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R.L. Prendergast

Dinner with Lisa

Have you ever wished you’d written down the stories told you by your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles? I know I do. For years I listened to my relatives recounting their childhoods, and talking of the unusual characters they’d known. People who did crazy things, and had nicknames like Hateful Dan, The Black Prince and Dumb Dora.

One story that always made me laugh was about the town drunk who beat the side of his brother’s ramshackle house with a 2 x 4 because the brother refused to give him $2 for liquor. The brother finally gave in when his wife yelled, “For God’s sake, give ‘im da money, or he’ll tear our house down.” Who beats a house with a 2 x 4 these days?

As a child, I enjoyed these anecdotes immensely, but didn’t think about them after they’d been told. However, as I got older, and the various relatives, including my grandparents, passed away, I wished someone had recorded their stories. Not long ago, I began asking my mother and father about some of the tales my grandparents used to tell. They remembered some details, but many of the stories had been forgotten—lost forever.

After completing my first novel, I did not intend writing another. I had said what I wanted to say. I enjoyed every minute of writing, editing, marketing and selling the novel, but the effort involved in giving birth to a book is enormous, and I didn’t want to go through the gestation and labour again.

But I began to write down the recollections of my parents and their older siblings, all now in their seventies and eighties. As the cache of tales grew—a great uncle’s experience in WW1, my mother’s memories of the neighbourhood corner store, my father’s memories of life on a dairy farm—I saw a connecting thread. Before long, I was researching the time periods in which the stories took place—and was inspired to write another novel.

Dinner with Lisa (cover)