Morinville – A former Morinville resident will launch her first non-fiction book this week in Edmonton. Jessica Kluthe’s book Rosina, the Midwife tells the story of the author’s great-great-grandmother who was a midwife in post-war Italy. Kluthe will launch the book Mar. 14 at Grant MacEwan Univeristy’s Bookstore – City Centre Bookstore – from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The titular subject of the work was from Southern Italy, a place Kluthe fell in love with while researching the book. However, in post-World War II Europe, such love was not the case for many Italians. Some 26 million citizens had left and continued to leave in a 100-year period. Thy left for many countries, including Canada, Australia and the United States. Other than her great-great-grandmother, all of Kluthe’s relatives left the country.
The book collects the stories the author heard over the years as well as accounts of her great-great-grandmother’s life from people who had known her. Through the combination, the author has been able to piece together the midwife’s life, predominantly through the 1950s.
It is an examination that gave Kluthe great insight into an era where there was but one doctor to serve three neighbouring villages, a situation that forced the doctor to grant Rosina, the midwife permission to deliver babies. Similar permission from the local priest allowed Rosina to bless babies and sometimes say their last rites while she was at it.
Kluthe, who grew up in the Morinville area and still visits family here, said the book has a bit of Morinville in it, at least in spirit. The book explores the idea of the small town experience and the author sees parallels between that experience and the life her ancestors lived growing up in small villages – connections between people that happen over generations.
“Place is powerful: who we are is informed, at least in part, by where we come from,” Kluthe said. “Small places lend themselves to community building. Rosina was a valued member of her village community and so rooted in Maione where she worked and raised a family that it wasn’t an option for her to migrate. A powerful moment I had while researching was afforded to me by Sister Alice Trottier who published Faith and Tenacity: A History of Morinville in 1991. Trottier tells the story of Mrs. Sara Rondeau, a midwife to a growing parish. While Rosina traversed hillside trails, Sara waded through snowdrifts – both to fulfill their important roles in their communities. It’s easy for me to imagine that Sara Rondeau would have developed a connection to Morinville the way my great-great-grandmother did to Maione. It’s also easy for me to imagine some lines running between small places, some similarities, a connectedness, at the heart of them. Morinville has certainly shaped my identity, and it will always be the place I call home.”
Long path to publication
Following Rosina’s path as a midwife through the middle of the 20th Century was but one part of Kluthe’s journey. The road from research to reader is a long one. In late 2011 Kluthe received a contract for her book from Victoria-based Brindle & Glass Publishing, a Canadian book publisher with a focus on works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. The manuscript had been submitted eight months prior. Receiving the contract was part one of a dream come true. Part two was seeing her maternal ancestor’s story in print for the first time. For Kluthe the experience was not beneath the flaps of a cardboard box.
“I had imagined receiving the box of books at home, while I was alone to open it up and flip through it in private, but the moment actually happened in public,” Kluthe said. “I went to purchase something from Grant MacEwan’s bookstore. I walked around the corner to find 200 copies filling a bookshelf just a few days before my box of books arrived at home.”
Kluthe, who is a teacher at the university, had to keep herself composed before heading off to teach her classes on business writing, but she managed to run her hands over a few copies of the book before heading off to class.
“It’s a pretty powerful feeling: from a Word document on a laptop to a beautiful book for anyone to pick up and read,” she said of seeing the book for the first time. “And I have to say, it is a beautiful looking book. I’ve received a lot of compliments on the title lettering, which has another Morinville connection as they were drawn freehand by former resident, Karl Sundquist.”
The author will have plenty of opportunity to acquaint readers with her work. On Mar. 12 the author will be in Victoria where she and fellow authors Lorna Crozier and George Szanto were part of a panel on the importance of place in stories. Kluthe will launch the book at MacEwan Bookstores with a book signing Mar. 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and will follow that with a reading at Spinelli’s Bar Italian (Little Italy location) Mar. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. She is also hoping to do a reading and signing at the Morinville Community Library this spring.
Above: Author and former Morinville resident Jessica Kluthe poses with some copies of her new book Rosina, the Midwife. – Submitted Photo