“The Notebook” made a name for itself as a modern-day classic romance. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they have ups and downs, they have breakups, but end up coming back to each other and spending their lives together. The wife gets Alzheimer’s and ends up forgetting most of their relationship. The husband spends his time helping her remember by reading to her a book of their love.
This unconditional love that the husband displays for his wife by helping her remember the best parts of her life is what Olivia Savoie set out to bring to every couple. Savoie writes books for the elderly, including some local residents, in which she tells their life story — from beginning to end.
“I graduated in creative writing and history and those were always really my two passions,” Savoie explained. “So, writing fiction or any kind of story and then history. So, when I put those two things together, it was non-fiction, it was life stories — that’s what I found was really my favorite thing to write. I started that by my curiosity about my own family, my own family friends, just elderly loved ones. I wanted to know about my neighbor who was a World War II soldier. Since I was 16, 17 years old, I wrote his book — I was just so intrigued back then. Then, throughout college, I was writing my grandmother’s books. And then I thought, well, wait a minute, I should do this. I should do this for other families, too. So, that’s really how I got started.”
In her time writing, she had completed more than 20 books. The books are created through a careful interview process with the subjects. She sits with the couple in their home and interviews them. She starts with their childhood and works up to present day — hitting all the high points. The interview process takes several sessions, lots of hours, and by the end of it, Savoie said that she feels more like a grandchild than a stranger, making the books both a one-of-a-kind experience and a very unique heirloom.
“I really love the love stories,” Savoie said. “I love when … this one gentleman whose wife has severe dementia and didn't remember their life together, but she was showing me all of the love letters he had written throughout the years and before they got married, and it was just the most precious thing. Just being a part of that, being trusted with that, that was one of my favorite things.”
Savoie said she writes a lot of love stories, but is encouraged also when the subject of the book doesn’t necessarily thing they have a lot to say, she said she enjoys bringing that joyous story telling out in the interviews.
“I love the everyday stories — I love the teacher, the nurse, the stay-at-home mom,” she said. "I love when their kids maybe have me come in and the individual may say well I don't have much to say. I love to pull out all those stories. And in the end they see a complete book and they're like ‘whoa, my life made a book?’ They're kinda surprised, so I love that part of it.”
Savoie said that she had learned so much for her newly gained families. At first, she thought that her youthful age may result in some disparities in the writing process, but she added that this actually has worked highly in her favor.
"I worked with a lady who was 105, and so we were like 81 years a part,” she added. “So it’s like yeah, we are very different, but I think my age difference works because they're often shocked that ‘woah you’ve written 21 books, how is that possble?’”
She has traveled throughout the United States to meet people who want their life story told. In the process, a lot of lessons have been taught.
“I’ve learned so much from these people,” she explained. “I think overall I've learned that no matter how much they did in their life, no matter how much they traveled, no matter how many businesses they've owned, they're most important thing is family, and just the importance of taking pictures, the importance of spending time, holiday traditions — I've learned a lot about. I’ve learned a lot about parenting and all the ways they raise their kids. I’ve learned a lot about marriage. I always ask them what they admire most about their spouses and after 60 years, they still have such great things to say.”
From marriage advice to parenting tips, the people that Savoie has met have all had a life-changing impact on her. She continues to hope that her stories help grandchildren remember, get to know and even become closer with their grandparents.
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