Tap dancer Juliana moves across Canada with her parents to care for an ailing grandfather. Cut off from her friends and surrounded by strangers, she becomes overwhelmed by the whirlwind of changes dancing around her. Unable to cope, Juliana escapes to her grandfather’s basement, where she discovers a family treasure: her great-grandmother’s sketchbook.
Europe’s great war has ended, and Tata has gone to America in search of work. His absence leaves Mammi toiling away in the family’s shoemaking workshop and eldest daughter Elisabeth in charge of her siblings and the long list of household duties. With Christmas on its way, siblings who won’t listen, and a list of chores that never seems to end, Elisabeth fears that drawing in her sketchbook and praying to God aren’t enough to help her survive these changes.
When life feels like it's spiralling out of control, these teen girls from different times must find ways to adapt and create peace in their new normal. But are their lives really that different, even though they live generations apart? Elisabeth’s sketchbook in hand, Juliana embarks on a life-changing journey to find out.
The Move is the first book in Lori Wolf-Heffner’s contemporary/historical series, Between Worlds. If you love history, the arts, and family ties, pick up a copy of The Move today and enjoy a story that crosses generations.
"An enjoyable story of two young women experiencing challenges in their lives over which they have no control. Learning what they do have control over is part of the journey. A well written story with some interesting historical detail. Thanks Lori Wolf-Heffner for the reading pleasure."
At 64 I still remember trying to dance as a child, so this book struck nerves and memory within me. As the history converges you can see the parallels with the two girls as well as their divergent lives. Both are trying to work on what has been lost and it is lovely.
Juliana slumped into the backseat of the SUV they had rented for the cross-country trip. They’d been on the road for four days now and were about to leave Winnipeg. That was four days of being cramped into a vehicle with her parents, their luggage, and their vain attempts at trying to make her feel better.
And that was four days without any dance to actually make her feel better.
“Would’ve been more fun in your truck,” she complained. Dad had been a transport truck driver all of Juliana’s life. When she was younger, she’d even joined him on day trips. They ate at truck stops, and she got to blast the horn at stupid drivers. Compared to the spaciousness and rumbling of a transport truck on the Trans-Canada Highway, an SUV felt like a twenty-year-old car that couldn’t drive over sixty.
Dad took a deep breath, a sure sign he was losing his patience. “I’ve told you time and again that I sold it because I no longer want to own one, and flying would’ve been a waste of money. Besides, this way we can bring more along while we wait for the rest of our belongings.” He threw their suitcases into the trunk and a few bags into the backseat beside Juliana before sliding into the driver’s seat. Mom was still inside at the hotel, checking out.
“I can’t believe I have to spend another two days in the car with you,” Juliana said. The harshness of her words surprised even her. She mumbled an apology, but it was too late.
Dad slammed his door shut and whipped his head around.
“Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the people you love,” he growled.
“I don’t even know Opa!” Juliana shouted back.
Dad sighed one of those loud “now I’m fed up with you” sighs and turned back to the front. Through the rearview mirror, Juliana could see him roll his eyes in exasperation.
“I saw that,” she said.
“Think of it this way,” Dad said. “You won’t have had to wash lettuce for almost a week.”
Juliana couldn’t stand kitchen work. It involved a lot of tiny actions to create something that would disappear an hour or two later. But washing lettuce took the cake: cold water, little bugs, and the monotony of tearing leaves left a bitter taste in her mouth every time she had to do it. And somehow her parents found her dislike amusing and wouldn’t let her out of the task.
Mom got in, passed the receipt to Dad so he could double-check it, stuck it back in her wallet after he okayed it, and buckled up.
“Got your seatbelt on?” she asked Juliana, oblivious to the fight that had just taken place.
Dad turned on the ignition, and off they drove. After a few moments of silence, Mom looked at both of them.
“What? Another fight?” she asked.
Four days of not dancing, talking and laughing with her friends, or even playing in Calgary snow. Juliana had looked up recent photos of Kitchener. Her new home, if you could call it that, looked dreary and plain, not alive and magical.
She was angry, alone, and stuck in a car with her parents,who were making her leave everything she loved behind.
Which left her with one question: Who was cheering for Juliana?
Elisabeth shivered. The sun hadn’t come up yet, and with only an undershirt and blouse underneath her shawl, the morning cold had reached her bones. A quick glimpse at her sisters told her they felt the same. Little Rosina was shivering, so Elisabeth bade her to come closer and then lifted part of her skirt to the side and extended it aroundher baby sister. Rosina pulled it tight around her.
“I’m cold, too!” Anna snuggled into Elisabeth, but Elisabeth had no more free fabric to help her.
“Anna,” Tata said, again in his stern voice, “we do not complain of such things. Jesus endured forty days in the desert. A little time in the cold is nothing compared to that.”
“I’m fine,” Luki said.
“Because you have a coat!” Anna shot back.
“And you have mittens!”
“Enough!” Tata commanded.
