Authors: Sherryl Jordan
For my mother
was conceived in October 1993, in a room in one of the residence halls of the University of Iowa, in the United States. I had won a writing fellowship to go there to take part in the International Writing Program at the university. The fellowship was one of those extraordinary gifts that comes just once in a lifetime. It arrived when I was burnt out by long years of laboring alone in my studio, when my creative cup was empty, and I was hungering for encouragement and company. I had already glimpsed the young man, hero of a new book, but I had no energy for him or his storyâwhatever it was to be.
From the moment I arrived in Iowa I felt renewed. There is indescribable richness when thirty people from all over the worldâfrom countries including Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, Colombia, Ukraine, Cote d'Ivoire, Finland, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Hondurasâmeet together to share stories and songs, poems and laughter, food and philosophies. It was a rare experience, inspiring and utterly enriching. Out of it, out of that wondrous time in America, came
But the book was not born easily. It went through several drafts, all written during a time of grief in my own life. It was a book I wrestled with, anguished
over, wept throughâand one that gave me the highest joy. I thank my husband, Lee, for his understanding and ceaseless commitment to Gabriel's story and to me. Without Lee, I doubt this work would have been finished.
I thank the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, and my friends of the 1993 International Writing Program in Iowa, for the fellowship that restored the writer in me and gave me the capacity for
I am grateful to the three people who read the early drafts, who each played a significant role in the shaping of what this story has finally become. There is thankfulness for Gabriel himself, who became not only a healer in the book I was writing, but a friend in whose company I found solace and strength.
Last, and above all, I thank my mother, though she died while this book was being written. I was with her as she journeyed between this world and the next, and what we shared during those last minutes was the greatest gift she ever gave me. The scene in this book of Myron's death, and what he and Gabriel experienced in the Valley of the Shadow, is taken almost word for word from my own diary.
Tauranga, New Zealand
My very special thanks to my editor at HarperCollins, Antonia Markiet, for her marvelous suggestions for changes to this American edition of
. Her insight and deep empathy with the story and its characters opened to me new themes I had not explored, or had too briefly hinted at. Even though this rewriting was done more than three years after the novel was published here in New Zealand, I was astonished at how easy it was to slip back into Gabriel's world, and under his skin. The revisions were a joy, and the new scenes flowed easily into the existing text, as though they had always belonged there. I am deeply grateful to Antonia for her vision, which, blended with mine, has lifted Gabriel's story to where it was always meant to be.
And, strangely, for the second time in my life, Gabriel's company has become a healing strength to me, this time as I make my own long journey out of illness. I feel twice-blessed by him.