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Sugar House Journal

New Book on Sugar House Explores Past Through Characters

Aug 29, 2016 15h19 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Ella Olson

One of the many things that we share as a community in Sugar House are old homes, many built in the early 20th century. Each Sugar House home has been passed on to owner to owner and holds stories that only the walls could tell should they be able to speak. One author who lives in Sugar House, Ella Olson, put that story into a book called “Root, Petal, Thorn.”

“Though ‘Root, Petal, Thorn’ tells a story through the eyes of many women, they are not alone,” Olson said, “Each is a part of a family. I’d say the novel is for anyone who enjoys the reflecting on their own life – the different stages, the things that come and go.”

The book follows five different life stories of women who all lived in the same home on Downington Avenue here in Sugar House. Each woman has a different story and each is from a different decade, ranging from 1910 to present day. The lives of each women can be relatable, one woman wants to keep her son safe from the war, another struggles with mental illnesses, another is a little girl struggling with her father as he tries to makes ends meet and a widow coping with the loss of her husband by learning about the history of her home on Downington.

“I wanted to represent all the stages of life through my characters – child, young woman, younger mother, mother with older children, old woman – so I do think the story is relatable for a variety of audiences,” Olson said, “This isn’t a young adult or fantasy novel. It’s about a daily life and real struggles throughout history.”

Olson put in the work to make sure each decade was represented in the way it should be. Her story details the struggles of World War II, life in Sugar House in the early 1900’s and details what relationships would have been like during her characters’ life. In the book Ivy – the widow coping with the loss of her husband – researches her home at the Utah Historical Society. Olson in her own journey in writing the novel did her research there as well, as well as in libraries.

“I fact checked all over the place – the stores and structures in Sugar House during different periods, the development of the neighborhood,” Olson said.

Not only did Olson research the landscape of the time, she studied the mental illness that one of her characters – Lainey – has in her novel. Lainey is a struggling artist, trying to find ways of coping with her mental illness while holding on to the custody of her daughter.

“I wanted to explore bipolar in an authentic and sympathetic manner,” Olson said.

Each woman – even though fictional – was inspired, and some of the inspiration came from things around the Sugar House neighborhood and her home here also. Olson came up with ideas from restoring her home and even without noticing, shared similar personality traits with one of the women, even though their situations are different.

Olson picked Sugar House specifically because she loves the neighborhood and felt it would be fitting for her story.

“I’ve always been drawn to places that speak to the passage of time so when my husband and I moved back to Salt Lake City, I knew I must live in an old home – preferably one with a porch swing,” Olson said, “I got it.”

“Root, Petal, Thorn” is a wonderful book that can help those in Sugar House picture what their old neighborhood used to be like. Olson uses familiar places like Westminster College, Sugar House Park, Sugar House monument, the Wasatch Mountains and even Downington Avenue. It’s a book that citizens in Sugar House will love and will be engaged in reading whatever age they are. As you read the book you’ll feel like you’re reading about your own Sugar House bungalow, and be curious as to what secrets and stories it holds.

“Ultimately people read books for enjoyment, so I hope my readers enjoy my characters and are willing to follow them through the pages and cheer them on through their challenges,” Olson said, “The place stays and the people move on. There’s something haunting, yet beautiful about this concept.”

There will be a launch party for the book at Kings English Bookshop at 1511 South 1500 East from 7-9 p.m. on September 8th. All are invited .