First book of the new series
Hazel G is a story of cause and effect, self-invention, and love and loss. The timeline of the story is from 1934 to 2016, hence there are a lot of historical facts mixed in with this work of fiction. But really, when you think about it, nothing has changed. Not really. At least, not in the crazy, topsy-turvy world of relationships.
The character’s story spans her lifetime from nine years old in an orphanage to ninety-one years of age moving from Eldon Avenue, just off the Danforth in Toronto, Canada, to her little bungalow on Flintridge Road. It’s a testament to how many of our own mothers, grandmothers and old aunties survived the 1930s depression, World War 11, and all the ups and downs in between in the big city of Toronto.
It was the dirty thirties when Hazel was dropped off at the door of an orphanage. She learned right then and there at the tender age of nine, how to make lemonade from lemons.
After suffering a serious burn at her workhouse, she receives plastic surgery from one of Toronto’s first plastic surgeons at East General Hospital. She goes on to discover her birth certificate that had been hidden away, and she accepts her First Nations status up at Manitoulin Island. After burying two husbands, she reconnects with a Canadian Armed Forces colonel who brings an entirely new viewpoint into her life.
Another adventure takes her to Canmore, Alberta where she finds a long-lost sister only to have the connection broken once again.
We cry for her as she buries two husbands and one daughter, and laughs when she gets so drunk with her girlfriend that she can’t stand up.
Hazel G is a woman to love. She lives a long life full of adventure, trials and tribulations that she meets head-on without blinking an eye.
Hazel G is the first book of this new series. It will be available for purchase in spring, 2022.
The second book in this new series is The Delamere Boys, which will be available for purchase in the winter, 2022.
“Life was like a box of chocolates, you never knew what you’re gonna get.”
– Forrest Gump’s mama
Q & A
Q. You say in your story that Hazel G was an indentured servant when she was thirteen years old. Really? In Canada? In Toronto?
A. Absolutely. Our orphans and our First Nations people, or Indians, as they were called back then did not enjoy equal opportunities that were available to Canadians. In Toronto’s orphanages in the 1930s, the children went out to work when they turned twelve years old. They were put into a neighborhood home (called a workhouse) and worked scrubbing floors and doing laundry under a binding contract where they were listed as indentured servants until they reached the age of sixteen. They worked for their room and board, sometimes getting a small pay packet of thirty cents per week.
Q. Did the women’s fashion label Hazel G really exist during the 1930s, or was this just your way of building the storyline of the character?
A. The Hazel G label is fictional, like most of the story. There are some historical facts interspersed with the fiction, such as the name of the orphanage, the name of Hazel Gs high school, the name of her first boss, the name of the hospital and the doctor that was one of the first plastic surgeons in Toronto, and the name of the cemetery where Hazel Gs husband was buried. However, my real Aunt Hazel, to whom this book is dedicated, did live in an orphanage, and she did marry a man named Frank, and she did love him until the day she died.
Q. Are the characters in the chapter called ‘The Sailors’ fictional?
A. The chapter is based on an historical event of when the HMCS Athabaskan was torpedoed by the Nazis.
I interviewed several people with first-hand knowledge, and I based the characters of Harold, Vinnie and Frank on these interviewees’ recollections of three of the sailors that survived the attack. And yes, those three sailors were only nineteen years old at the time they were scraping oil off their faces while keeping afloat in the icy English Channel.
Q. Did you intend on the reader believing that Hazel G loved her second husband?
A. Oh. I see. You’re on to me. I wanted to leave this part of the story entirely up to the reader. You can decide for yourself. One thing I can tell you, it’s very obvious she loved her first husband, Frank deeply, until the day she died.
Q. What was the purpose of the character Jen?
A. Hazel G spent her teenage years developing lifelong friendships with girls since the boys were all at war. The girls and young women of this era had no choice. As Hazel G grew into a middle-aged woman, she leaned on her girlfriends to fill the void of two husbands dying and kids moving out of the house. The character Jen comes along as a basement tenant to fill those ‘girlfriend’ shoes quite nicely.
Q. How probable is the fact that the character Reggie shows up after being away for twenty years?
A. Strange as it seems, this same story happened to me. I took in a little boy when he was a toddler, and when he was age nine, his mother appeared out of nowhere and took him. And she did have red hair. I didn’t see or hear from him again until ten years later. When we were reunited at Whistler, British Columbia, when he was nineteen years old, he told me that he had been living up in the mountains in British Columbia. True story. (But no, he didn’t join the Canadian Armed Forces.)
It was 1966 in a small town in the heart of the Canadian Rockies when Reggie Delamere, age eleven, learns that washing dishes at the local restaurant means that he has some supper, with enough left over to take to school for lunch the next day.
At the age of sixteen, dressed in his new Canadian Armed Forces fatigues, Reggie is a few steps further along with his goal of becoming a somebody. And then, we find him at age 40, in a middle-aged crisis. He sets out for Toronto to find his foster mother and the only real home he has ever known. Little did he know this journey would include fathering two sons.
Frankie Delamere, Reggie’s son, is a wanna-be engineer just like his dad. He figured out early on that ladies-of all-ages like a boy in a cowboy hat and he knows how to work it.
Calvin, the baby, is born to be an artist. He was drawing women’s fashions from the get-go. He comes on to the dating scene leaning toward having as many boyfriends as he has girlfriends. He decides early on that there is no need to choose one gender over the other.
In spite of all their differences, the three Delamere boys patch up each other’s misadventures as best they can. Reggie watches his son Frankie take one fork in the road while Calvin chooses a different path altogether.
The Delamere Boys, will be available for purchase in the winter, 2022.
My Aunt Hazel played a pivotal role in my life from the very beginning. She, along with my mother who was her best friend, raised ten children, passing down the little party dresses, the good coats and shoes as their girls grew out of them, along to the next sister or cousin of that size. They were the days of dressing the girl siblings all alike, and unfortunately for me, my size dictated that I wore the same dress, same colour, same fashion, but different sizes, for at least four or five seasons. (Conformity was key.)
But that’s how these two remarkable women, Aunt Hazel and Mom, who grew up in the great depression, shared and took care of their children in a clever, albeit frugal fashion.
Aunt Hazel was also my Godmother. She was the most kind, thoughtful, gentle, witty yet resilient woman I have ever met. This delightful, charming woman who always enjoyed a good lunch, left us peacefully on Christmas Day, 2020, in her ninety-fifth year.
To Hazel and Frank’s daughters for allowing me to insert the gist of their parents’ very real love story into the novel.
To Barbara, thank you for sharing your father’s history of when his ship, the HMCS Athabaskan, was torpedoed into the icy waters of the English Channel during World War 11. Every year when Remembrance Day on November 11 comes along, I always think of our dads, two teen-aged Canadian sailors out there fighting the good fight, and what great men they were.
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