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P.E.I. summers, familial love at the centre of this author’s novel

"I shall remember you standing in your blue apron and waving." — Letter from Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, January 28, 1927
 

The Blue Moth Motel by Olivia Robinson

 

Olivia Robinson had her childhood memories of P.E.I. summers in mind when she started writing a short story while still living on the Island.

Later, now in Newfoundland working on her master’s degree, she submitted the story in a workshop.

“I think you can expand on that short story,” said her instructor.

She did, and “The Blue Moth Motel” was published on Oct. 15, 2021.

Olivia Robinson published her first novel, “The Blue Moth Motel”, on Oct. 15, 2021. It won the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for fiction due to its exploration of the themes familial love, sisterhood and the meaning of ‘home’.
Olivia Robinson published her first novel, “The Blue Moth Motel”, on Oct. 15, 2021. It won the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for fiction due to its exploration of the themes familial love, sisterhood and the meaning of ‘home’. Photo by Ezra Santana.

It tells the story of sisters Ingrid and Norah, who were raised by their mother and her partner in a P.E.I. motel.

The girls’ grandmother, Ada, always kept her distance, but that all changed when Ada bought a piano for the motel.

Years later, now in the UK, Ingrid hears from Norah and must decide whether to return home for a party that celebrates the mysterious blue moths said to appear once every year at the motel.

“I mostly wanted to kind of capture the feeling of summer on P.E.I. and family dynamics, and sisterhood especially."

Although Robinson hasn’t written any other books since, she said there’s a daily writing practice she tries to keep.

She also kept in contact with her publisher, Breakwater Books, and wants to send new manuscripts in the future.

“If I do– well, when I do write another novel, I’ll be able to send it to them first, which is very nice,” she said.

Robinson said she wrote “The Blue Moth Motel” with no specific audience in mind.

“But it’s mostly been the younger readers, kind of like in that 14-25 age range, that seem to have really connected with it, which is really special.”

Robinson started writing the novel because she enjoyed the process of writing, but it ended up becoming a work dedicated to her sister.

“She’s a very important person to me and I wanted to kind of write something that captured the mood of some of the summers that we spent on P.E.I.”
"The Blue Moth Motel" is a fictional story that explores family dynamics, sisterhood and the meaning of 'home'.
"The Blue Moth Motel" is a fictional story that explores family dynamics, sisterhood and the meaning of 'home'. Photo by Ezra Santana.

When she was young, Robinson realized she could grow up to be the one writing the books she loved.

“I always really loved reading, so then the writing just kind of naturally came out of that.”

She wants to keep writing and eventually be able to help other writers with their manuscripts and publishing advice.

“[I want] to just keep enjoying it, I think, and write another novel hopefully soon.”

“The Blue Moth Motel” won the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for fiction.

The jury that made the decision said the novel is “an absolute delight to read” and follow Ingrid and Norah in their unconventional upbringing at the motel.

 “Their grandmother Ada, becomes a touchstone to the girls, teaching them to keep magic alive in their hearts through the power of music, books, storytelling and mysticism of the Blue Moth,” said the judges.

The jury highlighted the themes of home and familial love in Robinson’s book.

“The reader quickly learns that a person’s sense of purpose, place and belonging can be found wherever there is real love… even in a little, rundown, blue motel down by the river. Maybe even, especially there.”
 
“The moths appeared at dusk, Laurel said, her voice raspy and quiet. The three friends were having a bonfire, as they did every year to welcome the summer, standing around the flames as they crackled and leapt into the air. The sky faded to a soft lilac as the sun disappeared, and that was when Miranda noticed the moths.” (p. 33)
 

The Blue Moth Motel | Olivia Robinson | 224 pp. | Breakwater Books | CA$21.95

 

"Ingrid and Norah have an unconventional upbringing—growing up in a motel, raised by their mother and her partner. The girls’ grandmother, Ada, who owns the Blue Moth, has always kept them at a distance. But when she buys a piano for the motel, that all changes. Years later in England, training to be a soloist, Ingrid loses her voice and must decide what to do. She hears from Norah, who’s reviving a party that began during their childhood to celebrate the arrival of mysterious and elusive blue moths. The Blue Moth Motel is a haunting and evocative exploration of the meaning of family and home."

 

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Hey, thanks for stopping by!

My name is Ezra (they/them) and I’m an aspiring storyteller who is half-way through a Journalism and Communications program at Holland College, P.E.I. 

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