two hundred years later? Of course I have no proof of that, but I find it plausible.
If walls could talk, what stories they could tell – possibly even one of a family in exile mourning the loss of their home and the lives they were accustomed to live on their Nova Scotia farm? I think that one of the truest things I ever read was in a motivational book published a couple of decades back. Steven Covey wrote and spoke about “the law of the farm”: it takes time for the seed to be planted and begin to grow. Along the way, it needs to be nourished so it grows into a strong plant when it comes to maturity and is harvested. This is how I feel about ACADIA LOST. The seed was planted in that early experience at Grand Pré and grew into an idea which became a purpose. Now, with the publication of this book, the purpose is fulfilled – at least for the time being.
My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who helped and encouraged me, who listened and commented on the progress of the novel, who travelled with me to discover places where the Acadians once lived and fought before the Deportations, and who acted like the discoveries I made throughout every bit of research necessary to tell the story were just as important as those of Christopher Columbus or Giovanni Cabotto (John Cabot). Every writer needs such friends –plus being part of a strong group of writers not afraid to say what they think. I am blessed both ways.