Praise for From my Mother

"In honor of those who came before us, we try to understand their plight. From my Mother is a novel following Nadia, as she faces a major marathon, looking back into her family's history and struggles to survive. She thinks of her grandmother who fled a communist revolution all those years ago, and looks to understand her, and the struggles we face through generations. From my Mother is a strong pick for world fiction collections."

— Micah Andrew for Midwest Book Review

"I was quite taken back by how much this book actually moved me. It is a very touching and genuine story of love and survival from one generation to the next. I wasn't too crazy about the running aspect, but I quickly got over it, because the story-lines, (ultrarun and grandma Oma), meshed and flowed so well. I may not be a fan of running, but I felt like the two topics crossed-over and worked nicely together. The technical runner's language didn't distract from the stories of the two women, but made it stronger. Margreet Dietz is talented with words, and her experience with ultrarunning makes this a must-read for runners/athletes of all levels. It is a very motivational book, full of emotion - a marathon of words - that take the reader through the highs and lows of a family's past and present."

— Allizabeth Collins for The Paperback Pursuer

"From My Mother is a very touching story of a matriarch that deeply ingrains survival into her family. Largely a book filled with a marathoner's mindset, all of the technical and running jargon do not detract from the story of a love between granddaughter and "Oma" that spans continents, and the hardships that molded the generations into persevering, strong women. The freedom Nadia feels as she runs also parallels the freedom her grandmother struggled so hard to find. This is a novel that successfully integrates heart and sport."

—  Charlene Mabie-Gamble for Literary R&R

"Over the duration of a 100 km marathon, Nadia reflects on the life of her Oma (grandma), the hardships her loved one endured and the impact it made on the way she lived.

"Miles pass under Nadia's feet, her goal is merely to reach the finish line, not necessarily to win . . . for accomplishing the goal is a victory in her book. It allows her time to dwell on her family's history, dig deep into the root and the result, pull tidbits of clues and join them together to create a full picture of those things that had been so vague.

"Oma is cranky, to say the least, at her age. She lives in an apartment in a senior complex, having moved from a house she rented for many years. Paranoia (probably from the trials she faced in her younger years) has set in heavily. The local police are on speed dial as she frequently lodges complaints against her son-in-law, who she feels is surely trying to get her out of the way so he can have her inheritance. Of course, this is not the case and those around her try to be patient and understanding.

"Nadia's journey of 100km is one in which her physical strength is pushed but also her heart and mind.

"It was not difficult to get wrapped up in this story, feeling the ups and downs both in the race and in Nadia's life. It brings to mind that, as stated in the book, our feet may be busy but our minds are still free. I loved that! I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially those who are into marathons and so on."

— Brenda Ballard for Readers Favorite

"The device of the ultramarathon makes a neat framework on which the rest of the book can hang.  That was a clever idea, and it works well. It's also interesting to learn about the hardships, training regimen, and mindset of someone who's reaching a goal that might seem extreme to the average person.The rhythm of your prose mimics the pattern that one falls into when doing something that requires steadfast endurance, so that's a nice marriage of tone and content. You also do a good job of painting Oma's background so the reader understands her, and her relationship to Nadia."

— Judge (names not disclosed) Writer's Digest 2012 Self-Published Book Awards

About the book

A novel
For Nadia, an experienced marathoner, running is a quest for truth, her personal truth—helping her understand who she is and how she fits in the world.

Things she has never understood about who she is, or could be, slowly but surely become verifiable and indisputable facts as she runs. By better understanding herself, she connects to the universe and mankind, and the eternal question: Why are we here?

A brief and mysterious phone call by her maternal grandmother, Oma, gives the 40-year-old plenty of food for thought as she embarks on her biggest challenge yet, a 62-mile ultramarathon on Canada's West Coast.

Oma, now 94, reveals clues to a secret from the time she fled with her only child, a baby daughter, into the forest to seek shelter from the brutalities in the Second World War in Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia annexed in 1938 by Germany.

Her grandmother immigrated to the Netherlands in the early 1950s as a young widow, escaping Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of a Communist coup d'etat.

Though close to Oma while growing up in the Netherlands before moving overseas as an adult, Nadia reflects during the race on the hardships her grandmother endured and the impact it made on the way she lived.

Realizing she knows far less about her roots than she always thought as the miles—and unexpected challenges that put her at odds with longtime boyfriend Tony—pass under her feet, Nadia also sees that the freedom she feels as she runs parallels the one her grandmother struggled so hard to find.

