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A Place To Call Home
Cover photo by Melanie Wills






A Place To Call Home

Readers' Comments

I'm looking forward to hearing your comments! I won't promise that all of them will be published on this webpage, but I will read and respond to them all. Let me know if you don't want your comments made public.

I'm deeply grateful to all those who have taken the time to write to me. You've inspired me to keep writing!

Read Published Reviews

"Thank you for [A Place To Call Home] and the effort you expended in creating a very vivid glimpse into our past. My dad and I both believe that your book deserves much broader access, not only to readers of great stories, but to students of history, and people pursuing family history in Ontario and Upper Canada.... You have spun an engaging yarn, and I look forward to reading your other work afterwards. You are contributing, as you have no doubt been often told, a considerable historical service, making the past alive intelligently, accessibly, and relevantly to people such as myself." - Brian McNerney, Austin Texas

"I just love A Place To Call Home. Susanna Moodie meets Thomas Hardy with a pinch of Jane Austen. It is currently my favourite book. There's a lot of 'junky' fiction out there, but I was gobsmacked by your story. I want to meet Jeremy and Keir. I sympathized with Brendan despite his abuse. Your characters came alive. The story came to life and I couldn't put it down. (My 3 year old didn't like that too much!) Thank you so much for writing a 'future classic'." - Kristin McCarthy

"This past July while on an abbreviated honeymoon in the Buckhorn Lake area my wife and I (second marriage for us both – we both admit to being in our late 50s) bought a copy of your book A Place To Call Home as a present to ourselves. It was a spur-of-the- moment purchase, and now one that I am very happy to have made. I have found it hard to put down…unlike the book I finished a few days ago – The DaVinci Code. The historic detail and geographic descriptions in your book are clear and, together with the dialogue, help the people come alive in the realistic setting you have so carefully crafted. My first degree was in geography and history, and my MA and Ph.D. were both in Geography - it is a rare novel that satisfies the geographer in me! This is the sort of book that we should have to have read in high school back in the early 60s, and that should be publicized by the 'Canadian Geographic'."
Dr. Bob Ryerson, FASPRS, President, Kim Geomatics Corporation, Manotick, Ontario

"Thank you for writing this important book, which I enjoyed immensely.... Apart from the story line, which I believe carries the narrative brilliantly, I was fascinated by the wide spectrum of characterization. My grandmother talked to me a great deal about the Ontario in which she grew up in the latter half of the 19th century, and last night as I read, her words came back to me powerfully.... I felt that you caught with superb historical insight the detail, the nuance and the ethos that she described. Thank you for validating our experience as Ops township residents by capturing it in literature." - Veronica O'Reilly, Toronto, Ontario

"I couldn't resist commenting on this incredibly difficult to put down book! I hadn't read a novel in about 3 - 4 years because what was out there just didn't appeal to me. I picked up this book 2 summers ago and just got around to reading it. It was wonderful! Entertaining, educating, heartbreaking, and a powerful statement of the people - our relatives!!! - who pioneered this part of Canada. Since I was born in Toronto and live in Oshawa, I'm very familiar with all the settings that are so beautifully and skillfully described. I LOVED it! Thank you so much from someone who always detested history!!! It was so very enjoyable... I will be on the lookout for any book Gabriele writes. Many thanks for your hard work and dedication. - Pat Hutchinson, Oshawa Ontario

"Just a quick note to say I have just finished reading A Place To Call Home and loved it. It is an awesome book. I found myself reading more slowly at the end as I didn't want it to end. ... Is it in high schools in Canada, as this is how we should be teachiing Canadian history, as you get the history as well as a social commentary of the times. You are a gifted writer, and John Diefenbaker would be proud that a Canadian is putting Canadian history into such a readable format. Great work!! Can't say enough good things about it. I will not soon forget Rowena and Kieran. Keep up the great work!" - Fran Christie

"Absolutely wonderful! A Place To Call Home is so vivid, descriptive and intriguing...I couldn’t put it down! You made me feel like I was part of the story from beginning to end. The characters are so real, their lives so intense that it stirred emotion. You intertwine fact and fiction in such an interesting way...so insightful. Living in the Lindsay area all my life, I was fascinated with your historical research. I learned a lot! A Place To Call Home is certainly a ‘must read’ for everyone!" Nancy Graham, Lindsay Ontario

"I am very impressed not only by the amount of research that went into this, but by the way you have handled it. The background rings of authenticity. You have also done an excellent job with dialogue -- no easy task when dealing with another era AND with cultural and class differences amongst your characters.... Two writer friends could not possibly have written two more different novels centred in the same era than your A Place To Call Home and my Liberators!" - Munroe Scott, Peterborough, Ontario - award-winning playwright, columnist, writer, director, and biographer of Dr. Robert McClure.

