Title: Stories of Hope
Author: Heather Morris
Published: September 29th 2020
Publisher: Echo Publishing
Heather Morris, author of the internationally bestselling novels The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand. On her way back across the paddocks from school, Heather would visit her great-grandfather and listen to his experiences of war – stories he told only Heather. From a young age Heather discovered that people would tell her their stories if she stopped and listened.
In Stories of Hope, Heather Morris will explore the art of listening – a skill she employed when she met Lale Sokolov, the Tattooist of Auschwitz. It was her ability to listen that led him to entrust her with his story. Stories of Hope will examine Heather’s extraordinary journey, in the form of a series of beautifully rendered tales of the people she has met, the remarkable stories they have shared with her, and the lessons they hold for us all.
‘Stories of hope have sustained humankind since the dawn, of time, handed down from generation to generation, passed on to friends, shared with strangers. They are the last thing that will die in each of us.’
After the worldwide notoriety of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, in September 2020 author Heather Morris released her first non-fiction title. Stories of Hope is a three hundred page compilation, outlining the importance of listening as a measured skill and making connections with others.
Stories of Hope is an accompaniment to Heather Morris’ previous two fiction titles. An informal discussion in a basement bar with her publisher while she was researching her second fictional biography, Cilka’s Journey, sparked the beginnings of Stories of Hope. Heather Morris reflected back on her experiences of listening to Lale Sokolov while writing The Tattooist of Auschwitz to inform this new non fiction composition. What is presented in Stories of Hope is a tale of connections, openness, friendship, trust and respect. Heather Morris considers how important it is to just sit back and listen, rather than offer an opinion, or make notes. This is how Heather internalised Lale’s journey. In response to the success of the Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris was approached by many people wanting to share their own stories of tragedy. Despite the very serious nature of the events outlined, Heather managed to draw out themes of courage and hope. A partner piece to Heather’s previous two titles, Stories of Hope is a combined self help guide on the essential life skill of listening and it is also a text that draws together tales of hope from many different corners of society.
Stories of Hope arrived on my doorstep late last year as a unexpected gift from Australian publisher Echo Publishing. This surprising arrival was personally addressed and signed by the author. I have had Stories of Hope sitting on my review shelf for some time now. I was waiting for a clear headspace to approach this non fiction composition. Stories of Hope is a unique text, that works to outline the art of listening to a person, rather than offering an opinion or response. Stories of Hope shares a number of personal memoirs from the author and her family. In addition, we have the experiences of Lale and Heather’s time together compiling The Tattooist of Auschwitz, plus other historical stories that have come into Heather’s hands. The ideas presented in this book were connective and inspiring, but they also presented a touch sermon like to me in the listening practical tips sections.
Format wise, Stories of Hope contains a thirteen-page introduction from author Heather Morris. Over eight chapters, author Heather Morris navigates the world of listening from the standpoint of elders, children, our surroundings, the people we know and care about, along with figures who have passed on. There are suggestions to take on board, advice to consider and surprising facts illuminated. I appreciated the honesty of author Heather Morris in her willingness to openly share her difficult childhood experiences. I was touched by the one person in Heather’s life who listened to her unconditionally, her great grandfather. Heather visited her great grandfather every day and this family member was an influential figure in teaching Heather the ability to simply listen, as he shared his own experiences with her. Stories of Hope draws in some other personal interludes from the author, which helps us to see that we also need to listen to the non-verbal clues the people around us might be trying to communicate.
There is a little teaser presented at the close of Stories of Hope on the next Heather Morris book, which is due to be released in October 2021. This new story is directly inspired by a story of hope, one of many relayed to Heather following the release of her books. This upcoming story involves three women during the Second World War and their tale of survival. I’m sure this segment will be of interest to fans of Heather’s work, along with the Lale Sokolov musings.
To read these stories of hope provided by Heather Morris can be hard going, but in taking the time to absorb the experiences outlined, we can find strength, courage and optimism.
Stories of Hope by Heather Morris was published on 29th September 2020 by Echo Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Stories of Hope, Heather Morris, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Echo Publishing for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.