Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Warm Welcome to Heidi Thomas

Visiting my blog this week is Heidi Thomas. She will talk about her mother, her novels, and how it is of a personal nature to her. As a genealogist and a missionary at the Family Search Center, this author's story is intriguing to me. I know you will be amazed after you read her thoughts.

Author Bio: Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana, riding and gathering cattle for branding and shipping. Her parents taught her a love of books, and her grandmother rode bucking stock in rodeos. She followed her dream of writing, with a journalism degree from the University of Montana. Heidi is the author of the award-winning “Cowgirl Dreams” novel series, the “American Dream” series, and Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women.

Finding True Home is the sequel to Seeking the American Dream, two novels based on my mom who emigrated from Germany after WWII. This story was actually the first novel I ever wrote.
When I moved from Missoula, Montana to Mount Vernon, Washington in 1996, I was more than a little surprised at how hard that transition was. I had thought it would be pretty easy. I was a freelance writer—I could write from anywhere. It was only a few hours away—I could get back and visit my friends as often as I liked.
But I was lonely and felt out of place. I had to find new stores, new doctors, a new vet for my cat, and meet new people, hoping to make new friends. Someone told me it would take at least three years to feel like it was “home.” And that turned out to be true.
That started me thinking about my mother. I moved a few hundred miles. She moved to a different country on a different continent. Everyone where I moved spoke English. She only knew a few English words. From Missoula to Mount Vernon was pretty much the same culture for me. She moved from an urban setting to the “middle of nowhere” in eastern Montana to live on a ranch with her cowboy in-laws. I was acquainted with several people before I moved to my new home. She knew no one except her fiancĂ©, a man she hadn’t seen for two years!
That took courage and stick-to-itiveness! Conditions and life in Germany were horrible for years even before the war, so yes, she was looking to better her life.  However, she arrived to snow in November and was driven for miles on a dirt track to get to the ranch where there was no electricity or running water and the “facility” was an outhouse. I’m surprised she didn't tell my dad to turn right around and drive her back to the airport!
It must have been true love.
My mother experienced strange looks, people who spoke VERY LOUDLY to try to make her understand, and questions about whether she supported Hitler. After all, America had just fought a war with Germany. She was still the “enemy” in many people’s eyes.
I don’t think she ever felt totally accepted by her neighbors, but she discovered, when she returned to her home after ten years, that she didn’t belong there anymore, either. What a dilemma.
Writing the fictional version of her story was cathartic for me. I was able to put myself in her shoes and try to understand what she must have felt and why she reacted the way she did. And, with fiction, I was able to write the ending the way it should have been.
Fiction is powerful. And it has been a healing process for me and my family.

As a nurse, Anna Schmidt deals with the aftermath of a war-torn Germany on a daily basis. The destruction and suffering of WWII frame her existence until she meets American GI, Neil Moser. His stories of ranch life in Montana, his quiet kindness and compassion, and the attraction that blossoms give her hope for a different life. Before their relationship develops, Neil is suddenly shipped out of Germany, and Anna is left with nothing but a yearning for what might have been.
Anna’s dreams are renewed when Neil writes to declare his love and propose that she join him in America as his wife. After two years of endless paperwork, she is finally on American soil. But will Anna be able to overcome the language barrier and harsh Montana ranch life, to gain acceptance from his parents, and form a family in a country that still considers a German the enemy?
It’s been ten years since Anna Moser immigrated to Montana from Germany, for love and hopes of a better life in the “land of milk and honey.” Instead, she’s found harsh winters and searing summers, sacrifice and back-breaking work. After all these years, she still perceives neighbors looking down their noses with distrust at this “foreign woman.” 
Did she make a mistake in following her heart to marry Neil and build a ranch and family with him? Yet, after her first visit back to Germany, she finds she no longer belongs there either. In spite of hardships, loss, and near-death illness, will the love of Neil and her children help Anna find her true home?


Sonja said...

Wow, the story of my life, pretty much too. We are from Germany and came as a family of three in 1957. My mom was a refugee twice and in two camps in Czech Republic before being able to be free again. I myself, was born in a refugee camp after my parents fled East Germany, obviously before the wall came up. I know the life story very well, my mom put in on a tape for me which I transcribed.

Thanks for the interesting and touching post.

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you, Linda, for featuring my books on your blog!

Sonja, you have quite the background too! I'm glad your mom put it on tape, so it won't be lost. Thank you.