"A Place To Call Home is a wonderful recreation of the life and times of a pioneer town beginning in the 1830s when this fictional version of Lindsay, Ontario, was in its infancy. The novel takes the town and its characters, mostly migrants from the British Isles, especially Ireland, over several decades of political, economic and social development in the 19th century. All readers will enjoy learning about Canadian history through the eyes of the O'Shaughnessy clan. This novel will interest not only readers with connections in Central Ontario but anywhere in Canada and the States, because we all have A Place to Call Home in our individual and collective memories." - Dr R B Fleming, Argyle, Ontario - author of General Stores of Canada: Merchants and Memories, and more.

"I really loved and related to your A Place To Call Home . I have read it twice and got much enjoyment out of both reads. I think your book deserves a place on a secondary school reading list for Ontario. In depiction of time, place, immigrant experience, and as a family saga it could be companion to Charlotte Gray's Sisters In The Wilderness, and Jane Urquhart's Away. Its narrative style, pace, believable characters, imagined dramatic incidents, actual historical events, and imagined dialogue make for a lively, compelling depiction of one piece of 19th C. Ontario social history.
Another venue for A Place To Call Home could be a Women's Studies reading list. Your women characters all have very different personalities. But they have in common that they are feisty, competent, and vocal in a milieu where they are considered adjuncts to the males." - Muriel Cluett, Scarborough, Ontario

"Thank you for A Place To Call Home. I have just finished reading it for the third time. ... Like long-time friends, a good book teaches one something through every reading!" - Grace Frazer

"The book has a very strong sense of place and, as such, has particular poignancy and interest for anyone living in the Kawartha Lakes area. Historical details and events provide the backdrop against which the characters' lives are explored - I can "see" Lindsay as it grows and changes: the early settlement, the steamers on the river, the mills, the changes wrought by fire. But since each of those stages of development holds true for most settlements in the mid 1800's in Upper Canada, any reader interested in the social and political history of the time period is rewarded with a rich exploration of a particular point in time.
"Since Canada is largely a country of immigrants, many readers will identify with the main characters' experience of coming to a "New World". Many of us have heard stories of our own ancestors' struggles and pioneering spirit.
"I could go on and on about how much I've enjoyed getting to know the characters, how I've become involved in their struggles, and tremendously impressed by their courage as well as moved by their human frailties." - Kathy Anderson, Lindsay, Ontario

"My husband and I read A Place To Call Home with immense pleasure. It is truly a well written and immensely interesting book. I have not accomplished much in the past two days, as I could not put the book down. Living not far from Lindsay, we were enthralled to read about the history of the city. Excellent!" - Jean & Dave Stinson

"A Place To Call Home was an interesting and thought provoking novel. The fiction interwoven with your detailed research kept me reading chapter through chapter, only stopping when I had to!!!! I found "Rowena" a real life character with many problems but also with the courage and fortitude to carry on for the sake of her child and for herself, and I found myself thinking about her often during the week I was reading your book. The historic facts intertwined in the plot gave me a better sense of Pioneer times in Toronto, Peterborough and Lindsay. You have written a great novel..." - Lynda Leader, Burnt River, Ontario

"A Place To Call Home is an insightful, compassionate story of the early settlement of beautiful Lindsay. It is an honest portrayal of the coming together of the different racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds, not without a sensitive analysis of the moral, amoral, and immoral in religious passion as it affects the rigorous struggle to mould a new society in an often hostile environment.
"Gabriele Wills exercises a very astute balance of the good, and the not-so-good in the characters portrayed in her story, along with a sensitive tolerance for the human-inhumane frailties and strengths that are part of us all. An excellent read!" - Rev. Lorne Dorsch, Lindsay, Ontario.