Thinking about Oma's life helps Nadia gain perspective and courage as she recalls stories and clues of family lore to join them together in a full picture while the race unfolds.

Paperback 204 pages.
Also available for the Kindle and on Apple's iBooks.  

EXCERPT: Chapter 1

As the phone rang, Nadia recognized the familiar number lighting up the screen.
            “Hoi Oma!”
            “Wat ik zeggen wilde ... What I wanted to tell you,” her grandmother began. As she often did, Oma launched straight into what she had to share on the costly long-distance call from the Netherlands to Canada. The most frugal person Nadia would ever know, there was no doubt in her mind, Oma spared no expense when it came to being in touch with her granddaughter.
            “... it was dark and we were in the forest, again, hiding. We had run when we heard the soldiers were coming. Your mom was only a baby and I had to keep her safe. I had found an area with thick brush to cover us. We were quiet like mice. But your mom, she was scared. Of course, she was just a baby. And when she heard a branch breaking nearby, she cried. Just a little. And he found us. Underneath that brush. He didn't have good intentions. I know he didn't. And I had to protect her. To keep her safe, I had to stay alive. It was him or us.”
            Oma's voice trailed off before falling silent. Nadia listened, waiting for her to continue a story she had not heard before. She could hear her grandmother's irregular breathing on the other side of the line—a pattern of two quick shallow inhales of air followed by a pause before the next two.
            “Oma?” Nadia finally said. “Oma, are you OK?”
            “Ja ... ja,” her grandmother responded softly before hanging up.
            It wasn't unusual for Oma to simply end a call when she considered it finished. Nadia dialled Oma's number, though doubted she would get an answer. Her grandmother, at 94, often didn't hear the phone even when she was wearing her hearing aid. And when she finished a call she would often misplace the receiver, accidentally and sometimes on purpose. The busy signal beeped impatiently in Nadia's ear. She would try to call again later in the day.
            Oma's comments puzzled Nadia as there were details she had not heard before. Her grandmother had often told her how she fled with her daughter into the forest to seek shelter from the brutalities in the Second World War in Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia annexed in 1938 by Germany, which declared Bohemia and Moravia a protectorate of the Third Reich six months later in March 1939. Sudetenland was a contentious area within Czechoslovakia's borders, inhabited by many ethnic Germans. It was handed to Nazi Germany under the Munich Pact, called the Munich Betrayal by many in Czechoslovakia, because it had no representation at the meeting during which France and the UK sought to appease Adolf Hitler by ceding territory to which they assigned little value.
            Aged 24, Oma would give birth to Nadia's mom the following year when the oppressor also demanded her husband don a German uniform and march across Europe in what became the deadliest global military conflict.

Buy the paperback here and receive a 30% discount with the code 24WNDLF6
Get the Kindle edition here
Get the iPad/iPhone editon in Apple's iBooks store here

(Copyright © 2011 by Margreet Dietz)

