The Bristol Public Library hosted its third author brunch, celebrating Martha Hall Kelly and her novel, “Lilac Girls,” which debuted in April 2016, and made the New York Times Bestsellers list in its first week.
“Lilac Girls,” based on actual events, tells the story of Caroline Ferriday and her fight to help the 50 Polish women, nicknamed “the rabbits,” who survived the experimentation conducted in Ravensbruck concentration camp.
“When Caroline found out… about these women… Caroline became captivated with their story, and wanted to bring them to the United States to help them to get medical care,” said Kelly. “And that’s what she did, she fought the former Soviet Union to bring them out from behind the Iron Curtain, to the United States for this incredible trip.”
Kelly, who holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in journalism, discussed how she started in advertising writing, before learning about Caroline Ferriday. After doing research at the Bellamy-Ferriday House in Bethlehem, Conn., Kelly’s investigation brought her to Poland and Germany. She was eventually able to meet two of “the rabbits,” and their stories helped to shape “Lilac Girls.”
Kelly’s newest book, “Lost Roses,” is set to be released in Spring 2019, and tells the story of Caroline Ferriday’s mother, Eliza, who strived to help the Russian aristocrats that lost everything during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Debbie Prozzo, director of the Bristol Public Library, said the event was made possible through “the generosity of the Friends of the Bristol Public Library” who provide “financial support and man power.”
“We wanted to be able to offer a literary event of this nature for our community, because we have many, many readers, library patrons that we knew would enjoy something like this because they’re held in some other communities… we wanted to offer something local,” said Prozzo.
Prozzo said reading “Lilac Girls” struck a chord, which motivated her to go see Kelly speak. “It was just a natural fit,” said Prozzo, who said Kelly’s popularity with book groups was one of the reasons the library wanted Kelly to speak in Bristol.
“Reading is, to me, the foundation of everything else… for me it’s always been reading, I grew up as a reader,” said Prozzo. “We didn’t have a lot of books in the house necessarily, so I started using the library at a young age, and I saw all of the opportunities and the resources that were available to me for free, and that is something that has always stuck with me… I can’t think of any other resource available to our community that offers so much for free.”
In 2017, the library hosted Christina Baker Kline, author of “Orphan Train,” and other works. In 2016, when the event was first held, the library hosted Stewart O’Nan, who wrote “Last Night of the Lobster,” which was set in and around Bristol and the surrounding towns.