"Reading A Place To Call Home brought me closer to my ancestors, specifically those crazy French Canadians who settled north of Coboconk, and indeed spent much of their time in the bush, felling trees while the women and children were left to fend for themselves. It gave me a deeper appreciation for what they went through and where I came from. However, it interferred with my daily living and duties, as I could not put this book down! I live in the State of New York now, and it is a reminder of my past, my ancestry, and also gives me a longing and a renewed appreciation for home." Jill Hacker (nee Bradimore), Bainbridge, NY

"I've now finished A Place To Call Home and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was looking for a novel that would bring 19th century Ontario to life for me and your book did exactly that. I am impressed by the amount of research that went into the book and with your skill in dramatizing many of the key themes that went into making pioneer life." - Roy Adams, Hamilton, Ontario

"Your book gave me a colourful account of pioneer life that I could only imagine. I now feel as though I've seen the movie! In fact, if the screenplay did not alter much, it SHOULD be a movie! Canadian New World history IS limited, compared to the Old World and often tied to milestones like battles, Confederation and notable prime ministers. The real history is in the way of life of the people who fought in those battles, built Confederation and ran for office, as well as the folks who cut trees and tilled the land and built factories. Your truly excellent and absorbing work of fiction brought this part of history to life for me." - Carole M. Griffin, Ottawa, Ontario

"I have to tell you that I am not much of a book reader, but your fictional chronology of a pioneering family felt so real to me that I read the entire book in about 2 days. In my opinion your writing was so vivid, I could 'see and hear' the story unfold; in fact it could easily be made into a movie! Congratulations!" - Lynn Brown, Port Hope, Ontario

"I thoroughly enjoyed every page. The characters were so real; the description and detail made the story truly live. I am looking forward to your next novel." - Evelyn R. McLean, Lindsay, Ontario

"It was a wonderful journey that you led me through and I enjoyed the characters, the history, the connectiveness with Lindsay and the drama of the lives of the people. I was immersed in your descriptive and vivid writing style which flowed so magically.... [My father] was such a product of the past you paint and I was drawn to understand him better through your book. So, thank you." - Brian Twohey, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia

"We just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed reading your book. You have a very special gift of relating historical events in a wonderfully interesting manner. Social customs of the time were brought vividly alive through the experiences of your characters. Once we started reading, we found it difficult to put the book down. When finished, we were sorry to have reached the end. Thank you so much for a GREAT READ." - Bill & Molly Callaghan, Toronto, Ontario.

"I really enjoyed the plot and the characters, especially Keir, and the historical allusions to Lindsay were fascinating in their own right. You seemed to take historical fact and 'blend' it with the fiction.....I can't even imagine how difficult and time consuming that must have been. I find myself so curious about specific political events.... I found the book to be a fascinating and insightful story about family relationships, romance, and 'roughing it' in Upper Canada. It was a wonderful read!" - Lara McInnis, Toronto, Ontario

"I could not put [A Place To Call Home ] down.... I was so pleased, right from page one, I couldn't stop. I had to find out what happened in Rowena's life. Thank you for writing it." - Ruth Lyons, Lindsay, Ontario.

"Congratulations Gabriele ! Just finished a really great read.Your book... is a superb story start to finish. Wrapped in a stunning cover as well! It's wonderful we have writers such as you to keep our rich Canadian heritage alive and am sure those familiar with early Lindsay will love it. Certainly am looking forward to your next novel." - Allan Dracup, Lindsay Ontario

"I've just finished reading your book and it was GREAT! The characters and the story itself were so compelling, I was reluctant to put the book down once I started to read it! I grew up in Lindsay (my parents still live there) and could visualize some of the places you wrote about.... Congratulations on a very good book - an excellent read and very entertaining and interesting!" - Anna Cleary

"I loved this novel. Aside from the geographical intrigue, this story embellished the journey of survival by remarkable pioneer families - their blood, sweat and tears, the entanglement of class and cultures, their acceptance of God's will, the role of women holding so much together. I will never again complain about not having a dishwasher! When I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking about it. Thank you, Gabriele, for this lovely read." - Cheryl Saunders, Lindsay, Ontario.

