Everything’s Coming Up Clover captures spirit of feisty author

Columnist Ursula Maxwell-Lewis dissects a pair of Canadian books following the stories of strong women

Host writer Ruth Kozak reads excerpts from Dora Preston's 'Everything's Coming up Clover!'

Host writer Ruth Kozak reads excerpts from Dora Preston's 'Everything's Coming up Clover!'

The invitation read: “Book release party event for Everything’s Coming Up Clover! by Dora Preston”. Vancouver writer Ruth Kozak was listed as the event host at Renaissance Books Store in New Westminster.

Being a sucker for used books stores, emerging authors, British humour and sunny Sunday afternoon jaunts, I set off in search of an interview.

Upon arrival there were two surprises.

First: Dora Preston wasn’t coming. She passed away two years ago.

Second: Dora’s gone, but she sure isn’t forgotten.

Thanks to her daughter, Glenys Preston Blackburn, and Ann Westlake,  a Ladner editor, Dora’s dream of publishing her book, Everything’s Coming Up Clover! is now a reality. The storyline, her dedicated fans told me, reminded them of Dora in disguise.

Clover Rayton, a feisty senior with a wicked sense of humour, decides to retaliate when her four children have her “incarcerated in an old folks home” Her tell-all diary will, she vows, pay them back when the world reads it. She’ll go, she decides, but not quietly.

Clover, who sounds remarkably like Dora, according to those who knew her, documented one hilarious escapade after another. Honeystone Mansion was clearly in for a rude awakening when dauntless Dora marched over their Vancouver doorstep. “I won’t make it easy for them,” she vowed. And she didn’t.

Thanks to Dora Preston’s irrepressible Yorkshire wit, wisdom, and writing talent, Clover could easily star in a British sitcom, or onstage with the Vancouver Arts Club.

In between readings and visitors singing Dora’s praises to me, Kozak tells me she first met Dora in 1989

“When I stepped into the washroom a woman came in singing in a most lovely voice,” she recalls. “I wondered who this happy person was. When I went into the West End Writer’s meeting, there she was. It was Dora!”

For ten years Dora, a popular care aide and advocate for seniors, crafted cantankerous Clover’s escapades based on observations, experiences and an irrepressible sense of fun. Eventually, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, Dora confessed to her daughter that she regretted that her manuscript remained unpublished.

Assisted by Writer’s Cramp Editing Consultants, Glynis proudly made it happen. In January, Ann Westlake selected it as winner of the Fourth Annual Editor’s Pick Writing Contest Award.

In them Days, a new book written by Ontario senior Isobel Warren,  also arrived this month. For those who recall tales of Canadian farm life, I’d recommend it.

A veteran journalist, creative writing teacher, and co-founder of the Travel Media Association of Canada, Isobel injured her leg last summer. The subsequent forced-inactivity generated time to allow her to craft the novel.

Set in a post-First World War rural community, Isobel chose Julianna Chandler, a city doctor’s daughter, as the linchpin for her well-crafted tale of the era’s mindsets, morals and misunderstandings.

Dramatic and insightful, the story highlights what – at the time – were provocative views on women’s roles, rights, medicine and politics.

The reader is expertly lured into the lives of this diverse community. Pathos, drama, historical detail, and the occasional hint of humour bring these characters alive. Chances are, some will be familiar from your own family sagas.

I finished it thinking it could morph into a good sequel. Who knows? Perhaps. But, hopefully minus broken bones.