Heading to publishers 2023

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables merges with Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Sweetness and light marry dysfunction and denial. Meet the Harris family, a dichotomy of both.

Zoë's coming-of-age memoir, Family Dance, chronicles the crazy moves back and forth, between the Harris family’s chronically half-built house and the maternal Grandparents’ home across a shared gravel driveway. The dance, always motivated by financial woes, laces its way through the chapters. The story wrapped in a rich family history unfolds on a small bluff overlooking the Saint John River in the tiny village of Ketepec in New Brunswick, Canada.

The father, Don, taught his children important life lessons so they often knew what to do in a dodgy situation. A dreamer and an alcoholic, he struggled with his lack of education. His fallback—the army— provided him with a sense of self-worth.

The mother, Penelope Lucy, artistic, avid reader, tea drinker, and chain smoker, taught her children to fear nothing with few exceptions. She lived her life entrenched in enabling behaviors and codependency. She gifted Zoë with the love of reading through her collection of books from childhood, all classics—transcendent in the giving.

The grandmother, Hattie May Sutton, the poetic, 4’11” backbone of the family, controlled, dominated, and interfered in her daughter’s life. She stood at the ready when the family reached out for help, fueling a dysfunctional cycle engulfing and enfolding everyone. Yet, for the most part, the family, steeped in denial, sidestepped the minefields and thrived.

One exception thwarts the family’s homeostasis and occurs over a period of a year. The author calls it “The Year of the Butterfly”. Her world forever changed.

The father’s alcoholism reared its ugly head. Her parents became detached. Zoë, thrown into situations beyond her years, became fearful and anxious. Yet, buffers existed on that little hill combating the horrors of that awful year.

Zoë and two girls close in age lived on the bluff above the river. The three clung to each other like sisters. They played with gasoline, taunted trains, skated on thin ice, invited hobos to tea, and embraced the double and triple dog dare, earning them the label, Trio-of-Trouble.

The unfettered freedom experienced by children growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s in rural New Brunswick added a richness to Zoë’s often chaotic childhood. Readers are treated to the healing balm of humour through the antics of the Harris family’s scrappy tomcat, Snowball, a beguiling sweet Cocker Spaniel, Shammy, and a smattering of chickens.

This memoir explores coming-of-age in a vibrant dance through the author’s childhood and of resilience in the face of family imperfections.