Second in the trilogy

49 Parkwood Avenue

Sandra Benns Second Book

49 Parkwood Avenue is the second book of the trilogy of a Toronto, Canada immigrant family saga. The central character, Nigella Hansson, is introduced to the reader as a baby born in 1975 in Stockholm, Sweden to a single, profoundly deaf woman who grew up in an orphanage. Nigella’s grandmother was a Polish farmer who survived Auschwitz and gave birth to her deaf baby daughter in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, after being liberated by the British from Bergen-Belsen. 

The central character, Nigella, armed with the experience of being brought up on welfare and many meals that came from the back door of restaurants at closing time, graduates with a law degree from Stockholm, Sweden.

She finds her birth father at the age of thirty through Ancestry and embarks on a new life with a five-year-old daughter in tow. She turns her back on her law degree and decides to grab all life has to offer on her own terms, come hell or high water. Her own terms include a daily latte at the neighborhood’s Aroma Espresso Bar, a PhD from the University of Toronto, three husbands and eight children.

49 Parkwood Avenue, the second book in this trilogy, will be available for purchase in Fall, 2021.

“Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.” 
– Confucius

Q & A

49 Parkwood Avenue

Q. How did you decide on the variety of locations that your characters came from and find themselves in?

A. The story is about immigrants starting over once again in Toronto, and I chose their native homes in countries where historical research could back up their reason for landing in Toronto.

Historical research dictated almost every town, city and country in the book. At the very beginning of the book in the Prologue, the characters start out in the town of Wloclawek in Poland, which still exists today. Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen came next. The Displaced Persons Camp of Foehrenwald where the character gave birth to her deaf daughter, took in many Jews from Bergen-Belsen once they were liberated by the British. On a personal note, my girlfriend was born in a camp near Foehrenwald, after her mother survived both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, not unlike the character Milka Kaufman.

I chose Sweden as the next stopping point for my character because back in the 1940s, Sweden was one of the few countries that would take disabled babies and children in. The Barnham Stockholm Orphanage for Displaced Children that the character was sent to actually existed. (It was closed down in the 1960s.)

The locations of Avignon and the ancestral chateau were chosen because I know these locations personally. I spent a few summers in Avignon and I’ve stayed in that particular hotel in Old Town. My friends actually do own a big old ancestral chateau two hours north of Avignon.

As for New York City, well, that’s a given! We all know that when we are about to embark on a new love affair, you must go to the Big Apple. Am I right?

Other historical data tells us that many of the boat people from Vietnam in the mid-seventies did settle in farming communities north of Montreal, just like our two characters did.

Since the story’s family lived in Toronto, I had to include trips to Disney World, to help authenticate the true nature of Torontonian families.

Q. What was your favourite relationship that the character Nigella found herself embroiled in?

A. Hands down, it was her relationship with her second husband, Sandro Camarra, the one-legged man from Little Italy, Toronto. I like to think that she loved him the most, out of all her husbands.

Q. As the middle book of the trilogy, was it difficult to carve out its own plot?

A. No. The first book, 7 Russell Hill Road was all about Denni Allen, a Canadian footloose and fancy-free middle-aged Canadian woman, who always had man-troubles.

By the time we get to 49 Parkwood Avenue, the main character is a lonely, brave, Swedish start-all-over-again single mother, who has no problem whatsoever bonding with men once she gets started. After all, she snagged three fairly decent husbands in this book, and who knows what will happen to her if she pops up in a future book?

Q. Why the lengthy prologue?

A. I crafted the prologue to give the main character, Nigella Hansson some credibility and background. Throughout the book, she leaned on her historical family time and time again to pull her through difficult scenarios. Without the lengthy prologue, we wouldn’t have known the depth of this character, and what drives her. The prologue also serves to start the story in 2006, which matches up nicely where the first book, 7 Russell Hill Road ends.

Q. The timeline jumps from 1938 in the Prologue to 2006 – 2017 in the story. Did you find it difficult to structure that?

A. That’s why I chose a structure that included a prologue followed by the main story. Without separating the two timelines, it would have been difficult to follow the storyline with so many characters.

Another reason to keep the prologue separate from the story is that the prologue is an historical event with a very bad outcome, whereas the story is pure fiction that leads to an ending with an optimistic viewpoint.

Q. Are any of the other characters based on an historical event?

A. Yes. Nigella’s father- and mother-in-law were both Vietnamese boat people. The story of Canada’s boat people is well-documented in history, with their emigration from Vietnam to Canada in the mid-seventies. Hence, two of Nigella’s eight children were Eurasian.

