You Are the Story the World Needs to Hear
by Kimberly Brock

Stories are the home we build for ourselves, my mother told me. Here are the rings in the oak, just like the years in your lives, telling a story, she’d say. Here is our garden that grows from a seed, to flower or fruit, then go back to the ground, with a beginning, middle, and end. A story. Here is a way to understand the world in the pages of a book, where there is order. Here is a way to remember who came before you and to imagine what might come next. You are the story, she said, this world needs to hear. When I wrote The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare, I was thinking of what my mother had taught me and what I wanted to say to other women about how easily our stories can be lost and what that means in our lives.


The novel is about a young widow and her thirteen-year-old daughter returning to a forsaken family home and history at the end of World War II. Set near Savannah, Georgia, the story centers around a mysterious, engraved stone and its connection to sixteen generations of imagined descendants from a survivor of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the oldest unsolved mystery in American history. No one knows what happened to the colony, but this is not a book of answers. It’s a book of questions, about the difficult and beautiful ways we live and love and make peace with the unknown.

I first learned of the obscure story of the Dare Stone almost twenty years ago. As a mother raising my own children, over the years I reflected on the story of the stone believed to have been carved by Eleanor White Dare, a survivor of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. I thought a lot about what it might have felt like to have been Eleanor, a young mother and suddenly alone in a wilderness, desperate to leave a mark that would remember me to the world and more importantly, to my daughter and her descendants. Women’s history is so often lost, our stories left untold. I wondered what story Eleanor’s descendants might have passed down, mother to daughter, and how they might have treasured those stories. And I was very interested in how the history of our female forebears helps define us in our own times, giving courage and inspiration.


There’s an adage that says writers should write what they know. Alice Hoffman says we should write what we can imagine. It took many years and much encouragement from my literary agent before I would allow myself to even consider writing Eleanor’s Tale, the portion of this novel that imagines a future for Eleanor. I had filled notepads with fictional genealogical charts of names, birthdates, death dates and possible touchpoints in the lives of the heirs I’d privately imagined for Eleanor Dare, but to write a story for Eleanor felt sacrosanct for the longest time. I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Then, I woke one night around two in the morning with the first lines of a story whispering in my ears, a tale passed through generations of mothers and daughters, and I realized what a gift our stories are to one another. They recognize the lives that have been lived and even if they aren’t based in fact so much as they are based in memory, they are how we commemorate those who’ve come before us. They are how we dream and imagine our own way forward in an imperfect world. If I’ve learned anything from writing this novelfrom Eleanor’s story and the very little we truly know of herit is that stories are not the same as facts. Stories are matters of the heart. A story doesn’t matter because it’s true, but because it has been told.