More than 30 participants made a special effort to attend the launch of Elizabeth Struthers’ historical novel, A Prayer for Thérèse. Several of those who attended had already purchased and read her book. So why did they spend this warm, sunny spring afternoon in the cozy Board Room of Artspace? The answer lies as much in the author as it does in the novel.
Like so many of us, Elizabeth came to writing as a response to reading, particularly to reading historical novels. Visually-impaired to the extent that no large print book is sufficiently large for her to read without additional and often complex magnification, Elizabeth nonetheless discovered, in books, worlds she could see only in her imagination. Sighted readers have many touchstones to ‘see’ imaginary worlds and historical worlds created in books. Elizabeth needed patience and perseverance simply to see the words that coalesced to create these fictive worlds.
Only in adulthood did Elizabeth take her first steps in creating her own historical, yet fictive, world. It was not easy. To the perseverance and patience she brought to reading, she added courage and stamina. Imagine what is required for her to conduct research into any topic when everything she wants to read needs to be magnified to the extent she requires. But Elizabeth needed more than book research. She wanted to experience the landscape she was going to write about. She spent several weeks on her own, breathing the air, walking (carefully) on the cobbled street of the reconstructed fortified town of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. Preserved as a national historical monument, the ancient fortress gradually revealed its presence to her other four senses and Elizabeth began to write.
And what a story. One reviewer writes, “A Prayer for Thérèse is a powerful story about strong women who need to make difficult choices…Like so many others, Thérèse will have to draw on her allies, her strength and her unwavering strength to survive.” When I read those words, I mentally added, Just as Elizabeth has done, with her supportive family, many of whom were at the launch, and her indomitable strength.
The participants’ enthusiastic response to her book continued long after the reading and Q&A were done. Despite many already having a copy of her book, people were buying several copies for friends and family. I was lucky to get the last one! And even then, the room was still bursting with energetic and enthusiastic conversation, as participants enjoyed coffee and dainties donated by Seven Café on Ellice Street and other refreshments provided by Elizabeth’s family. Further acknowledgements must go to Ulrich Wendt, who volunteered to do the reading when the audio booster failed to boost and to Glen Tachinski, who videotaped the presentation for Elizabeth to share on her YouTube Channel.
This launch concludes the spring 2023 series of Manitoba Writers’ Guild book launches. If you have recently published a book (2021, 2022, 2023) and would like to have the Guild sponsor a launch for your book, please contact for an application form. Watch for more information to follow in the May 15 Newsletter.