Grimsby Author Series – Elizabeth Hay (His Whole Life)

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The second author that presented at the Grimsby Author Series was Canadian author, Elizabeth Hay.  Hay had recently published His Whole Life, a story of family and regret, and her other books include Late Nights on Air and Alone in the Classroom.  She lives in Ottawa yet has spent time living in the United States and is native to the Owen Sound/Wireton area.

Hay shared that the inspiration for her latest novel was her father who out of the blue had imparted his regret of not paying enough attention to an old friend and from her son who had asked her about the worst thing she had done during a car ride from Ottawa to Boston when he was 10 years old.   She chuckled to the audience that she was surprised that her father’s regret was not that  he regretted “his reign of terror as a father or his reign of terror as a principal” but only that he should have done more for an old friend who Elizabeth had found “a complete and utter bore.”  These conversations were the starting points for His Whole Life which started with Jim asking his mother what had been the worst thing she had ever done.  Hay noted that her inspirations seem to be decades old and that she keeps notebooks full of her thoughts which become raw material for her books later on.

She was transparent in that she regretted not getting her own son a dog which could have helped him get through high school.  Her friend had given her a very hard time abut the outcome for all the dogs in the book – even providing her with an alternative ending!  This theme of regret coupled with the divided loyalty of the boy towards his parents and Canadians during the referendum provide an interesting background for the story which also divided between Canada and the United States.

Hay was a very interesting and open speaker and I look forward to reading her other books.   Paula McLain, who spoke first, joked that they were spouses since they are sharing  a number of book engagements and they were a great mix of personalities to present together.  I am looking forward to the next author series with Carrie Snyder (Girl Runner) and Peter Kavanagh (The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times).

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