Travelling Westboro writer publishes first novel
Story and photo by Ted Simpson
Perhaps, With Luck… is the first published novel from Westboro native Judith Love and is currently making its way to bookstore shelves across the city.
Love lives in Westboro, having returned to Ottawa after a 30 year absence spent in Nova Scotia and as far away as Africa.
The novel examines many of the social and cultural issues that make up Canadian identity, “I wanted to build a story that took into account the complexities of life in Canada, in terms of multiculturalism, religious diversity and language,” says Love.
Love does not shy away from tackling subjects that are, at times sensitive, “It seemed to me that a lot of novels steer away from discussing religion, and thinking about people I know, for some religion is a very major part of their lives,” says Love. “I wanted to be very blunt about the religious side of life in Canada.”
The novel begins in 2008 and tells the story of Maggie Stanton, a widowed mother who works part-time at Queen’s University. Maggie lives alone in a picturesque, lakeside home near Kingston. Maggie’s story revolves around her relationships with her two adult children as they struggle through their own relationships, marriages and careers.
As her children begin to forge their own paths, Maggie works to reinvent her own after the loss of her husband. She fills her free time by writing a fictionalized biography of her great-grandmother Emilie Jane McNiven, who Maggie never met and knows only through a few historical records and one old photograph.
After Love spent some time in her own life looking into her genealogy, she was struck with the idea to interweave Maggie’s story with a relative from the past, “I learned a little bit about how you go about finding someone who you didn’t know existed,” says Love. “I could have Maggie finding one of her ancestors and this would show how Canada was…in the 1800’s.”
The pages of Maggie’s book are interspersed throughout the novel—almost a book within a book—creating a historical counterpoint to the life of Maggie and her family. Emilie’s story takes the reader to Montreal, then London in the late 1800’s into the life of a military family and their very similar struggles in a much different world.
Love’s storytelling takes the reader across Canada, from small town Kingston to the prairies to the Maritimes. Then, in an unexpected twist, Maggie finds herself in Africa. The scenery is communicated to the reader through simple and vibrant detail.
Love spent two years of her own life living in Botswana, Africa and incorporates her own personal vision of the world beautifully into her writing.
The novel is mostly self-published by love with help from local business Baico Publishing.
Perhaps, With Luck… is currently available at a few independent book stores in Ottawa, including Smith Books, Perfect Books and Books on Beechwood, with plans for a larger rollout currently in the works.