Everyone stood in silence and said not a word for a few moments.
Then something dawned on Elisabeth. “I almost forgot!”she said, unwrapping herself from her sisters and running back inside the house. She unlaced her boots at the door in the kitchen so as not to wet the loam-and-straw floor, darted into the front room, grabbed a folded piece of paper and an extra two blankets, rushed back to the kitchen, slipped into her boots, leaving the laces undone, and appeared back outside in a matter of moments. She handed each of her sisters a blanket, ignoring the frown on her parents’ faces. Then she passed the paper to Tata.
“Here,” she said. “It’s your Christmas card. It’s from the last page in my drawing book.”
On the card’s cover was a drawing of Jesus lying in a manger, with Maria and Josef kneeling on either side. Yellow and brown pencil crayon showed the straw that lay on the ground. Above the manger was a yellow star that shone brightly, and the face of an angel peered in from the corner of the page.
Tata’s jaw dropped. “Elisabeth...” He showed the card to everyone. The children gasped, and even Mammi nodded approvingly. “You’ve never drawn anything this lovely,” Tata said. He opened up the card and read aloud what Elisabeth had written: “Dear Tata—I promise to keep reading the Bible, the teachings of Martin Luther, and your encyclopedia while you are away. I will do my best to help Mammi, and I will not complain this spring when I must whiten the walls again. I pray that you arrive safely in Pennsylvania and that many friends will be there to help you. Love, Your Elisabeth.”
“My golden one,” he said, “thank you. I will keep this in my coat pocket always.”
Luki piped up. “I want to give you a hug!”
Tata smiled as Luki wrapped his short, skinny arms around Tata’s middle. Anna and Rosina joined in. All the children began to cry again, and Elisabeth’s anger rose up.
“It’s not fair!” she said. “We want you to stay! I don’t care if the roof leaks! I don’t care how much land we have! I want you to stay!”
Mammi slapped her cheek. “You do not speak like that to your father!”
“I’ll hand you the belt when we’re back inside,” Elisabeth said defiantly. “You didn’t die in the war or disappear. You returned. It’s not fair that you’re leaving us again!”
“Hold your tongue,” Tata said. “This is not how I want to remember you, Elisabeth. You are a kind, obedient, pious child, not an angry one possessed by the devil.” Elisabeth hung her head in shame. “We must all make sacrifices to survive. Remember that God made the ultimate sacrifice: think of Him before you speak like that again.”
He sacrificed His only son, Elisabeth thought, daring not to speak her mind again. What father does that? Then she immediately vowed to ask God for forgiveness before bed tonight because of her thoughts.
The clip-clop of horses approached the house. Elisabeth wrapped her shawl tighter around her, not against the cold but to comfort herself with an embrace she needed. Meier Josef pulled up, tipped his hat, and climbed down from his wagon. He shook Tata’s hand and nodded to Mammi and then shook little Luki’s hand and nodded to the girls. He looked down at Elisabeth’s untied boots. She knew at least one thing he’d tell everyone about after he returned.
Meier Josef and Tata hoisted the trunk onto the sleigh, and the former took his seat again at the front. The younger Schuhmacher children cried as they hugged their father one last time. Elisabeth at first held back—if she embraced him, she feared she would break apart. But when Tata opened his arms to her, she couldn’t resist. She rushed in and squeezed him so tightly it was as though her body were trying to anchor him here, to keep him from taking that step onto the sleigh and driving off to a new world, one that was so far away it would be weeks before they knew he had even arrived.
“My golden one, your Tata can’t breathe,” he said. Embarrassed, Elisabeth pulled away. He lifted her chin with his finger and looked in her eyes the way he did after she had correctly answered all the questions to one of his quizzes.
“You are the oldest,” he said. “Be strong. Jesus can help you.”
She swallowed and nodded.
Can a sketchbook from the past help Juliana move forward?
How can family rifts be healed when problems from the past keeps pulling them apart?
Growing up is hard enough. Why does family have to make it harder?
Friends hold our hands and light the way through tragedy, no matter how far away they live.
When do you give up on a search for a family treasure?
Can a move half way across the country be a blessing in disguise?
Time will march forward, no matter how terrifying the future seems.
Sometimes a parent’s love, even when deeply desired, can become overwhelming.
Lori Wolf-Heffner began baton twirling as a toddler. But one bonk on the head from that shiny stick sent her to jazz class instead, leading Lori into a successful competition dance career that culminated with becoming an inaugural member of the Canadian National Tap Team in 1996.
In 2015, the Canadian Senior Artists' Resource Network accepted Lori into their one-year mentorship program. Mentored by Carol McQuaig, Lori wrote the first version of Postcards in a Closet, a creative non-fiction memoir about Katharina Wolf, a great-grandmother who was a single mom-to-be in the aftermath of World War I. At first printed only for family, Lori published it later for the public.
Inspired by her great-grandmother’s story, Lori wrote and published Between Worlds 1: The Move in 2018. The rest, as they say, is history.