Lisa Brown Books
About Lisa Brown
Lisa Brown is an avid lover of historical fiction and genealogy. Work on her own family tree began with a desire to reach beyond her Canadian roots and learn more about herself. She is intrigued by the natural order of life, of the sometimes serendipitous and sometimes cataclysmic results of singular moments in time, and how they can echo down through the generations.
Digging into the past led to the discovery of a wealth of fascinating people, places, and events, and an insatiable desire to tell some of their stories.
INSPIRE - Toronto International Book Fair
November 19, 2014
Lisa joined fellow authors Binnie Brennan and Christine Fischer Guy on stage at INSPIRE. They read excerpts from their novels that shared the theme "Writing About the Past".
2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards
April 18, 2016
The Porter's Wife is a Silver Medal Winner at The Wishing Shelf Book Awards.
In 1901, Manchester, England, is a place of despair, where hunger, filth, and disease are inescapable, and the line between subsistence and poverty is frighteningly thin. After the death of her beloved husband, Sarah is left on her own to care for her five young children in this harsh and unforgiving place.
Sarah is strong and fiercely determined to see her family right, but her blinding pride gets in the way, to disastrous result. Life soon offers Sarah an unexpected gift, one that allows her to rethink their future, and she makes a decision that will alter the course of their lives forever. Sarah and her family leave the grit and grime of Manchester behind to start life anew; but she soon realizes that leaving isn't always letting go, and she is forced to face all that has held her back from truly moving on.
The Porter's Wife is a touching story about love and faith in the face of adversity. It is a celebration of self-discovery and the resiliency of the human spirit.
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Art and Agnes Craig are young, newly married, and in love. It should be the time of their lives. But it is the Twenties and Thirties; their world is mired in Prohibition and the Great Depression, and the lingering effects of the First World War have a firm grip on Art.
For Art, the war won't end. His memories thrust him back at every turn, playing out with terrifying intensity. Agnes is devastated as she watches her husband suffer and wants desperately to help, but denial is so much easier. A devastating accident, an irreversible moment in time, takes Art one step closer to the edge of himself, and Agnes must decide to take matters into her own hands or risk losing all that she holds dear.
In The Seeds of Sorrow, the sequel to The Porter's Wife, the Berry family saga continues almost twenty years after Agnes and her family left the grit and grime of 1904 Manchester behind for a new life in Canada.
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Oliver and Simon are young brothers who are unexpectedly orphaned and left alone in the world with nobody to care for them. Now, all they have is each other, and the threat of being torn apart becomes painfully real. The promise of a good home together in distant Canada eases their fears, but it is a promise that is destined to be broken.
After being separated from Simon, fate delivers Oliver to the Pritchard farm, where Liza Pritchard, a woman struggling with her own fractured and afflicted life, sees in Oliver the family she so desperately wants. But Oliver has to contend with her husband, an angry and violent man, and he can’t see past the terrible life he has been thrust into. Both Oliver and Liza have much to learn about faith and forgiveness, and together they embark on an emotional journey that will change each of them forever.
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Karen Dahood | March 11, 2014
I feel very brave, having just crossed the Atlantic by steamship in 1904.
THE PORTER’S WIFE is the most realistic “crossing over’ story I have read. Prepare yourself for several nights staying up late with this richly detailed contrast of soot-stained, industrial England with fresh, new Ontario, Canada, at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. The realism, with painful details, is enormously valuable for readers addicted to historical fiction.
Yes, there is romance, but it is not romantic. It is a woman’s story, with attention to feelings that matter as much today as they did then: a mother alone and frightened, making difficult decisions that will change her life and her children’s, with no guarantees.
Lisa Brown sketched in the background and events for Sarah Berry’s family while doing her own genealogical research. Her fascinating notes range from the way poor people were buried to the management of factories and tramways. She manages to slow the pace to the hoof beat of the cart horse and suspend time where there was no means of immediate communication. I especially appreciated descriptions of transportation: the tedious crisscrossing Manchester to deliver people by horse carriage; danger in getting off the local tram ride in the dark; the steamship rolling in rough seas and subsequent struggle to keep clean when people are vomiting.
