Mary Alice Baluck

Heaven's Doorway

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Three countries. Three generations. Three strong women.

Set between the late 1800s and the 1920s in Ireland, Canada, and the United States, this is a story of deep love and tragic loss, of rejection and eventual acceptance, and of moral progress from self-centeredness to compassion. Even the citizens of Herron's Point mature beyond their provincial narrow–mindedness as the town grows in size and popularity in the new century.

After young Brigid Walsh marries Patrick Mahoney, she moves with him from Ireland to Canada. When Patrick is killed, she quickly goes from prosperity to a life of unrelenting hard work running a boarding house.

Maggie Mahoney, Brigid's daughter, works as hard as any servant. At the same time, her mother provides her with a good education, and she dreams of bright marital prospects for her beautiful daughter. When those dreams are shattered in a terrible way, Brigid cannot accept either the truth or the good man who comes to Maggie's rescue. Fleeing rejection by both her mother and the town, Maggie and Tim cross Lake Erie to the United States.

Maura Ryan, Maggie's daughter, loses her father and then her mother at an early age, but she and her younger brother find a home with their Uncle Jack and his family in Buffalo, New York. Later, the bright and hardworking Maura thrives as a bookkeeper for Jack's lumber business. Love and unexpected fortune both come her way, but so do tragic revelations connected with her mother's past.

Along with the dozens of well-drawn characters, Lake Erie is an abiding and powerful presence: sometimes menacing, but much more often majestic and calming. The glorious sunsets, a glimpse of "Heaven's Doorway," are a lovely visual leitmotif.

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The Pond's Reflection

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At age 23, Frances Louise Carter falls deeply and blindly in love with handsome and charming David Kuspin. There are plenty of red flags, but Frannie ignores them. After a year of going together, they plan to be married in a modest ceremony. Frannie's mother assures her that she will always remember that special day, feeling completely loved and cherished.

On her wedding day, Frannie feels no love and affection from David, and on her wedding night, she definitely does not feel cherished. The scales have fallen from her eyes, and she spends much of that night crying into her pillow. She now knows that the man she married is not the one she loved. She rises early, writes a letter of explanation, and leaves the hotel to catch a bus home.

Thus begin two years of soul–searching and introspection. Frannie chooses to do much of this sitting by a peaceful pond, talking to the ducks. They become her closest companions and most trusted confidantes. Emerging at last from her emotional cocoon, she's invited to go fishing with a mere acquaintance and ends up falling deeply in love once again. Hank Childers becomes the true love and treasured center of her life — not least because he loves feeding and talking to the ducks as much as she does.

Frannie's heart is always open and vulnerable when it comes to family affairs. That begins with her parents and her older sister, Pat. Pat's husband and his parents, Hank's parents and his two younger siblings — all play major roles in the story. The members of the three families all share in each other's joys, successes, failures, and eventual grief.

The many twists and turns will keep you reading to the surprising, healing conclusion. Enjoy the book!

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About Mary Alice Baluck
In Her Own Words

When you live 92 years, your frame of reference becomes quite broad. And if you had a father who told stories and tall tales around the dinner table in your childhood, as I had, then you might understand where my imagination came from.

I was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to very loving parents. I married my handsome high school sweetheart at age 20, and we had six great kids. At age 33, I was given the opportunity to go to Youngstown State University, and I grabbed it. With the help of my family and the constant encouragement of my oldest daughter, Linda, I was able to finish in seven years, and at age 40, I graduated with a B.A. in Education and a minor in English. I then taught junior high school English for 24 years and retired in 1991.

My husband passed away in 1999, and although I had always written short stories and poetry as a pastime, I had never seriously thought of writing and publishing anything until he died. That is when I began using my frame of reference, which was rich in personalities and lifestyles. These were my "golden years," and they were just that: golden.

I now reside at the Blackburn Retirement Home, an outstanding place that has allowed me to use all of their technology to spend my hours writing. Enjoy my first brain child, Heaven's Doorway. There's more to come.

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To comment on the book or to contact me, you may write to my daughter, Linda Pompeii: