A Joyful Life and Restful Death

‘Mother’s Keep’ was inspired by my Granny who lived in the forest in Gibson’s Landing during the depression years. Granny and Grandad settled on ten acres of land—Regina Ranch. They had a cow, a vegetable garden, and lots of chickens, as well as a bull. I titled the book, ‘Mother’s Keep’ because Granny never wanted to live anywhere else. She loved her forest. It was her keep. 

“If you have a bit of land you can always make ends meet,” she told me.   

But there is much more to the story. You see, Granny was set in her ways, and wondered if the world was headed in the right direction. I remember she told me a story, an article she read in the newspaper, about an educated man who turned his back on the university to live a simple life in a teepee in the forest. She understood this man’s need to escape academia and society. This story became part of the book. 

Granny continued to live in her beloved forest by herself after all her daughters (one of which was my mom) had left home, married, and Grandad had passed on. I remember visiting Granny as a little boy. The lane down to Granny’s home was difficult to find because of the encroaching bramble that scraped the side of our 58 Ford.   

Her little home, styled with a babbling brook that ran heavier in winter, vacant in summer, with a rickety footbridge over, was small and humble, but she loved it. A big wood cook stove in the kitchen (where the whole family would gather for roast beef-yorkshire pudding dinners, and porridge breakfasts), a parlor with a little black and white TV, and three bedrooms off the back of the house. She refused to leave her little home until she was in her 80s. She had no running water, and no electricity until Uncle Chuck (who was an electrician) brought down a scrawny wire from the telephone pole on the highway! 

As a child, I remember hauling water from the spring fed well further in the bush behind her home (two galvanized pails full, one in each hand), and remembering to only draw water from the left well because the other, further down to the right, was polluted when the cow fell into it! 

They were magical places, full of crystal clear water, long wet dewy cow grass lined the trail, and a large trout which my mother had, with her sister’s help, put in the well. That trout lived many years in the well, and became part of this wonderful story. 

Granny made lye soap, clothing for her daughters made of flour sacks which were soft and comfortable. I recall, when Uncle Chuck and Uncle Ron put in a little electric pump for water from outside the pantry. Uncle Ron showed Granny that she now had running water in the pantry! 

Granny said, “What do I need that thing for!” 

She told Uncle Ron to remove the pump. 

She used to knit socks for everyone for Christmas, and was a Christian woman, like my mom, and had a great appetite for giving things to needy people. 

My mother, Mary Mottl, instilled this same generosity in her life, starting the food bank in Cumberland, keeping the United Church running when people thought ministers couldn’t be gay.

The minister told me, “Your mom took this whole church, congregation and all on her back, and carried us all through the bad times when many were leaving the church.” 

‘Mother’s Keep’ is fictionalized. Instead of four daughters, three daughters and one son, as well, it is a ‘combo’ book of prose and poetry with a poem preceding each chapter. Each poem gives a subtle hint about what may be coming up in the chapter. I believe poetry gives readers another doorway with which to access the story.

‘Mother’s Keep’ is narrated by the ghost of the lone brother whose mission is to save her sister from purgatory. Within this general theme of forgiveness, we find, by the end of the story, that life is worth living in shared commonality with others.     

The story has many conflicts, between characters, between belief systems, between rich and poor environments, and the natural world of the forest, for the whole story takes place in and around the Granny’s small, humble home. It is a wonderful spell of story, truth fictionalized, with a heavy dose of ‘magic realism’. 

The story pulls the reader along as they encounter dream worlds, life, death, animals, people, the young, and the old. It is a beautiful story presenting the solemn truth of what the world offers, and, like mothers everywhere, filled with the love of family; moreover, love for mankind. 

‘Mother’s Keep’ was a story I had to write. It is a gift to all who read it, and is one author’s portrait of a good life. 


Frank enjoys writing prose and poetry. He believes that a good base in poetry significantly improves the writing of prose. His debut novel, “The Cumberland Tales”, and his second, “Mother’s Keep”, are ‘combos’ of prose and poetry. “The Cumberland Tales” was inspired by a fellow named Sam Yik. He was an elderly Chinese gentleman, mystic, gardener who my mother bought vegetables from. “Mother’s Keep”, on the other hand, was inspired by my Granny who lived in Gibsons during the depression years. Both have strong elements of ‘magic realism’. “Cumberland Gold” is a murder/thriller/puzzler filled with sub-plots: 

Not a regular reader of fiction I hesitated on reading ‘Cumberland Gold’. But the story set in this small Vancouver Island community intrigued me enough to take a closer look. I found a story of an earlier time when coal and gold were king and Chinese labour was imported to do the dangerous dirty mining work. Homeland Chinese history, politics, greed, gold, and death dance across the page to a final crescendo. With spaced lines and larger than normal print it is easy to read. Thank-you Mr. Mottl, Bob Wilson. 

Frank has been published by the Poetry Institute of Canada numerous times for his poetry and prose. He was awarded ‘Excellence in Poetry” from the same institute in 2017. His work has also been included in anthologies in the U.S., Australia, Canada, U.K., and China.