It makes my heart so happy to feature Taylor Bennett on my blog today! I’ve known Taylor for about a year, I think, and was able to chat with her on the phone just yesterday! She has such a huge heart and man, is this girl driven. Her debut novel comes out May 1st! Learn more about it here…
What if friendship cost you everything?
Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.
But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.
How great does that sound? Pre-Order Porch Swing Girl on Amazon!
And now, I’m super excited to let Taylor take the stage with this sweet, moving guest blog post. <3 Her story is such a testiment to both her grandmother, and the passion and gentleness inside Taylor’s heart. I know that her story–and her life–have made her Gramma proud, and have brought a few tears to this author’s eyes <3
In my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, my main character, Olive Galloway, is reeling after the death of her beloved mother. She frequently refers to the day her mom died as “The Day We Said Goodbye” and reminisces about time spent with her mom.
When I started writing the first draft of Porch Swing Girl in February of 2016, I had been fortunate enough to stay sheltered from the intense pain of loss and heartache. The complex emotions of grief, the pain of eternal separation, were both far-off and foreign to me.
And then it happened.
My grandma got cancer—just like my book character’s mom.
Sadly it wasn’t a surprise to learn of my grandma’s illness; she had been sick for a long time and, at eighty-seven, knew she wasn’t likely to get better.
Suddenly my life mirrored that of my main character. When my Grandma chose to forgo treatment and let the cancer run its course, we all knew our time with her was drawing to an end. During this time, I nearly abandoned my writing as family time took precedence.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and we got THE CALL—the call that sent us all speeding down the road to our own “Day We Said Goodbye.” Grandma had fallen, and it didn’t look good. Ever the tough, independent lady that she was, Grandma begged us to not worry, go to church, and check in later.
My mom and I refused (Dad was away for work) and hurried to finish getting ready before racing over to her apartment. By the time we made it, my uncle had already driven in from out of town. Grandma’s caregiver met us in the hall, eyes wide with panic, and stammered out a half-explanation.
Grandma had collapsed for seemingly no reason and, when she fell, she’d broken something—most likely her hipbone. When we reached Grandma’s apartment, my uncle was already inside, trying to help make my grandma comfortable in bed. She was in so much pain, and her screams were so desperate, they pierced my very soul.
For ten days, we stayed by my grandma’s bedside and watched her slip from one world to the other. I was terrified by the situation and nearly wanted to run away every time I stepped inside Grandma’s apartment—saw the hospital bed, the morphine bottles—but I knew these days with my grandma would be my last chance to be by her side.
Even when Gramma slipped into a coma, one eye half-open, the other closed forever, I couldn’t make myself stay away for good. At the time, I was simply trying to get through the days and continue to support the grandma who had given me so much in life. I had no idea what the effect would be on my writing.
One day, just before she slipped into the sleep from which she never woke up, Grandma called me into her room and clasped my two hands between her own. I’d been holding it together as best I could all day, but to see her looking so old, so weak, broke my heart. Grandma was never much for sentimentality, but, on that day, she told me how much she loved me and wished me the best in life. In that moment, I swam in regret deeper than the ocean as I realized that I would likely never again have the chance to tell her how much I loved her. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I wished her goodbye, and, when I left her room, I was empty. My heart lay in the room on the other side of the wall.
It was only later—after our own Day We Said Goodbye—that I realized just how much I missed Gramma, how much her death had touched and changed me as both a person and an author. Porch Swing Girl became semi-autobiographical when my main character explained how it felt to watch her mother die. That scene remained virtually untouched through editing, even as the rest of my novel underwent what I call “book surgery.”
Over a year after my grandma’s death, when Porch Swing Girl was finally accepted for publication and I was finally able to write my author’s note, acknowledgments, and dedication, I made sure that Grandma was not forgotten. Directly under the Acknowledgments heading, I penned these words:
In memory of Marianne Roelke.
For being the best gramma ever.
The strong little woman who studied English in college never did have a chance to read my book, and I can only hope that maybe—just maybe—she can peek down from Heaven and read over someone’s shoulder. And, if she does, I hope she’ll be proud.
Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st.
When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside.