In 1935 Hannah Parsons left her home in Bonavista Bay, N.L., at the age of 17 to work in service for Charles and Virginia Sinclair, a wealthy St. John’s family.
While working for them, Hannah catches the eye of the patriarch of the household, and her life takes an unexpected turn.
Now, 60 years later, Charles Sinclair has passed, and his his last living will and testament is about to throw his family into turmoil. His children and grandchildren learn that no family is as perfect as it seems, and that some secrets refuse to stay buried forever.
Dr. Trudi (White) Johnson, associate professor in the Faculty of Education at Memorial, was born and grew up in St. John’s, though her family’s roots are in Bonavista Bay. She graduated from Memorial with a BA, B.Ed., M.Ed. and PhD, and taught for 10 years in the K-12 school system in White Bay and Labrador City.
She says she was inspired to write the novel while researching Newfoundland and Labrador’s legal history for her doctoral research in the 1990s.
“I read about many young women who worked in service in larger Newfoundland centres for wealthy families,” she said. “They left their homes at a very young age and were gone for many months. The work was difficult, low pay and no vacation time. Some girls had very good experiences, others had horrific experiences.
“My research was also on inheritance practices in Newfoundland which showed that in the 19th and early 20th centuries many Newfoundland women inherited land/houses from their parents while their brothers inherited what was needed to carry out the fishery. That inheritance practice is featured in the novel, as well.”
Dr. Johnson says her other source of inspiration was her own mother’s experience. She and several of her friends left their homes and worked in service in St. John’s in the 1930s. As Dr. Johnson was growing up, they told her stories of what the work was like; many of their accounts are featured in the book in the guise of fiction.
“I decided to write the book for two reasons: first, because I am amazed at the fortitude and faith of these young women at that time; secondly, I wanted to write a story about how much our past, particularly the people who came before us, have influenced who we are and what we believe.”
At Memorial, Dr. Johnson enjoys teaching pre-service teachers and researches effective teaching and teacher efficacy. In addition to writing fiction set in Newfoundland and Labrador, she likes to garden, read murder mysteries and obsess about hockey and baseball. Dr. Johnson lives in St. John’s with her husband, Albert Johnson.