There's an inscription on the front cover of Sudburian Chris Nash's novel “Priest Hole.”
“Twenty publishers and 15 agents have rejected 'Priest Hole,' but ordinary people read the book. They think it should be read. SO … this is it.”
Nash is a retired psychologist and former university administrator who has a wide variety of publications to her name, including short fiction, a book about early childhood education and a historical novel.
Despite her long publishing history, the reasons why the book was rejected included her own advanced age, publishers not wanting to offend the church and others not liking the fact that the book features a lesbian relationship.
Nash, realizing she's “not getting any younger,” was on the point of self-publishing the novel, which deals with the theme of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
But then her husband, Roger Nash, Greater Sudbury's poet laureate and a professor emeritus of philosophy at Laurentian University, pointed out that they actually already owned their own publishing press.
They've turned the press, formerly called Centre of Excellence for Learning and Teaching, which they used to publish education material about a decade ago, into an entirely different entity.
It's now called Pebblestone Press, and will publish works by older authors, specifically memoirs. Nash's book is the first to be published by Pebblestone Press.
“Priest Hole” features a retired Anglican rector, David, who has his life turned upside down when a former parishioner, Molly, dies, appointing him as her literary executor.
He flies to Chicago to collect a box of manuscripts from her ex-husband. In the box is a novella, “Priest Hole,” that exposes the dark underside of her convent education and her relationship with a female friend.
As he reads it, David begins to see his own failure to investigate information about abuse in his own town as the now-defunct sin of “culpable ignorance.”
“Priest Hole” intersperses sections of Molly's novella with David's observations about what he's learning.
Nash said she actually wrote the novella used in the book 30 years ago after being sexually harassed.
She said she was on sabbatical and up for a promotion to full professor at the University of Toronto, and one of the interview committee members called her in her hotel room.
He “told me that unless he could come up to my room, I wouldn't get my promotion,” Nash said.
“So I thought 'F**k you.' So I didn't get the promotion until the following year with a different committee. In the meantime, I was not happy. I thought well, 'I could always just take my sabbatical and write a novella.'”
Although the book has its basis in something Nash wrote three decades ago, its subject is something that's currently very topical.
Nash, who has worked with survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, said even though such abuse is now coming to light, she believes it's unfortunately something that's still happening.
If you're interested in checking out “Priest Hole,” Nash is holding a book launch and signing tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 1, from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. at the Main Public Library.
You can also purchase the book at the Sudbury Winter Market at the Southridge Mall Saturday, Dec. 15.