The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up is a sequel to my novel Freefall: A Divine Comedy (published in 2019). The print copy will be released on October 15 2021. The ebook comes out on November 14, 2021.
Tillie, a zany installation artist, is the main character in Freefall. I so enjoyed interacting with her while I wrote that book that I wanted to better understand her origins. In the follow up, then, I went back to the ‘50s, to a world that flashed green and red lights at women, the era that produced Tillie. Some had begun to challenge the dead ends their futures seemed to hold, and Tillie will end up being one of those girls.
The narrative weaves together the young Tillie with herself as a teenager, moving back and forth in time so we see what shapes her personality. She lives for a few years in her version of paradise when May, her mother, marries a farmer, Harold, and they move to his farm, not far from Calgary, Alberta. She has animals to play with, wide-open spaces to explore, and, for the first time, a father. Curious and precocious, Tillie churns butter, gathers and cleans the eggs for market, cleans the barn, cooks, and also washes floors and dishes, all before she is eight years old.
But while the ranch and its many animals seem like heaven to Tillie, she soon discovers that life isn’t predictable or stable. Nor is her new father. While he can be a nice guy, he also harbors a Mr. Hyde who periodically slips out. She learns to be careful around him, never knowing when his anger will surface and explode.
This is her first lesson in survival as well as coping, a word her mother often throws at her. “You must learn to cope,” she says. And so Tillie does. Until it no longer works. The story that follows shows the paths that eventually lead her out of the traps she creates for herself. It includes side trips to Vancouver, Toronto, and then San Francisco. But in her late teens, she ends up back in Calgary where she has a chance for a new beginning.
Tillie’s predicament in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s isn’t new, even though women have made progress in establishing some equality in the Western world. But her grit and ability to face life’s challenges still are inspiring, the seeds for her later discovery of her artist self.
You can Pre-order your Kindle copy now! Available Oct. 15th. AND PEN-L PUBLISHING IS OFFERING A SPECIAL ON ALL THREE OF MY NOVELS THAT PEN-L HAS PUBLISHED, INCLUDING FREE SHIPPING!
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Lily Iona MacKenzie
BACK COVER BLURBS: What others are saying about The Ripening: A Divine Comedy:
“Lily Iona MacKenzie has created a child who will be a seeker. Tillie is not just any child. Tillie and her mother’s hard-scrabble life is set primarily in Calgary, with a brief time on a prairie farm. MacKenzie knows the landscape, from the Canadian cities to the prairie “flatter than dinner plates.” She takes her reader to down-on-your-luck hotels, the Zoo, and the Calgary Stampede, with the excitement of the rodeo and the sordid underbelly of the midway at night. But Tillie hungers for more adventure and spends time in both Vancouver and Toronto. Before she turns eighteen, she “escapes” to San Francisco. This is the story of a journey, and MacKenzie navigates it expertly. She knows her craft.
– Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Odd One Out, he Boy, Delivery, and A Crack in the Wall.
“Tillie’s life wasn’t meant to follow other girls’ paths. With free love, hippies, and drugs looming, she ends up in San Francisco. Lily Iona MacKenzie deftly takes readers into that throbbing world of drugs, booze, and one-night stands. They’ll root for Tillie as she struggles to find herself and be swept along as she learns that true happiness is seldom found amid glitter and grime. It’s hiding somewhere else … in plain sight. A well-written and visceral story.”
– Janice Gilbertson, author of Summer of ’58, Canyon House, and The Dark Side of Gibson Road