Manna Mark Books

Laurel Mae Hislop

Hi, I’m Laurel Mae Hislop, a life-long reading and writing addict. I write. I dabble in the visual arts and have a background in developing eLearning courses and tutorials.

Manna means food from heaven, and like most writers, I wish it would drop into my writing on a daily basis. It doesn’t, but I’m pleased when it does.

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My Books

“Chitchat” is a book of short stories—nominee for the Whistler Independent Book Awards in 2016. It’s available on Apple Books and Amazon.

Situated in the hinterland of rural British Columbia, meet a diverse and eclectic cast of characters. Here, a handful of offbeat souls learn to co-exist, and at the same time, amuse themselves in this queer reclusive hamlet. Set in the post-hippie era of the 1980s, the book is a parcel of quirky, sweet tales loaded with vitality and spunk. 

“f-holes of MELANCHOLIA” is a novel short-listed for the Whistler Independent Book Awards in 2019

Available to order —Ingram SparkApple BooksAmazon

Visit 1926 and meet a refugee family striving for a fresh start in Canada. Having fled the Bolsheviks, they are holding fast to the one thing they hold dear—music.

Katya Sadilov is a former child prodigy violinist turned farmwife—a woman plonked into the wrong life in rural Saskatchewan. Her new husband, George, must instruct her in the most basic domestic skills—how to cook, work the stove, and milk the cow. Survival in this harsh world depends on know-how.  

Long before medical people coined the term Bipolar, Katya’s mania followed by melancholia, tortures her and rankles her husband. The tight-minded citizens in town shun her. The harsh prairie landscape deflates her. Loki, a barnyard crow, is her sole confidant. Her only advocate is her father, Vasili. But, music resonates brilliantly from the f-holes of Katya’s violin. Can she trust that the strength of songs can overcome her plight and crippled mind?

This story explores a father’s love for his daughter and the trials he suffers to protect her. The family copes with hardship, tragedy, and the diatonic scale of mental collapse. Still, the music lingers. It fills Katya’s days, embracing and hypnotic, and whispers through the wheat stalks in sweet, sibylline tones.

Reviews

Whistler Independant Book Awards Review of "f-Holes of Melancholia"

The action takes place on a farm in Saskatchewan in the 1920s. The harsh life with frigid winters, fields and animals to care for, and endless domestic tasks are very well rendered. 

The family’s default theme is nostalgia for their high-class and music-filled life in pre-Bolshevik Russia, as contrasted with dreary life in rural Saskatchewan. The theme of adaptation of new immigrants to their harsh and primitive life on a farm predominates, as illustrated by Katya’s inability and unwillingness to accept her new life and learn domestic and farming skills. The theme of mental instability, as exemplified by an obsession with music as a refuge and a saviour is very well developed. In her head, Katya is always on stage in a concert hall.   

Review of "f-Holes of Melancholia "

Laurel Mae Hislop’s excellent book about life in a remote  countryside in Saskatchewan in the 1920s is a must-read. Perhaps it will appeal most to immigrants who have been forced to leave settled lives behind and start over again in completely new environments.

As I read it, I remembered visiting a small museum in a Newfoundland village and reading the diary of an English war bride who came to Newfoundland from London after the Second World War. Her angst at coping with Canadian winters, a farmwife’s chores, and the desolation of friendlessness are echoed in the plight of Katya Sadilov, a musical prodigy from Russia who, during the Bolshevik Revolution, moves from the concert stages of St. Petersburg to a primitive Saskatchewan farmhouse.

Katya’s new Canadian husband is George Brown, a man whose total life is subsumed in the daily struggle to survive and who, though sympathetic at first to Katya’s ignorance of cream churning and cow-milking, becomes impatient with her inability to cope with her new life. He hires a know-it-all farmwoman called Mary who calls Katya “princess” and laughs at her incompetence.

Katya descends into melancholia. Her violin and the music she loves to play help save her from madness. As well, she is fortunate to have her loving parents nearby. Her father Vasili, especially, remains her staunchest advocate and his love for his daughter enables her to survive and eventually find a happy solution to her  life.

Hislop evokes with great accuracy the horror of Saskatchewan winters, the dreary church services that offer the only social escape, and the conflicts of an unhappy marriage. She tells the story from the first-person viewpoint of Katya and the third-person narrative of Katya’s father Vasili, a skilful choice that evades the danger of hearing only from a potentially unreliable narrator. Hislop’s Epilogue is a tour de force that offers readers everything they hope for.

Ann Birch—author of “Settlement”  “The Secret Life of Roberta Greaves”  and  “Duelling in a New World”

 

Whistler Independent Book Awards review of "Chitchat"

Hislop does a good job of playing with themes of convention and belonging in an environment where the “counter culture” predominates. While she uses some unusual similes “like a full-blind dovetail joint,” these often suit the quirky nature of the residents.

I found her dialogue believable and her characters well differentiated.

Review of "Chitchat"

Chat and its inhabitants share universal problems: wife-beating, jealousy, suspicion, and addiction. What makes the stories unique is the skill in which Hislop describes the world her characters inhabit, bringing it to life for her readers.One theme predominates as a beacon for all readers. It’s the power of friendship — or, as Hislop describes it, that ‘ember of delight’ that flickers into flame to give warmth and comfort in life’s darkest moments.

Ann Birch—author of “Settlement”  “The Secret Life of Roberta Greaves”  and  “Duelling in a New World”

Heron Nests—Photo by Laurel Mae

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“To take to give is all, return what is hungrily given

Puffing the pounds of manna up through the dew to heaven,

The lovely gift of the gab bangs back on a blind shaft.”

—Dylan Thomas from On no work of words

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

George Eliot