I like her vivid reminders of how our lives are different now. We have hygiene, welfare, and employee rights. When you emigrated in 1904 there was no turning back, no phone calls or Emails. A lucky inheritance of fifty pounds took care of children for a while and set up a business, but that was all you had – no social security – so when someone shared a supply of fudge it was a very big deal, and if you could sew beautiful clothes, it would save your life. If you had relatives who paved the way, you could make it as long as you were healthy.
Lisa Brown depicts social attitudes convincingly in nuances of speech. She impresses us with the gift of close friendships, so few, and often abruptly ended. She has created a laudable heroine and introduced many characters that would be worth getting to know better. The author’s command of the language is remarkable. If the dialogue is a bit stilted in places and the narrative at times seems didactic, I forgive her, for she wants to share so much she found out about that period; I think she inhabits it. I learned more than I ever did in history classes, and I felt it, too. Lisa Brown succeeded in hooking me and I wait eagerly for the sequel to THE PORTER’S WIFE, which she has promised.
Namta Gupta | April 15, 2014
The book by Author Lisa Brown is the story of a woman to whom destiny has been unforgiving and cruel. Her trials, her sorrows and her constant need of putting on a brave front have steeled her heart (or it seems) but has it really?
Although the setting is 1901, and the way it has been brought in front of us readers is very realistic yet, I would say that the writer has given a very feisty and thoughtful persona to the leading lady. But even here she has a surprise; her leading lady is not some superwoman, she, in fact, is a very ‘real being’ whom one sees around every day. It is this down-to-earth approach that makes the heroine very likeable to a modern day woman. The writer has worked very well in bringing out a woman’s point of view to the fore and her grasp at emotional scenes is strong. But here is another side to it, it is likely that some people, perhaps those looking for easy-breezy romances, may find this aspect of analyzing and over analyzing a little tedious. But it is an intelligent work and the writer has shown excellent command of digging deep within the protagonist when she is feeling down.
Another wonderful aspect of the book is excellent editing which gives a reader perfect ‘tight-read’, so no frivolous useless details or frills and frolics to mar the speed at which the narrative unfolds. In the end, when she finally accepts her fate, it is neither forced nor coerced out from her; in fact the end is the best part of the book, humane and subtle. The protagonist is firmly in control of her own destiny and does not bow to any pressure. She finally accepts not just in front of her love but also makes peace with her own self with a message that it is alright to celebrate life and love and that it is fine to let go of past and to seek happiness.
The narrative is excellent; it is one of the major highlights of the book. The writer has subtly used stream of consciousness where she felt like but nowhere does it bore a reader. For people looking for intelligent work, this one surely is the one to read. In fact, this is a novel that can cater to almost all age groups (teenagers included) and celebrates a woman’s power in charting her own course in life. Hence, I would say that it deserves at least a one-time read for sure.
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Karen Dahood | July 26, 2014
Following THE PORTER’S WIFE, the inspiring story of a young English widow who, in 1904, migrates to Canada with five young children, SEEDS OF SORROW re-introduces the three girls as adults facing their own challenges in Winnipeg and Vancouver in the 1920s. Like its predecessor, this novel requires that a reader settle in slowly and attentively to carefully planted detail, to not expect tricks of plot, but to trust and appreciate the viewpoints of characters based on Lisa Brown’s ancestors as they experienced the frontier. Bad weather, lack of infrastructure, and a fledgling business economy provide the grim backdrop for this absorbing family history drama.
Margaret, Agnes and Mary are the siblings who remain geographically and emotionally close when they marry and start families. Margaret and her husband John have a restaurant in Winnipeg where Sarah, their seamstress mother, and Sam, a grocer, have made secure lives. A downturn in the economy persuades the young couple to move to the boom town of Vancouver; Agnes and shell-shocked Art, and newlyweds Mary and Percy decide to go with them, leaving the parents and brothers behind. This decision is wrenching, but the excitement of new scenery and promise of a fresh start propel them across the continent to the rising port city on the Pacific coast.
While the dialogue is slow-paced at times, it places us accurately in a time when married couples dominated society, and when milestones were not moon landings seen on TV, but family births and deaths, and seeing mountains for the first time. Scenes that depict characters navigating infant cityscapes; sharing home-cooked meals, serving fashionable gin martinis; training parakeets, and gawking at natural wonders, would evoke nostalgia were it not for the undertow of sadness accompanying those hard times.