EXCERPT: Chapter 2

Read Chapter 1 here

She retied her shoelaces. She always did as she waited for the start. Nadia wanted to make sure. Tightened them, just a little, not too much. Retied the double knot. She never forgot about the double knot. Never had understood those who had to stop mid-race for laces that had rebelled and come undone. There was no time to come undone. Even in the long ones. Like today. She was one of only a few runners at the start line. It was dark. Her Polar watch read 3:54am. She had long ago stopped using its heart rate monitor. She didn’t need it.
            She knew her body. She could feel when her heart was delivering just enough oxygen-rich blood to the cells, those smallest structural units capable of independent functioning, more accurately than any strap around her chest. She didn’t need numbers on a dial to tell her in which of the four zones she was. No number could show her if she would find the courage to dig deep enough.
            Six minutes to go. She was quiet. Smiled if a competitor’s eyes met hers. She had already wished many of them well for today's challenge. She didn't feel the need to compete—this was her first 100-kilometre ultra after all. A couple of runners were chatting. Nadia had nothing to say, she was ready to let her body do the talking. The atmosphere at the start of an ultrarun was different to that of the shorter races, including the 42.195-kilometre marathon. While calling it relaxed would be an exaggeration, there seemed to be less overt tension and adrenaline, certainly for Nadia.
            Before a marathon, Nadia's favourite distance, she often had nightmares, particularly in the final week before the race, about arriving late and missing the start. In one she had been delayed so much on race day that she never saw any other competitor on the course which already began opening to traffic. She slowly but surely had lost her way as the course marshals had already left their spots. Waking in a panic, she had been relieved to realize it was only a dream, but hadn’t been able to fall back asleep.
            Nadia had never missed a race start, even though—and perhaps because—she always dreamt about it. However, her good friend from Adelaide, Australia, Lisa, had lived that nightmare. Lisa, a 2:52 marathoner who had also completed several 100-milers, had been set to race the Wellington marathon in New Zealand. She had a very good chance of winning. The event was on Sunday, as marathons nearly always were, with the exception of Boston of course, which was held on a Monday in mid-April. Lisa had had a very busy few months and, to save time, had booked a flight that left on Saturday morning, arriving on Saturday afternoon just in time to pick up her race package. It wasn’t a direct flight—she had to change planes, in Brisbane.
            It would have been fine, if the first flight hadn’t been delayed, and delayed again, then cancelled. By the time Lisa was offered a seat on a later flight, and another connecting flight, she wouldn’t have arrived in Wellington until midnight. After a stressful day of waiting at an airport, the prospect of less than five hours sleep ahead of the race felt as unappealing as a good performance seemed out of the question at that point and Lisa had decided to stay home. Nadia knew how well her friend had prepared for that marathon. It was one of her two A-races that season. Instead, Lisa had ended up going for a Sunday run on her home trails, alone. Lisa had told Nadia she blamed herself for her decision to travel to the race so late, something she would never do again.
            Nadia knew people, even had friends, who seemed completely carefree about race starts, almost making a sport out of showing up as late as possible. Her good friend Stu, a 37-minute 10km runner, would be fumbling with his laces as the gun went off; while everyone around him pressed start buttons on their watches and moved forward, he was either crouched over his shoes or inside a portaloo.
            Nadia just couldn’t do that. Even today, with only a couple of dozen competitors, she had arrived 45 minutes early in Haney, where they would start at the corner of Brown Ave and 223 St, to make sure she got everything done with time to spare. Not that she expected line-ups of course. And there was not much left to do other than pick up her timing chip. She already had her race number which she had pinned on her shorts. For some reason the race organizers wanted you to pick up the timing chip just before setting off, instead of days beforehand as was common. Perhaps it was the easiest way to keep track of those athletes who hadn't changed their mind about running 100km because of injury or losing heart. Nadia had been fortunate so far that life had never interfered with her plans to race; she got rid of the things that had threatened to get in the way of her running, her quest to go faster or farther, or, ideally, both.
            It was quiet. No pumping music as there was at larger events. No crowds. Other than the runners' crews, perhaps 30 people in total, and a few race volunteers, there was no one here who cared about her and the other 20-odd runners getting ready to tackle 100km on foot. Haney was asleep as one would be at 4am on a Saturday morning in November.
            “Ready? Go!”
            Nadia had to smile as she pressed her watch and began running north on 223 St. It was such a low-key way to begin the longest race of her life. She almost missed it, even being right there. This was the moment she had been waiting for—time to start running. It was always such a relief to take those first steps in a race, to begin using the pent-up energy from the taper, the final period before a race when the volume of training dropped dramatically, and to start working towards the goal. From now on, all she had to do was to keep moving. No matter what, she had to keep running, walking—crawling, if she had to—chipping away at covering that 100km distance one step at a time. Finishing was never a certainty, there were no guarantees, and especially not today when she was tackling a distance beyond anything she had done before. But she knew she would do anything to finish.
            She always did and had never given up. She had been nearly last in a triathlon when hypothermia almost got the better of her. But she had never failed to achieve the ultimate goal, the purpose one could so easily forget about amid a flurry of things like PBs and negative splits—to finish what one started. She never had nightmares about not finishing—they were always about missing the chance to start.
            The stubborn mindset that came in handy for distance runners seemed to be a natural one for her. She possessed a pigheadedness that often appeared to surprise people. A petite and pretty woman with soft flowing red hair, Nadia's easygoing and quiet demeanour meant that she was often mistaken for a pushover. Despite appearances, nothing could be further from the truth, certainly when she had a pair of running shoes on her size-seven feet. Perhaps it was genetics, as being headstrong was a trait that ran in the family. In fact, if a contest were held among her parents, sister and grandmother, Nadia wasn’t so sure she would win. Her grandmother, or Oma as Nadia called her, probably would claim victory. At 94, Oma certainly had been determined enough to live, far outliving all of her 10 siblings.

