Centred around a horrifying house fire that took the lives of both her parents, it would be fair to presume that the book to come from North Vancouver author Kelly Snider would be one of tragedy and woe.
Such is not the case. There are elements of sadness in Your Story, Your Strength, of course, but the book’s main purpose, said Snider, is to uplift and inspire.
More than anything, it is about community, said Snider, and how important that is. It’s why the book, published last year, has just been accepted into the 2023/2024 North Shore Author’s Collection.
“I’ve taken that story and weaved it in with all the other things that happened in my life as a result, to discover, to heal, and to impact others in a positive way,” she said.
Part memoir, part self help guide, Snider delves into the events that occurred in the years that followed the fire, the life obstacles she was forced to overcome as a result, and the human connections she made that she wouldn’t have otherwise.
Snider was just three when a house fire ravaged her home in West Vancouver’s Eagle Harbour and claimed the lives of both her parents. She was rescued by a passerby while her sister, at 18-months, was saved by the local fire department.
More than five decades later, Snider was clearing out the home of her recently deceased grandfather when she stumbled across the yellowed news articles that reported the incident. The desire to find the man who had saved her life was reawakened and, hoping to find him, or at least someone who knew him, she posted the articles on a West Vancouver Facebook group.
The post “started a bit of a domino effect,” she said.
Serendipitously, the first to comment was the rescuer’s daughter. Snider connected with her privately, only to find the man who had saved her life had passed away just a few years prior. Neighbours, old family friends and those who had lived in Snider’s childhood home before and after the fire all came forward to tell their own story.
Some North Shore locals commented to say their parents had been among the firefighters in attendance that night. Many, especially those with small children of their own and a home with a similar layout to the one ruined by fire, later quit their jobs, the job having hit too close to home.
“It was this really impactful community moment, of people who remembered my parents and everything that had happened,” said Snider.
“There are so many things that happen to us that move us in a slightly different direction, or that connect us with different people. We can have an impact on people that we don’t even know we’re having an impact on.”
Now Snider said she hoped to inspire others to dig into their own stories and family history, to “discover more about who they are, and how they are connected to the community.”
All the stories, both the good and the challenging ones, are important, said Snider.
“They shape who we are, and then shape our worlds, our families, all of our relationships, our communities.”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.