Had SEEDS OF SORROW been written a century ago as a contemporary novel, it might now be taught in college literature classes as an example of American Realism along with Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy,Stephen Crane’s Maggie: a Girl of the Streets, Frank Norris’s The Octopus; A California Story, and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. A major difference between those social critics and Brown is that Brown has sufficient emotional intelligence and presumably the facts to make the reader embrace this family and not just tut-tut over the vagaries of Nature, banking, and stocks, of which little needs be said to get across the point. These 20th century pioneers demonstrate their love and keep faith in God’s plan even as their dreams fade.
The writer’s sensibilities come from a time of civility, optimism, and cooperation. Her effect is to persuade us to admire how this family sticks together to survive, bravely “sweeping feelings and emotions under the rug.” There is more to come, and we expect some triumphs over adversity. Indeed, the very first chapter in this book opens hopefully, if teasingly, with a third generation wedding day in 1944 -- before chapter two takes us back to the uncertainty of 1919.
Namta Gupta | November 16, 2014
I am sure that many readers are awaiting this book because most would have particularly liked writer Lisa Brown's first novel, The Porter's Wife.
Her grasp on emotional scenes was taut and tense, but it also was something that could melt an unforgiving heart! To me it particularly reminded of none other than Jane Austen's beautifully etched strong women characters. Initially, I presumed that this is mostly because the writer herself is a woman but I have to admit that after having read this book, it is clear that Lisa's grasp on even male characters is equally intriguing.
The plot is simple; it is a woman's narrative and her tumultuous but passionate struggle to stay afloat during ‘Great Depression' and other equally tyrannical times. Coming back to the central figure in this novel I have to say that it is a sort of celebration of womanhood without the writer taking the inherent femininity out of her lead character, although at times it may seem too unreal but yet the grip on characters and the scene executions keep the momentum going.
So what is the best part of the novel that others of the same genre may not possess? A fine reading of this work reveals that the most attractive part remains her steady grip on the language. Her language is classy and precise, ably weaved to reflect the time she has chosen to portray in her novel. In fact, those who love the clever use of words and wish to win over someone may as well try some lines ardently. So, all in all, I would say that those who like intelligent and sensitive writing can certainly go for this novel.
The writer has done a great work but I would also concede that this is a serious novel, although the writer has punctured the sufferings and endless fights of the protagonist with several beautiful and realistic passages dedicated to a normal family life, yet the mood remains somber. So therefore, those who have a penchant for easy breezy work should think twice before laying hands on this book. This is otherwise a great work and is free of street language therefore, everyone can read it. I would recommend this book for sure for its clean editing, great hold on the language, beautifully executed emotional scenes and certainly for the valorous heroine. Go for it!
Cheryl E. Rodriguez | July 6, 2014
Weddings, births, pursuits of better lives in a post war depression, aging parents and death are the seeds sown in The Seeds of Sorrow. One family’s story is told, spanning through generations - children grow up, get married, dream dreams and follow them. Lisa Brown’s The Seeds of Sorrow centers on the life of Agnes Craig. Agnes was a young child when her family traveled from England to Winnipeg, Canada. Whatever memories she had from her distant childhood home have now faded. Agnes matured into a practical, hard-headed, sarcastic “take charge gal.” Agnes loves to be busy; she never acts spontaneously or on a whim, believing nothing good comes from change. Agnes marries Art, who suffers from “shell shock” after serving in WWI. He is haunted by the demons of war. “Every memory plays out in detail, tormenting his soul with exact precision.” Agnes was determined; she would support Art, no matter what happened. They live in a time and in a land of extremes. In a blink of an eye, the path of their lives changes drastically. God alters their direction, “with no explanation, no apology.” Can forgiveness and unconditional love piece together their fragmented and broken lives? Will there be an end or only another doorway in time?
The Seeds of Sorrow is the continuing story of the characters from Lisa Brown’s The Porter’s Wife. The novel is figuratively written, full of insightful and passionate descriptions, and romantic and poignant language. Lisa Brown reveals her love for her native homeland as she writes of the extreme nature and beauty of Canada. Her appreciation for history shines through as well as she depicts the harsh reality of the economic crash after World War I. Being a student of the effects of PTSD on today’s soldier, I was very impressed with her portrayal of PTSD (shell shock) in Art Craig’s character. Lisa Brown paints a sad, but true-life illustration of the never-ending trauma for the war veteran and his family. The characters in The Seeds of Sorrow develop and arc with dynamic precision. Its plot ebbs with waves of familial warmth and love and then crashes unexpectedly with the gale forces of grief and despair. The ending was brutal, certainly not a happily ever after resolution. Therefore, I am hoping that Lisa Brown has one more story in her, making this saga a trilogy of triumph.