Buy the paperback here and receive a 30% discount with the code 24WNDLF6
Get the Kindle edition for only $2.99
Get the iPad/iPhone editon in Apple's iBooks store here

(Copyright © 2011 by Margreet Dietz)

EXCERPT: Chapter 3

Read chapters 1 & 2 here.

Nadia and Oma had been close when she was growing up. She knew, even when she was little, that her grandmother was different from those of her friends. She was fun. And embarrassing at times, Nadia had felt occasionally as a teenager, as Oma didn't care what others thought of her, and certainly didn't worry about pleasing everyone.
            “I tell it like it is,” she would often say, shrugging her shoulders.
            As an adult, Nadia was gaining more appreciation for her grandmother whose life could be called many things except easy. Nothing involving her grandmother was ever easy, for anyone least of all for Oma herself—life had been hard for her and she had learned to return the favour by nature. Having grown up in a time of prosperity, with loving parents and sister, Nadia found it difficult, even impossible, to imagine how Oma looked at the world. Nadia had always been the one trying to understand her grandmother, though Nadia’s parents were the ones who took care of her now that old age was trying to steal Oma's most prized possession, her independence.
            Like her grandmother, Nadia had immigrated as an adult, though the circumstances in which they left their countries of birth couldn't have been more different. Since moving to another continent, Nadia saw her grandmother only once every two years. Her parents were the only relatives Oma had left in the Netherlands after Nadia's sister moved overseas too. And Oma didn’t make it easy for them. If she knew how to use the speed dial function on her landline, the policeman she called at least once a week would be on it. Nadia had never met him but would like to one day. From what Oma had told her, it sounded like he was as supportive and understanding as he could be when she called to tell him about another crime Nadia's dad had committed against her.
            Not that Oma was always nice to this cop. When he was recovering from a knee reconstruction and stumbled around on crutches, she had said to him, “Serves you right. Now you know what it means when it’s hard to get around.”
            Oma had trouble walking, especially since she had a hip replacement that left her right leg about three inches shorter than the left one. She told Nadia how she had confronted the surgeon when she went for a check-up weeks after the operation. His response was that a difference in leg length was a common result from such a procedure and that she had clearly been warned about this eventuality in the paperwork she had signed before the surgery. Oma said she hadn't read the fine print and that no one had told her about this supposedly common side-effect. An active walker all her life, “I walk like I'm drunk all the time now,” she told Nadia often, though less so in recent years now that her memory was slowly fading.
            A resourceful woman who refused to waste anything, Oma wrote letters to Nadia that often contained a note of 5 or 10, sometimes 20, euros. The bill was always carefully wrapped in foil that usually had contained chocolate at one point. Nadia had never asked specifically for the reason Oma wrapped the money so carefully but knew her grandmother had learned the hard way during the Second World War that mail and packages were checked, often opened. Valuable items went missing, never arriving at the intended destination.
            Nadia had kept the letters her grandmother had begun writing to her when Nadia moved out of her parents' home as a university student 21 years ago. She had not told Oma she had preserved nearly all her correspondence, which she had recently filed by year of writing, as Nadia was convinced her grandmother would be angry about her doing so. She had told Nadia more than once to burn the letters as soon as she had read them, so they wouldn’t be seen by the wrong pair of eyes.
            As for the difference in the length of her legs since the hip operation, Oma found a solution. Rather than go to a shoemaker (“I used to be one and was married to one,” Oma would say), she adjusted the shoes herself. Using tape and old pieces of carpet, she constructed a heel that set her level again; a creative resourcefulness that didn’t cost a cent. She had even crafted a heel for the sheepskin slippers Nadia had mailed from Australia.
            Oma loved practical gifts almost as much as she hated stand-in-your-way trinkets, most of the time at least. Sometimes you thought you had given her something useful and she would get mad. Like when Nadia bought her a new shower head to replace the old one that was so calcified only a trickle of water was able to get through. Oma was furious. She put the old showerhead in vinegar for three days.
            “It’s as new,” she told Nadia, handing her back the new one and ordering her to return it to the store for a refund. It was wasteful to buy new when the old was perfectly fine. Nadia had found herself smiling. She should have known better.

Buy the paperback here and receive a 30% discount with the code 24WNDLF6
Get the Kindle edition here
Get the iPad/iPhone editon in Apple's iBooks store here

(Copyright © 2011 by Margreet Dietz)