"One need not watch the television or movie screen to have one's history come alive. Ms. Wills has succeeded in her book, A Place To Call Home, in bringing the past to life like none other that I have read in recent times." - Laurie R. McLean, Lindsay, Ontario

"I admit to a bias toward historical fiction in my reading habits, so I began A Place To Call Home favourably disposed toward enjoying it, and I did enjoy it. Within the first several chapters, I found myself drawn into the story, emotionally engaged in following the fortunes of the O'Shaughnessy family as they leave Ireland and arrive in early Canada, making the difficult journey to settle in Launston Mills - better known as Lindsay, Ontario to those who are familiar with the area. Author Gabriele Wills has ably interwoven actual historical events and personages into the events of the lives of her characters. Her skillful handling of the spoken language of the time has an authentic sound, yet does not distract from the unfolding of the plot. And the plot has a great deal of unfolding to do as the story weaves through the tumultuous events in Upper Canada in the middle years of the nineteenth century. Wills' protagonist, Rowena O'Shaughnessy, is an admirable woman, easy to identify with, as she struggles with conflicts internal and external throughout her life and the lives of her loved ones in the place she eventually grew to love and call home." - Barbara Strachan, Victoria, BC

"Characters and places quickly become alive and draw the reader into the story. A story that will make you laugh and cry." - Betty Ford, Lindsay, Ontario

"Finished reading A Place To Call Home last night, and I enjoyed every page. Your command of the English language is outstanding and your characters are real. A Place To Call Home would make a great movie...." - Shirley McCubbin, Lindsay, Ontario.

"Enjoyed. I appreciate your efforts in researching the early history of Lindsay and other parts of Canada. Thanks for a good read." - George McCubbin, Lindsay, Ontario.

"Gabriele Wills tells a well written tale in A Place To Call Home, superbly blending historical fact with fictitious families. The immigrating Irish faced many a trial in their struggle to establish themselves in Canada. Thoroughly enjoyable read!" - Anne Spagnolo, Cobourg, Ontario

"You deal with history and the fate of settlers in Canada in a very captivating way - presenting what you have to say in a truthful and convincing fashion - better than any history of Canada I have so far come across. Canadians today will really reflect upon the courage of their ancestors after reading about the horrendous ordeals they experienced 'settling down', not to mention 'arriving' in Canada." - Barbara Yearsley Burnaby, B.C.

"I'm enthralled with this novel, A Place to Call Home.... It's a tale of love and relationships played against a backdrop of events, both serious and humourous, that flanked life in pioneer times. The protagonist, Rowena O'Shaughnessy, is a woman to whom we can all readily relate despite the more than century and half difference in our time of living in the place we call home." - Karin Robinson, Lindsay, Ontario

"This novel has vividly brought me through the historical time of Canada! ... I once loved reading novels like Boxcar Children and other childhood books. But unfortunately, I became very lazy and grew out of reading novels. Magazines, textbooks, and other short reading materials were the only things I would read for leisure and school. ... It was truly my pleasure to have read A Place To Call Home. Every night, I had to read some chapters before going to bed. Frankly after reading this novel, I start to appreciate the leisure of reading. I can't wait till Moon Hall is available. EXQUISITE!" - Eunice Lay, Guelph, Ontario

"Excellent for reading in my not-so-spare time at a Haliburton cottage. It fit right in to my week off. Loved the story, the writing. Paxton's Tavern apparently had a sign over the entrance (true story) 'Enter often and leave sober' - which I don't think that many did - leave sober! Well done and thank you, Gabriele!" - Ray Marshall, Lindsay Ontario [Ray, manager of the Academy Theatre in Lindsay, is referring to the original inn which once stood on the site of the Academy Theatre. I named it Paxton's in my novel. - G. Wills]

"I just couldn't put [A Place To Call Home] down once I started reading it. Living in the Lindsay area for the past 25 years, this book put me into the life and times of the first individuals that settled in this area. I now find myself walking around town trying to picture what life was like back then. Trying to figure out what was fact and what was fiction; it all seemed like fact to me through the quality of the writing. I continue to think about the characters and the story months after reading the book." - Jim DeFloria, Lindsay, Ontario


 
 

Copyright © 2008 Gabriele Wills, Photos Copyright © 2008 Melanie Wills