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14 Although Helen was in her 20s when she died, the characters in the book were teenagers. In it, Lowry incorporated many of their experiences growing up—including the fact that Helen really drew a line down the middle of their shared room because she thought Lois was a slob. Pain is not diminished because an artist can paint or write poetry or craft a book for teenagers—not in the beginning. Time does not heal all wounds, but it can allow a writer to turn heartache into literature. 15 The First Novel Lois Lowry wrote her first novel, A Summer to Die, more than a dozen years after Helen’s funeral.
The dark themes in Lowry’s first book were unusual, but he loved it. In 1976, Houghton Mifflin accepted the book. Lowry was given a small advance—money given to an author before a book’s publication based on sales. Although it was not enough money to change her life, it did help her with changes she was planning to make even before she signed a publishing contract. On Her Own Marriages end for different reasons. By the time Lowry’s first book was in bookstores, she had moved out of the family house in Maine.
37 38 Lois Lowry Brown stood out in the conservative 1950s, and Lois was not completely prepared for college life. She was younger than her peers and a bit immature. She knew that she wanted to be a writer but was not certain of much else. In her first year at Brown, from 1954 to 1955, Lois was “living in a very small dormitory, actually a converted private home, with a group of perhaps fourteen other girls. ”3 By her sophomore year, she was miserable and uncertain. She scribbled in notebooks and discussed politics in local coffeehouses.