I have a connection in my soul for the history of the turn of the last century. I attribute it to my own grandparents, father, and some paternal aunts making that fateful decision to leave their homeland of Finland to come to America. I love books like A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin because of the era the first part of the book is set. I thought the movie depicted that era quite nicely. It’s when Peter Lake meets Beverly, the love story part of the book, which I love because I love a good love story. I’ve always wished I could go back to that time to see what it was like to live it.
Just recently my nineteen-year-old adopted daughter, a Russian immigrant herself, told me she wished the same thing. That made me smile. Now, I realize that not all those dear souls who emigrated had a positive outcome, some had been sent back because of illness or other disorders, or those who got in but struggled hard to make it work. It was downright nightmarish for a percentage of them. But, anyone of my own descendants that made that trans-Atlantic crossing did all right. Both of my grandfathers were laborers believing in hard work, and one of my grandmothers had to go to work, but they all made their way to be moderately successful.
One of my grandfathers became so disenchanted with the U.S. after emigrating here ended up making the trek back to Finland, and then went further, to Communist Karelia. Unfortunately, to get there in the first place, he abandoned my mother and grandmother leaving them in the Cleveland area with relatives. Thank God they had relatives. He eventually returned to America only to find my grandmother had died and my mother had gotten married to her first husband. Mom and Grandpa managed to reconcile, but it was said Mom never fully forgave Grandpa for abandoning her and Grandma. He also continued to be a staunch vocal socialist which mortified Mom.
The Toivonens, my paternal grandparents, made the trans-Atlantic crossing in 1928. My father was a mere eighteen months old. When I was about sixteen, he told me about his mother’s uncomfortable experience during the mass health check-in at Ellis Island. My dad only said about two sentences relating the incident. Little did I know that those two sentences would become fodder some decades later for a long scene in Eva and the Irishman when Eva, Victor, and their three-year-old daughter emigrated from Finland to America.
In later non-series novels, I break away from that era a bit. One takes place at the beginning of the American Revolution with second and third generation American colonists. Another novel takes place in post WW1 with a third generation German-American and a French-Canadian immigrant to the U.S. As the Eva series progresses through the generations so do the eras they are set in, obviously. I enjoyed re-reading the history of each era to immerse my mind in it. I wrote from that frame using bits and pieces of the history in the story line. Any of the historical eras serve as a back drop to my character-driven love stories.