I have a remarkable instance to tell you about!
I can’t believe I haven’t written about it before this.
You see, I have a favourite book, The Hunter’s Moon by OR Melling. I have loved this thing since I was a wee girleen and couldn’t get through the first chapter.
It’s an amazing Young Adult book to read that combines the best of Canada, Ireland and Faerie in one fantastic package. And it gets better! After I read this the first dozen times I discovered that there were 3 other books in the series and I was thrilled.
I was even more thrilled when I discovered that my favourite Irish author somehow wrote about my actual family in the final novel. There’s nothing like finding something familiar/real in a fantasy novel to blow your mind!
So I wrote to her
Here’s my letter:
My name is Lisa and I hail from Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been meaning to write to you for years, so I hope you’ll take a moment and read my story…
The Hunter’s Moon is one of my longtime favourite books. I remember when I first got it; I was a young girl and my mother had gotten it for me from the in-school Scholastic book orders. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old.
The first time I tried to read it, I gave up after about 1 chapter, finding the odd Irish names too hard for my young mind to decipher!
Several years later I picked it up and gave it another go. With my reading and comprehension skills improved, I was able to make my way through the novel and into a world I had always secretly dreamed of.
Best friends, romance, Canada and Ireland coming together, adventure and faeries, everything a girl could dream of.
I have treasured this book ever since.
A few more years passed before I discovered the additional books in the series. What a delight! I eagerly devoured them one by one from the library until I purchased the Golden Book of Faerie edition to read the last one, The Book of Dreams.
Imagine my surprise to find you not only writing about an area I spent time growing up in, but also about my family.
You read that right: my family.
I am a descendant of Bridget & Matthew Dowling, of Kilkenny, Ireland. They were some of the first Irish settlers in the area. My grandmother is Evelyn Dowling of Stayner, Ontario; part of the “Dueling Dowlings Clan” as we like to call them.
It was so surreal to read your book and see the story about the Mad River. Often while visiting my grandparents growing up (They now live in Midland, Ontario) we would travel out to the area and my grandmother would point out the Mad River and tell us the story of her great-great-great etc. grandmother naming it. We even have the family history traced all the way back to Ireland!
I feel like this is some kind of great coincidence, or maybe something else? I would love to know more about you and your experiences in that part of the province; how you came to learn about my ancestors and their stories. If it’s true that you can know part of a person through their writing, then I feel like we would have a great deal to talk about!
I’ve been thinking about writing to you about this for several years now, ever since I made the Dowling Discovery. Something always held me back, but this time I just went for it!
I want you to know just how much I love your books, even now at the age of 27 they hold a special place in my library. I give them as gifts to my closest friends and re-read them periodically. I loved them before I even knew I had a personal connection to the characters in your story!
Just imagine what it was like for me to find mention of my very own family in one of my favourite books. Incredible.
I thought I would share this story with you as one lover of Eire and Faerie to another, and I hope you’ll write back!
Go raibh maith agat,
Melling wrote about my ancestor Bridget Dowling, and how she came to name the Mad River in the Creemore/Stayner area of Ontario. Here’s the excerpt from the book:
“After their meal, they walked to the outskirts of Creemore and stopped on a bridge spanning the Mad River. The water was shallow, trickling slowly over a stony bottom. Trees lined the shore.
“The river got its name from one of the earliest settlers,” Dana told him, remembering a story of her grandmother’s. “Bridget Dowling was one of those tough Irish pioneers. She settled just north of here with her husband Matthew and loads of kids. One day she was coming back from the mill with a sack of flour on her back and a baby in her arms and she had to ford the river. It was wild and rushing. She said later she almost drowned in ‘that mad river’ and that’s what everyone has called it ever since.””
The rest of the novel takes place in areas that I was familiar with growing up; in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario. I really feel as though I could be in the story since I know the landmarks and locations it takes place in! Woah!