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Jack Magnus | October 11, 2015
A Casualty of Grace is an historical fiction novel written by Lisa Brown. It was 1895, and Oliver and Simon were on an ocean voyage to a strange land and an even stranger future. Everything in their lives had changed when first their father died and then their mother followed in 1893. Oliver was 10 years old then, and felt a keen sense of responsibility for his younger brother. He had spirited both of them out of the house before anyone knew of his mother’s passing, and the two boys started walking to the farm where their aunt worked. When they got there, they found that the farmhouse had burned down, and their aunt was nowhere to be found. A kindly family took them in for a few days, but it was a temporary reprieve, and the workhouse, something Oliver had dreaded, became their home until they were made part of the British Home Children program and sent off to Canada. Despite the promises made to Oliver that the two would not be separated, Simon was placed in a wealthy home to be the lone son in a family with four daughters. It was a great opportunity for his little brother, but Oliver couldn’t help feeling that he had failed Simon. Oliver was sent to live with the Pritchards, who lived on Mrs. Pritchard’s family’s farm. While she was a warm and compassionate woman who was caring and considerate of their young charge, Mr. Pritchard was a harsh man who quickly took a dislike to Oliver and seemed determined to make his life hell.
Lisa Brown’s historical fiction novel, A Casualty of Grace, is an outstanding and beautifully written novel about two British brothers who were sent to Canada in a migration experiment that exposed many of the young participants to suffering and hardship. It’s also Oliver’s coming of age story, as the twelve-year-old navigates his way through the dysfunctional family he’s become an unwilling part of. Watching Oliver and Mrs. Pritchard bridge the divide of fear and hostility engendered by her alcoholic and abusive husband is inspiring and makes what might have been simply too grim a story work marvelously. Liza Pritchard is as unforgettable a character as Oliver is, and their interactions are poignant and moving. Brown also brings to life the stark majesty of the Canadian seasons, especially winter, in her novel, and many of the nature descriptions and passages are lyrical and unforgettable. A Casualty of Grace is most highly recommended.
Karen Dahood | October 18, 2015
Lisa Brown’s third novel to accurately, yet emotionally, portray the lives of her English ancestors who became 19th century Canadian pioneers surprised me. It is a more focused story than The Porter’s Wife and The Seeds of Sorrow,and much deeper psychologically. It worked for me as a novel of suspense. I knew something bad was going to happen to one of the young brothers, or between them, and I kept reading because I was on tenterhooks and could not sleep until I knew just what it was. It was like watching a thunderstorm broil up from distant clouds and roll toward me over the landscape until there was a mind-blowing crescendo right over my head.
I have felt amply rewarded in following this genealogy project which clearly has involved Brown in painstaking research about the Canadian frontier. I frankly don’t know enough about it, even though I have lived pretty close to its borders. I appreciate Brown as a clear and trustworthy narrator who brings history to life by describing the ordinary details of everyday work and relationships, and i
magining the human responses of her characters. Notably, they had to make hard choices – sometimes not so hard when they were hungry.
Of course, to most people alive today, what was “ordinary” to 19th century farmers and settlers seems extraordinary, including the slow pace at which they managed to get through very difficult days. The story of Oliver and Simon delivers a painful memory of institutions created in large part to the early deaths of impoverished parents through disease and violence. As it happens, this recall is timely. In the last couple of years we have seen an unanticipated surge of abandoned and homeless children, first as a result of Ebola in Africa, and now from the destruction of Syria. In her preface, Brown explains the role orphanages played in those earlier migrations from Britain to younger countries that needed more helping hands. She warns us that the arrangements were not always motivated by loving kindness or even understanding of human childhood needs. Whether or not she intended to raise questions about our present situation, she certainly has. In this non-agrarian age, what are we going to do for these thousands of destitute and traumatized 21st century children left on their own?
