A Maine author tackles a difficult subject for middle schoolers

Biddeford author Rebekah Lowell says children need books on tough subjects like hers, ‘The Road To After,’ so they can deal with their own trauma.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — The advice often given to aspiring writers is simply to “write what you know.” That’s easier said than done, especially when what you’ve experienced is isolation, abuse, and survival.

But that’s exactly what the first-time author and Biddeford native Rebecca Lowell did in his novel “The Road to After”.

At the Biddeford Public Library, where Rebekah works part-time, she’s surrounded by books, which isn’t a bad place for a writer. The stories on the shelves in the children’s room hold a special meaning for Lowell, in part because they were a source of comfort, even an escape, during the most difficult years of his life. They also gave him the confidence to build a new one.

“Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing the hardest thing even if you feel the fear,” Lowell said.

Her new life began over six years ago when after more than a decade she took her two young daughters and left an abusive marriage where she was isolated from friends and family and suffered a bullying and extreme abuse.

The Road To After is a verse novel about a mother and her daughters as they escape from an abusive father and husband and the long road to healing they face. It is written from the point of view of the main character, Lacey, who is eleven years old.

“As dangerous as [Lacey’s] was life, predictability seems almost surer than freedom,” Lowell said.

Lacey, her mother and her sister slowly begin to heal. It’s a long road, with lots of ups and downs, but connected to the natural world, which has helped Lowell and her daughters.

Lowell began forming her first story when she was living in a women’s shelter Unlimited care. It took Lowell six years of writing, drawing, and editing to complete his novel. With each word written, each new sketch, she slowly began to recover.

Although the book deals with heavy themes, it lacks the graphic details of abuse, which is one of the reasons Lowell says it is recommended for readers from fifth grade.

“We give kids less credit than they deserve, and kids are smart, and kids deal with tough stuff. And I feel like they need books about tough stuff to deal with them,” Lowell said. “If a child hasn’t had that reality, which I hope they haven’t, it helps them develop empathy for those who have and maybe reach out to someone. ‘one who suffers.’

Lowell’s novel is dedicated to her daughters, who she says gave her “the strength to take the first step.”

With their permission, Lowell wrote the book without a pen name. Along the way, she shared writing, editing, and art with her daughters as she worked. She said it took courage she didn’t know she had to share some of her own past.

“I lived in fear for so long. I may be scared, but I don’t want to let fear control my life,” Lowell said.

These days, Lowell has the support of her family and close friends. She homeschools her daughters, teaches journals and nature workshops, and raises monarch butterflies.

She is also a member of the board of directors of Unlimited healing, where she works to help other women get out of abusive relationships and start a new life. She also continues to write. Her first picture book titled “Catching Flight” will be released in March 2023, and she is already working on her second novel.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 1-800-799 SECURITY. It’s a 24 hour hotline.

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Jessica C. Bell