Q. Why did you choose the main character to be born in Sweden?

A. During my research into the Displaced Persons Camps after World War 11, I found that Sweden was one of the few countries that took in Jewish orphans. Most other countries would only sponsor families or adults. The main character’s mother was an orphan that was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. Of course, she lived in Sweden her whole life and gave birth to our main character, Nigella, in Stockholm.

Q. Are your characters purely fictional?

A. Yes. They are a good mix of real and imaginary people that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or imagining over the years. It makes for a wonderful blend of the human condition. We all experience joy, pain, love and loss just a little differently from the next person, and it is my task as a writer, to throw all their experiences, real or imagined, into a hat to craft my individual characters.

THE TRILOGY

Other Books

7 Russell Hill Road is the first book of the trilogy. It’s a multi-generational story of humble beginnings in France, a camp in Germany after World War 11, rural Jamaica, Vietnam, Sweden, USA and an old farm north of Toronto, Canada.

By 2007, through sheer circumstance, the individuals of this culturally and racially diverse Canadian family eventually find themselves living on a leafy street in the upscale neighborhood of Forest Hill Village, Toronto.

Nigel Royal, a Supreme Court justice who is hiding from life within the Canadian Witness Protection Program meets a single woman who has knocked around the world her whole life without attachments and is quite unable to form them. She takes to his expense account like a duck to water, enjoying the Elmwood Spa and the Fuzz Wax bar on a very regular basis.

Their on-again off-again relationship starts in the Aroma Espresso Bar on Spadina Avenue quite by accident. Nigel surprises her with a birthday trip to Paris, where the two star-crossed lovers stay at the Four Seasons George V Hotel. Paris took its toll on these two bumbling, nervous new lovers and we find Nigel back at home, single again, licking his wounds in the Aroma Espresso Bar where they met for the first time.

Their crippling trust issues force them to choose the wrong fork in the road, time and time again.

7 Russell Hill Road, the first book in this trilogy, will be available for purchase on May 30, 2021.

The Irish Nanny is the third book of the trilogy.

In the summer of 2007, Maureen O’Reilly, a nineteen-year-old who had lived in the small border town of Strabane, Northern Ireland her whole life, packed her suitcase.

After a couple of Skype interviews, she had been offered the position as nanny for a family that lived in Canada, the frozen hinterland. She wasted no time in accepting their offer.

After all, she knew there was no future for her at home. Strabane was nothing but a little, used-up and forgotten border town, where “the troubles” back in the ’60s had bombed the main drag out and graffitied the town beyond recognition. You either had to work in the bar, the daycare or in the mill, like her parents. And the cat was out of the bag around town as to her being bi-sexual. She was sick and tired of being in the closet, but as inexperienced as she was, she knew that this was no way to come out. She had finished her journalism degree early and had an acceptance letter in her hand from the University of Toronto.

As for the position of being a nanny to small children, she had no doubt that she would have them dancing to her tune within a week. Bring it on.

She snapped her suitcase shut and patted herself on the back. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

The Irish Nanny will be available for purchase in Spring, 2022.

FINAL THOUGHTS

49 Parkwood Avenue

DEDICATION

Although my entire book and its characters are fictional, I wrote the prologue in testament to the courage, intellect, and indomitable spirit of a remarkable woman. Lorraine Rotter was a Polish Jew who was caught in the web of the Third Reich.

In 1944, she was a young married woman, living with her husband in Poland. She was picked up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. Separated forever from her husband, she was transferred from Auschwitz to a work camp in Czechoslovakia where she realized that she was pregnant.  She gave birth to her daughter, just weeks before the camp was liberated by the Russians in May 1945. Lorraine, along with her baby daughter, was moved from camp to camp in Germany after liberation, as the new mother was determined to make a new life for the two of them.

Eventually, this remarkable, resilient woman, her five-year-old daughter and her new husband eventually emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where she currently lives.

She celebrated her ninety-eighth birthday on January 05, 2021, and is treasured by her daughter, son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Lorraine’s experiences, along with millions of other immigrants, represent the fluid warp and weft that continue to shape the fabric of our big, homogenous multi-cultural city of Toronto.

I’m eternally grateful to not only Lorraine Rotter, but for all the hard-working and hopeful immigrants that come to Canada in search of a better life.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Thank you, Renee. It’s all the little things. All the stories over all the years. Your thoughtfulness and caring through all the ups and downs through the stages of our lives.  

I’m grateful not only for your friendship, but for your mother’s stories that you’ve shared with me. I promise you, if I ever write a story about the two of us, we’ll both be 5’10” tall and weigh 120 lbs. And rich, very rich. (That being said, I love you just the way you are).

HOW TO PURCHASE

Current booksellers include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters.

Check back soon for additional locations.

CREDITS

Book Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers

Cover Design: Lori Thompson, Graphic a la Design

Cover Art: ivanastar

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.”
– J.P. Morgan