From the bustling downtown streets of Edmonton, to the big blue skies of rural Alberta followed by the battlefields of Italy and then the quaint streets of Lacombe, A Wake for the Dreamland is a tale that draws you in.
For Lacombe born and raised author Laurel Deedrick-Mayne, the tale is one that she has wanted to tell for many years.
A Wake for the Dreamland is a historical fiction piece that tells the story of three characters’ lives through the years of 1939 to 1979. The three go through many trials and life experiences including idyllic life in Edmonton before the war, the Second World War overseas and an attempt to rebuild their lives in Lacombe after the war.
“It’s a story about people,” described Deedrick-Mayne, who resides in Edmonton. “It’s a life story. It’s a very untold Canadian story that can resonate across generations, not only for the people that were there, but for the young people who want to see their grandparents’ lives in a different light. It also addresses those universal things, like loss, love, truth and friendship.
“We often struggle in our lives. Women struggle wanting to be the perfect woman, the perfect wife, the perfect partner, the perfect career person – the struggle that these characters have in their little brief time on the page between 1939 and 1979 are not that different than the struggles you and I have in this day and age. There is that underlying life story.”
Deedrick-Mayne said writing the book was a ten year process, due to all the research she completed to make the book as accurate as possible, especially the chapters involving the war.
“I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Deedrick-Mayne. “So it was basically 10 years of researching, writing and re-writing, getting to know veterans, hanging out at the regiment museum, the archives, going to Sicily and Italy, writing and re-writing – I’ve followed in the steps of the Canadians through Sicily and Italy and tried to really capture the truth of it. The only way to do that is to take time.”
The inspiration behind the novel is three-fold, built off Deedrick-Mayne’s experiences and a need to reflect on the past.
In 2003, Deedrick-Mayne said she was in Safeway on Remembrance Day and at 11 a.m., an announcement came on the speaker, indicating for the shoppers to observe two minutes of silence.
“I felt so ashamed, so embarrassed,” she said of the experience. “Here I am standing in the Safeway, white knuckling my little cart, thinking what am I doing here? Is my life so important that I am here and not honouring this? It was like this little seed was planted.”
Another seed was planted a few months later after she saw the regiment museum was showing an exhibit on the Battle of Ortona for the 60th anniversary.
“That caught my attention and the seed started to germinate,” she said.
Next, Deedrick-Mayne was abruptly inspired by the three characters when she was driving down the street in Edmonton.
“It was literally like being hijacked,” she said. “These three characters that you see on the front cover (of the book) were in the backseat saying ‘Hey, this is who we are. This is our story. This is our life. Write it. Tell it. Do it.’”
Eventually, after trying to resist the idea, she put pen to paper and the book began to flow.
A lot of the novel is based on moments in history, like the royal visit of the King and Queen in 1939 to Edmonton. The setting and landscapes in Edmonton, like the Silk Hat Cafe or the Hotel McDonald, detailed in the novel were familiar in Deedrick-Mayne’s mind.
“I also spent hours and hours in the City archives looking through old photographs, old newspapers so that I had a real sense of what the city was like at that time,” she explained.
In the novel, Lacombe is the setting where the characters go after the war ends.
“It was a lovely place to raise a family and it was for these characters, in fiction, a way to truly start over and leave those old sad memories of loss behind,” said Deedrick-Mayne.
She added the story is also a little bit of a reflection on her parents’ generation, who actually built a life in Lacombe during the time period detailed in the book.
“It is important to cut that generation some slack,” said Deedrick-Mayne. “In some ways, aside from atoning for not being at the park for Remembrance Day with my kids in tow, I think the book is also an atonement for the attitude that I really held against that older generation. It pays tribute to what they went through as they came of age.
“There’s that little payment of tribute and gratitude that goes along with writing a story,” she said. “There’s gotta be a lot more going on.”
A Wake for the Dreamland is Deedrick-Mayne’s first published novel.
“Many people have that sort of dream or desire,” she said. “Everyone has a story or two, or 10 in them and this was mine, which is not to say that I don’t have more that I want to write, but this was the first.”
Deedrick-Mayne will be hosting a reading of her novel at the Mary C. Moore Public Library in Lacombe on Oct. 21st. The event begins at 7 p.m. She will also be hosting a book signing at the Red Deer Chapters on Oct. 17th, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information about Deedrick-Mayne’s book, visit www.awakeforthedreamland.com.