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Local author Sandy Latka publishes first novel as glowing tribute to her late grandmother
Sandy Latka’s admiration and respect for her grandmother and granddaughter has led her to fulfilling a lifelong dream and publishing her first novel at age 71.
“The book is basically a tribute to my grandmother who had to endure so much in her life,” said Latka, who for the past three years has divided her time between a small community outside of Edmonton called Lake Wabamun and Osoyoos. “This book was also about fulfilling a promise I made to my mother to write our family’s story and about accepting the challenge to sit down and get this done and get this off my personal bucket list.”
Latka’s 400-page book is called Twisted Trees and was recently published by A to Z Publishing out of Penticton.
Twisted Trees tells the story of Latka’s grandmother, who she refers to simply as Polly in the book, and how she overcame adversity and poverty to lead a happy and productive life against overwhelming odds.
The story is set in Derbyshire, England, where Latka and her family were born and raised.
Latka came to Canada back in 1965 with her first husband and settled in Kamloops.
“Since that time I’ve always had a soft spot for the Okanagan Valley and always knew I would end up here one day,” she said.
She also has a son in Penticton and disabled granddaughter, who is her biggest fan and the person most responsible for encouraging her to write this book, she said.
“Her name is Amanda Lewis and she was born with Cerebral Palsy, but she has accomplished so much in her life, including writing her own book of poetry called One a couple of years ago,” said Latka. “She is a very family oriented young woman and when she heard the history of our family and all that we’ve been through, she told me I had to write this book, so I listened to her.”
Twisted Trees further details her family’s history in England and her grandmother’s iron will to overcome a very tough life and courage to escape abuse and poverty, she said.
“My great grandfather was widowed at a very early age and was left with seven children,” said Latka, who uses pseudonyms throughout the novel to protect the identity of her family members. “ He married another widow who also had seven children.
“She was not a nice woman. She encouraged her children to marry his children so they could basically double the amount of money they would receive … you would receive gold sovereigns when you got married in some families. What happened was three step siblings were married, including my grandmother and grandfather. None of those marriages were for love, but all about money.”
The majority of the book details her grandmother’s struggles to survive during the First World War.
“The book details my grandmother surviving the First World War and the fact millions of people were out of work, most of the coal mines in England were on strike and everyone was struggling,” she said. “Things got better during the roaring 20s and the book ends with The Depression of the 1930s.”
Through determination and good fortune, her grandmother escaped a “horrific marriage” and ended up in Canada, where she lived out the final years of her life extremely happy and content, she said.
“Her life finished on a very high note,” she said. “The last few years of my grandmother’s life were exceptional … she deserved it after everything she had been through.
“My grandmother died in 1991 surrounding by her children and grandchildren. She came over in 1968 with her second husband, who was a wonderful man, and settled in Kamloops and had just a grand life in her later years. She was 96 when she died. This book is my tribute to her.”
Norma Hill, an editor from Penticton, Jasmine Thorpe, who works for A to Z Publishing, and graphic artist Angela Hook of Penticton were of great assistance in getting Twisted Trees published and she will be forever thankful for their assistance, said Latka.
“I call them my Okanagan angels,” she said.
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of Twisted Trees can contact her at 250-495-7771 or 780-918-1944.