Family secrets are revealed as the author of Red Deer fictionalizes the life of her ironic and contradictory grandmother

Red Deer author Susan Glasier wrote her latest novel in an effort to understand her explosive and contradictory grandmother.

It has never been the same is a fictionalized account of the grumpy woman’s life, which has been littered with bombshell events, including rape, murder, illness and death.

How nasty was Glasier’s grandmother? As a child, the author recalls innocently asking her grandmother if the black-and-white photo of her on her desk was of Glasier’s grandfather, who had died before she was born.

“She slammed it down and said ‘Yeah, but let’s not talk about him!'” recalled Glasier, who previously wrote the memoir Bend like a willow.

She would later find out that her grandfather, who she thought died of the 1918 Spanish flu, had actually died of syphilis, just one of many secrets in her family tree.

The discovery of a family diary prompted Glasier to start putting the pieces together to solve why the old woman was the way she was.

His grandmother, Olive Amelia (Glasier changed her name in the book to protect the legacy of notable ancestors, including a non-Mormon former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court) was an unusually strong woman of the early 1900s.

After her husband’s death, she did not sell her steel-framed window business as was expected of a company that could not conceive of a female entrepreneur, but continued to run it while raising their three children.

She declined to be assisted by others, Glasier said.

“There was a certain spirit about her that fascinated me. I always felt, however, that there were hidden secrets that haunted her, and the older I got the more I felt the need to know what those secrets were,” Glasier writes in the prologue to her novel.

Although she took artistic liberties in imagining unknowable aspects of the plot, Glasier said that the book’s most salient facts are true, including her grandmother’s factious relationship with her father, whom she forced to take her along on a road trip to Mexico when he was in his 20s.

Glasier discovered that a violent assault occurred while her grandmother was left alone in a Mexican hotel room. This, followed by a tragedy involving the resulting child, born out of wedlock, and other dramatic events, helped Glasier understand his grandmother’s fractured personality.

At times, the woman who died in her eighties in 1968 “displayed a deep sadness brought on by what appeared to be the most innocent of events,” Glasier wrote. And other times she “she was completely selfish and insufferable… I watched her anger at her rise as an entity of her own and scare the shit out of me and anyone close to her.”

The 480-page self-published novel took Glasier, now in his 80s, about a decade to complete due to all the detective work involved, and his work and reworking of the story with help from local publisher Carl Hahn and his group of writers.

This is the second book by the retired Olds College curriculum developer following his 2012 book To Bend Like a Willow: A Story of an Arab To promisewhich recounted the hardships she experienced during her six-year intercultural marriage to a Muslim man and their previous life in Algeria.

So far, Glasier said she’s received positive feedback on her novel based on her grandmother’s life, especially from family members who have told her they see an ancestral trait of strength running down the female line.

It has never been the same is available from Sunworks or the Red Deer Arts Council, 4919-49th St. There will be a reading by the author at the Arts Council at 2pm on January 28.

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