2014 Alberta Readers' Choice Award
2014 Writers Guild of Alberta
Wilfrid Eggleston Nonfiction Award
2014 The City of Calgary's W.O. Mitchell Book Award.
Published by Goose Lane Editions (Canada) and Sperling & Kupfer (Italy).
"My mother's name was Alice Tyler. The story of her One Good Thing begins at her funeral in March 2004 and ends 60 years earlier, in March 1944, when 76 World War II airmen break out of Stalag Luft III, the Nazi prison camp in Sagen, Poland. Only three made it home."
So begins Almost a Great Escape, the story of a son who takes an unexpected journey into his mother's long-buried past, a past hidden inside a Campbell's Beef Noodle Soup box. After her passing, her son Tyler opens the box and finds a confusion of old letters, journals, and creased photographs that revealed his mother's secret WWII romance, and more. The letters were from the Norwegian fighter pilot Jens Muller, who would became famous as one of only three prisoners to make it home after “The Great Escape.”
But this forbidden romance is only one of the many mysteries inside Tyler's unusual inheritance. As he reconstructs and deconstructs his mother's life, from her youth as a wealthy Montreal debutante to her final days as a broken but unbent casualty of an unhappy marriage, he begins to understand her willingness to pay the price for her choices. Ultimately he discovers the power and inspiration of his mother's life, and her final message to him: never let go of Your One Good Thing.
When I was 13, my mother of summer horses and rivers didn't want me to see the slow dying coming for her: alcoholism, breast cancer, polymyalgia, and an unfaithful, bullying husband.
The day I was sent away to boarding school, she stood beside me on the railway platform in Calgary. It was a tearless farewell.
I would never live at home again for more than a few months at a time. My five brothers and one sister would soon be strangers to me. I would never see the mother again who didn't wave goodbye from the railway platform. I would remember her as My Goodbye Mother: the mother I once had.
Almost a Great Escape is a mesmerizing account of consequences, confirming that you can survive your past, but you can never escape from it.
Almost a Great Escape
A Found Story
The author as a boy in Alice's study where they read Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.