This recent article was written by Bill Hanrahan, L&M writer and photographer, as a personnel profile for First Hand, the L&M Hospital’s internal online magazine.
Marian Lee, an L+M Hospital Chaplain, is also a weaver – a weaver of themes and cultures and ideas, all of which thread together in the words on the page of her first book, a fairy tale saga set in Wales, in a place called Brumley Hall, where a loving grandmother sometimes morphs into a lioness.
The 219-page book for “Tweens,” or middle-grade children, is titled The Lioness of Brumley Hall; And Her Most Unusual Grandchildren. On sale in the L+M Lobby Shop for $9.95, the self-published work stems from a lifelong literary passion, says August Pearson Benners (that’s Lee’s pen name on the book).
“Ever since I was in fourth grade I just had to write,” Lee says. “I kept journals with words and phrases, and I’ve always been fascinated with word play. I remember writing stories and having my teachers read them and give me feedback.”
That passion took flight one recent summer as Lee tried to decompress after a semester in Tampa, Florida working on a doctoral degree.
“I needed a break from academia,” she said. “Working on my Ph.D. was very intense. I was writing about five papers a semester, all academic writing, and I was reading a couple of books a week. So, over summer break, I just wanted to relax, but I couldn’t not write. I had had this book idea in my mind for a couple of years and it just suddenly all came together.”
While the book is aimed at kids grades 9 to 12, “It’s written sort of on two levels,” Lee says. “It’s a story about a magical family that works together to fight the evil king in the fairy world, so for kids it’s an action-fantasy-adventure. Then, I wrote it for my generation, too, with references that the kids might not necessarily get. So it’s a good read for grandparents and maybe parents as well.”
Themes woven through the chapters include environmental preservation, Celtic mythology, a touch of Buddhism and cultural diversity. There is a boy from a Jewish background and another character who is half Japanese, Lee says.
And, while Lee is a chaplain, “The book is not religious, although it does have spiritual concepts throughout,” she notes.
New to L+M in July, Lee has previous experience as a chaplain in Tampa, Florida. She moved back to the New England area in part because her son is stationed as an officer at the Submarine Base in Groton and because she missed the seasons and family nearby in Maine.
Lee says the work of being a chaplain is something that rivals her enthusiasm for the written word. Like the themes in her book, her work at L+M combines an appreciation and understanding for different cultures, religions and approaches to life.
As for the grandmother who turns into a lioness, that character is partly based on Lee’s own grandmother, an inspiration in Lee’s life. “She’s very present in the book,” Lee says. “My grandmother was a very straightforward, down-to-earth woman, but she often told me of her interesting mystical experiences, too, so she was open to the unseen world of spiritual experience.”
Lee will hold a book-signing at the New London Public Library at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. She is also looking into the possibility of holding a signing event at the Lobby Shop.
And, for those who read and like The Lioness of Brumley Hall, there’s good news. “It’s going to be a series,” Lee says. “I’m already three-quarters of the way through the second book.”