Coronation resident Lavera Goodeye has written a deeply personal account of her life experience with the autobiographical novel Seven to Seventy: My Journey through Time. The book is a descriptive vessel for a lifetime of memories Goodeye recounts with expansive detail, recalling everything from the intensity of a feeling to the density of smells with pristine clarity.
Seven to Seventy begins with a preface to the reading audience articulating that some profoundly negative experiences can carry forth in memory for years, becoming a deep part of one’s inner monologue. Goodeye immediately describes her sympathy for those experiencing the psychological effects of bullying, both external and self-inflicted, in today’s confused world. She notes the effect religious judgement had on her understanding of the world and expresses solidarity with Native Canadian culture in their plights as marginalized people. Finally, she expresses a perspective shift: as she writes her memoirs a vicious cold grasps Coronation and renders itself the only thing people see fit to discuss, whereas she barely notices the weather, for she is being vindicated through the act of reclaiming her past experiences through her writing. This sets the tone for the novel as a very intimate and at times wonderful, at times heartbreaking look into her past.
Goodeye has lived a life with more experiences than many. From personal loss and heartbreak that began with her mother’s death, to her wealth of travel and working for Aboriginal, women’s rights and mental health causes, Goodeye tells her story without reservation. She often inflects her recollection of the past with insight from the present, incorporating emotional understanding and bursts of insight into the book as she writes.
At it’s core Seven to Seventy is a tale of one person’s life, yet more broadly the novel is a glimpse into the nature of human existence; that of a movement through life inflected by external factors yet lived inside one mind, alone.
Goodeye understands her journey is special and may be surprising for some of her closer kin who would not know the innermost details of her complex life story.
“Some of the story will be the first time some friends and family are reading it,” she says in an interview on January 22. “A lot of the things that I did outside the [Coronation and area] community, most people I know aren’t aware of that part. A lot of people don’t know of mother’s death, I’m sure.”
Goodeye notes that given the personal nature of some of the content in her book, she understands some insights might not be received as openly as if she were to conceal her truths throughout.
“I’m very careful to say this is how I experienced the events. It’s not that I’m trying to say this is what the reader should experience or what they should believe,” Goodeye says. “I’m very aware not everyone is going to agree with what I say.” With all the factors contributing to her life and not knowing how the novel would be received, Goodeye had to draw from wellsprings of confidence to ignore any negative thought and pen her story.
“At one point I felt like I just have to be a roaring tiger,” she notes. “I just have to be fierce to do it and get it all down.” Honesty was principal in her writing the book, as Goodeye notes she wanted to convey her experience as truly and intimately as possible. She describes this process as a conversation with the reader, where she is revealing her innermost thoughts uninhibited.
“When I’m talking to people I tend to talk in sound bytes. I never seem to feel like I’m going to be awarded a whole paragraph,” she says. “In this way I was able to speak without being interrupted.”
One of the themes she speaks to throughout the book is that of mental illness, a subject that connects many individuals in her movement through life.
“It’s hard for people still to talk openly about emotional issues and I felt strongly I had to write about it for that purpose,” she says. One of the prevalent influences from the beginning stages of Goodeye’s childhood was the death of her mother at a very young age. Goodeye recognizes that mental illness; societal pressures of the era and what would now be known as postpartum depression were running through her mother’s world-view in a time where mental illness did not have a name.
“Not too long before they took her to [hospital in] Ponoka she had a visit with her father and I think that he was really very religious to the point that it was a problem. I think that he would have told my mother that she had to be a good wife and all of that,” Goodeye notes. “And there she was with three little girls, very very little money, a husband that was drinking when my grandfather was fanatical in the way he interpreted religion.” She notes that also being of German decent, many women on the farm who were Irish did not accept her mother, likely leading to further feelings of isolation and alienation.
Goodeye does not shy away from addressing the impact of mental health issues on individuals and their loved ones. She makes mention of this within the framework of her relationships with men, noting that sometimes abuse was occurring yet was difficult to recognize while living day to day.
“In the middle of these situations, you don’t recognize it,” she says. “For about nine months I was in a really abusive relationship and of course when he knew I was planning to get out of it was when he really stepped up the violence.” Goodeye says certain ‘aha’ moments would appear during times of struggle and insight would present itself in the form of a song lyric or a change in circumstance, that would lead her to understand the cycles of her experience more deeply.
In speaking to themes of mental illness and belonging, Goodeye notes that she has taken up the helm of activism for wider cultural causes, including Native Canadians who have experienced the trauma of the residential school system and marginalization in Canadian society.
“I wanted to connect back to the Native communities I’ve had contact with in the past,” she says of her work within these groups. “I have a friend in Calgary who’s a social worker. She’s native and came from the residential school system, so I attend pow wows and that kind of thing to observe this whole reconciliation process that we’re doing.”
As for the idea to pen the novel, Goodeye cites a fleeting moment within a state of chaos that illuminated her mind to this concept, albeit abstractly.
“My third son doesn’t remember saying it, but when [my] house went up in flames, he said ‘this is going to make quite a story’,” she muses. “Because I had lost so much in that fire I had to turn it around and get something out of it. Find a purpose for that kind of trauma.”
Seven to Seventy: My Journey through Time is available online on Amazon, Indigo, Chapters and Barnes & Noble. It is also available at these venues as an eBook.