Brown’s new novel also resonates with concerns about domestic violence. Orphan boys arriving to work in fields and barns in exchange for a roof over their heads and decent meals had seen cruelty in their circumstances, but not necessarily anger. Oliver is old enough to remember his father having to work hard and rarely spending time with him, but he was a good parent. Much affection came from his mother. Younger Simon has few memories of hardship. He expects to be treated well and he is, without suspecting it might be twisted, or even wondering why his brother is not as lucky. Oliver, forced to be wise beyond his years, is constantly fearful, and when any kindness is shown him (again, by the females in his life) he is astonished.
The farmer who takes the boys is a villain, yet we eventually understand why. This bleak landscape is not just about the vagaries of nature and its impact on economics and social structure; it is about patterns. It instructs us that psychopathic behavior does not just appear randomly, and that children, like crops, must be nurtured into maturity by caring adults who were taught about love in their own childhood.
Bev Bouwer | December 10, 2015
“It is not enough to do good; one must do it in the right way” is the quote that opens this beautiful story of young brothers, orphaned in 1893 in Britain, and then shipped to Canada and adopted by a farmer and his wife.
The story of adoption in those times is so often fraught. Broken people that had fallen on hard times signed up for these children for all the wrong reasons – free labour, the small stipend that was paid to them, or merely to inflict more dreadful damage on these waifs and strays. What I didn’t know was that a number of the children so shipped off were not even orphans, and their parents were none the wiser.
It was tragic to see these horrific events through the eyes of the elder brother - Oliver, who feels a tremendous sense of responsibility for the younger Simon, and is often powerless to exercise any semblance of control.
Yet, in the bleak, hostile wintry Canada (which is wonderfully evoked) Lisa Brown manages to find snippets of warm relationships, comforting respite from the harshness, and that inextinguishable element of humanity, hope, triumphs.
This is a well-researched, expertly written (the dialogue is amazing), cleverly plotted novel that will draw you in from its very first page, and have you anxious, weeping, despairing, cheering, shouting, loving and rejoicing.
Lisa Brown, bravo – you did good telling this story, and you did it in the right way.
Bev Bouwer resides in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
H.M Flath | October 4, 2015
Lisa Brown has written a captivating, realistic, thoroughly researched historical fiction which hooks the reader in the very first pages of the story. It was in England during 1893 that Oliver and Simon were left to fend for themselves when their mother died. Workhouses for uncared for children had been established and children were often sent to other places in the world as British Home Children to work on farms, in mills and in factories at the mercy of sometimes harsh and cruel taskmasters. Such was the fate of Oliver and Simon arriving in Canada in 1895 at the tender ages of thirteen and five.
This well written story is filled with beautifully descriptive sentences and phrases presented in short paragraphs and interwoven seamlessly into the fiber of the story.
“It was just a small opening, but the sun managed to make its way in, illuminating minute flecks of suspended dust and turning them into a sea of brilliant sparkles that looked like fireflies dancing in the unguarded moonlight.”
The dialect that was spoken by Oliver and Simon would have been challenging to write but the use of it was very effective, becoming part of the story itself and providing a realism to the story given the time and place.
The story flowed effortlessly, always with intent as each and every page was important and significant bringing meaning and purpose to the entire story. There were no space fillers or unnecessary words or paragraphs. Foreshadowing filled the reader with expectations, dread and anticipation.
The characters in the story were amazing. Oliver’s strength of character went well beyond his years. Simon was painted as the carefree, typical five year old, very protective of his older brother. Mr. Pritchard, the cruel, uncaring, taskmaster who in the end, met his fate in an interesting twist. Peter Potts, who was Oliver’s predecessor on the Pritchard farm, became Oliver’s trusted friend. Liza Pritchard was portrayed as a kind, gentle, pathetic soul, trapped by fate from which she saw no escape. It was interesting to see how the author had characters, such as Peter Potts, Mr. Eager and the Fox children, appear and reappear later on in the story in meaningful ways. Well done, Lisa Brown!
There is nothing about this book that I did not like. In my mind it is a real masterpiece. It is certainly the best one of the three books that I have read written by this author.
I received this story from the author with no expectations.
It would appeal to anyone who enjoys immersing themselves in historical fiction. It is truly a wonderful read!
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