Discovering the darkness of the ’50s

Decade Not all rock 'n' roll and poodle skirts, as told in Tricia Dower's Stony River.

Brentwood Bay author Tricia Dower's novel Stony River launches Thurs., Aug. 16 at Solstice Cafe.

In the novel Stony River, readers are offered a chilling glimpse into the darker side of the 1950s, when certain serious issues were left unacknowledged.

Local author Tricia Dower (Brentwood Bay) reminds readers that the ’50s weren’t all rock ‘n’ roll and poodle skirts as she explores themes of incest, sexual awakening, mental illness, domestic abuse, Irish occultism, sexual violence and stifled homosexuality in her first novel, published by Penguin Canada.

Based in part on a short story from Dower’s collection entitled Silent Girl, the novel explores the maturing of three young girls: Miranda, Linda and Teresa in the town of Stony River.

“It was a repressive time,” says Dower. “Some people idealize it, but I think it was quite dark because of everything that was hidden.”

Dower says she gathered her inspiration from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

“When I started to write the short story, I originally was going to tell Miranda’s story,” says Dower.

In the famous Shakespearian play, a girl named Miranda is marooned on an island with her father until a shipwreck allows her to interact with other people. Miranda must rely on her father entirely for her understanding of the world.

In Dower’s novel, Miranda’s isolation holds a dark secret.

“I wanted to tell her story and then show the effect of what happened to her on the other girls,” says Dower.

Throughout the novel, it becomes clear that Miranda is not the only one with secrets. The two other girls, Teresa and Linda, spot Miranda being escorted out of a house by the neighbourhood weirdo, Crazy Haggerty. Everyone believed Haggerty lived alone, so the girls are surprised to learn Miranda and a baby live there, too. As the story unfolds, readers learn about Miranda’s life and her relationship with Crazy Haggerty. They are also introduced to the stories of both Teresa and Linda, gaining a glimpse of how young women came of age in a repressive era.

Dower provokes readers to think and question what they are reading within her novel and their own world.

“I wanted it to be entertaining and to get readers thinking about whether we deal with issues any better today than we did then,” she says.

The novel will officially launch on Aug. 16 at 7:30pm at Solstice Café (529 Pandora). Admission is free and guests are invited to dress in 1950s period costume. Check Dower’s website, Triciadower.com for book club menus, video playlists and ’50s costume ideas. M

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