We once lived on Rose Hill Street in Boise, Idaho. Aunt Tabby lives where we did, but if you go to Boise you won’t find that intersection. Neither will you find this house, which I “imported” from Massachusetts because the floor plan and structure of Cousin Mabel’s home, with minor modifications, creates the atmosphere and structure of the stories.
She has Cousin Mabel’s independence, looks like Cousin Hoylande, and travels like Barbara Whitehead to places I have seen–or not. She retired (or was fired from) teaching high school English. Whether she’s anything like the various teachers in my family, who were not fired, I don’t know.
When I “met” Aunt Tabby–I can’t say I created her; she just appeared in my life at a time when life wasn’t going very well and I would have liked to kidnap one or two grandchildren at a time and take them to the far corners of the world. Aunt Tabby offered me escape in the form of opportunity to vicariously experience events and places I could not have reached otherwise.
Most important, Aunt Tabby is a story teller. She takes after the ancient story-tellers, found in all parts of the world, who entertained their tribes around campfires and passed ancient wisdom to the next generation. generation.
Each episode of these tales is firmly set in history, whether contemporary (to Aunt Tabby and the children who accompany her) or past, like Barbara Frietchie and Kemal Ataturk.
An outline of the reference history is appended to each book as an author’s note, but the sequence of the books does not pretend to echo the sequence of history courses. The children meet their father as a boy in the 1940s, Barbara Frietchie during the Civil War, the fall of the Berlin Wall in real time.
In Aunt Tabby’s House, it is Aunt Tabby herself, against a background of Vietnam history, whose stories incite her niece and nephew to explore a mystery and jump to conclusions. Often, it is what family can’t talk about that causes trouble.
In Turkey, her bilingual niece jumps into a cultural conflict that could result in the opposite of what she wants.
In Istanbul, with three parents facing wartime service, five cousins who don’t understand each other must choose between division and mutual support.