Manitoba·Q&A

Winnipeg author David Bergen on tale of Guatemalan woman's quest to find stolen child

A new book about a young Guatemalan woman's quest to find her stolen daughter will officially be released in Winnipeg Sept. 6.

Inspiration for ‘Stranger’ came after visit to Guatemala, America

Stranger launches at McNally Robinson Grant Park in Winnipeg on Sept. 6.

A new book about a young Guatemalan woman`s quest to find her stolen daughter will officially be released in Winnipeg Sept. 6.

Stranger penned by Winnipeg author David Bergen tells the story of Iso, a young Guatemalan woman employed at a fertility clinic in Mexico, and the hunt for her stolen baby which takes her into military territory in the U.S.

Bergen spoke to the CBC's Terry MacLeod about the new novel this morning.

MacLeod: What was the inspiration for the story?

Three things happened: I met a young Guatemalan man who had an affair with a German doctor and she got pregnant and took the baby back to Germany. Then I met with a midwife who worked with women in Guatemala. And then there was another situation where I met a young woman who worked in a little store in Santiago.

I took those three characters, came back home to Winnipeg and started the novel. The texture of the place is there a little bit for me and the people ... it's a beautiful little place

How did you figure out what you wanted to say or the style that you wanted to use to tell the story?

That's always tough because I remember writing in my notebook 'be single-minded, be single-minded' because I wanted the young woman's perspective simply and I didn't want to veer off from that too much. I wanted that to be in her point of view and really driven by her story.

You always sort of feel your way into a story and I wasn't sure if what I was doing was working. I was writing another novel at the time and I would veer off back and forth between the two and then I kept coming back to this one and thinking 'This works. This might work.'

David Bergen. (File)

What makes Iso the kind of person she is?

She's faced with retrieving her child that's been taken away from her and she can't let her emotions drive her; she has to let her vision, her quest drive her.

Iso's full name means paradise lost but whose paradise lost I guess is the question.

What kind of research did you do to make the book come to life?

Most of it was the texture of place and finding the character Iso. That came from visiting Guatemala, but it also came from travelling in the states and seeing even today the tremendous divide from the rich and the poor.

Some people are saying it's the best thing you've written, what do you think?

Bergen laughs and asks if his other pieces are lousy.

I think it's just different and I think it's clipping along with the story that they're attracted to.

Stranger launches Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at McNally Robinson Grant Park in Winnipeg.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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