Carrie Turansky was looking through Facebook when she stumbled across an interesting image.
A friend of hers shared an image of poorly-dressed siblings from an earlier time period. Intrigued, Turansky learned that the siblings shown in the photo were related to her friend, and that they had been taken from England and sent to Canada between the years 1869 and 1939. The original Facebook post was from the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association, and this is where Turansky first started learning about these children and their stories.
Based on her research on the British Home Children child migration scheme, Turansky, a Lawrence resident, published her 20th book, No Ocean Too Wide, last month through WaterBrook and Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House.
“It will give people a heart for children and to know how children should be cared for,” said Turansky on No Ocean Too Wide. “I want this book to encourage family and unity, and I want them to be entertained.”
Aside from No Ocean Too Wide, her other novels include Across the Blue, Shine Like Dawn, Snowflake Sweethearts, A Man to Trust, Seeking His Love, and more.
According to Turansky, “more than 100,000 poor and orphaned British children were taken off the streets, from workhouses, and from families in crisis and emigrated to Canada to start new lives.” When the industrial revolution sparked innovation, rapidly growing populations led to overflowing orphanages. To cope with the growing number of children coming in, British Home Children were sent to Canada to be adopted or to work as indentured laborers—boys as farm workers and girls as household servants, with the latter being more likely.
Like Anne of Green Gables, who starts out as a poor orphan that must work for families before finding her home at Green Gables, the British Home Children were put to work. Turansky said that in her research, she found that British Home Children were treated poorly, and they had to deal with discrimination until they were old enough to grow out of their new “home.”
Many Canadians believed the sins of the parents were somehow transferred to the children and they were “‘polluting’ the community where they were sent,” Turansky said.
“When I read about this heartbreaking chapter of British and Canadian history, I knew I wanted to write a story to shed light on what happened to British Home Children and honor their memory,” she said.
In No Ocean Too Wide, an English historical novel set in London in 1909, Laura McAlister is a young girl living in England sent to live away and work in order to help her mother support her three younger siblings. When her siblings are sent to a children’s home and then put on a boat to Canada, Laura is determined to find her lost siblings. The story is told from three different perspectives: Laura’s, her younger sister Katie McAlister and the wealthy and privileged young lawyer Andrew Fraiser, who forms an “unlikely alliance” with Laura to help get her siblings back.
As for what she hears about people’s reactions to reading her latest novel, Turansky shared that she was met with surprise. “People are surprised they didn’t know about this,” Turansky said. “A lot of the children kept it a secret.” They didn’t pass the information down to their families, sometimes out of shame, and the history of these children was rarely talked about.
“I think readers will be surprised to learn how these children were treated, and I hope it will prompt them to consider the needs of children and families in crisis and want to do all they can to help make sure no child suffers as these children did,” Turansky said.
The publication of No Ocean Too Wide comes at the same time as the 150th anniversary of when the British Home Children first came to Canada. According to Turansky, one-tenth of Canadians have a relative that came to Canada as a British Home Child—around 3.7 million people.
Born and raised in Oregon, Turansky has lived in Lawrence with her husband Scott and their children for the past 30 years. The couple are partners in ministry in Calvary Chapel Living Hope, a church the couple helped start with friends in Robbinsville.
Turansky and her husband have five adult children and six grandchildren. Two of their children are adopted, and this historical era resonated with Turansky even more because of it.
“I hope readers will think about the needs of orphaned and abandoned children and families in crisis and want to do what they can to help them,” she said. “Perhaps they’ll want to become a foster or adoptive parent, or reach out to help a family in crisis by providing short-term or long-term help. Several years ago, we became foster parents and eventually adopted our two youngest daughters, and they have been a great blessing in our family. We also shared our home with two families in crisis, and we were stretched and blessed in those experiences.”
Turansky took time diving into the historical world of the British Home Children before writing No Ocean Too Wide. Having homeschooled her children, Turansky had long been interested in writing about history, especially since she read a lot of historical biographies.
She began writing her novels in 2005, but had previously worked on short stories, essays, devotions and articles. Turansky started writing shorter novels to break into the industry, and has since been writing 60,000 word stories, and has shifted from the contemporary romance genre to focus on writing historical fiction. Turansky prioritizes her research, and takes time to compile the information she needs before creating a novel, and the process usually takes her about a year. As a result of her writing time table, her editor suggested that she move towards writing standalone novels instead of series.
She spent a year in Kenya with her family, and due to frequent power outages, “there would be a lot of time to use your imagination or to read.” When she returned to America, Turansky missed Kenya, and decided that she wanted to write a book that would take place there.
Turansky shared that she let the story “pour out” of her, and admitted that she was inexperienced writing fiction at the time. “All I knew is that I had a great imagination,” Turansky said.
The first time she attended a writer’s conference, she saw a red slash across the copy of a chapter she had shared with an editor, and was told to work on her writing. The experience caused Turansky to temporarily doubt her abilities, until she started to learn more through creative writing books.
Taking the time to focus on learning how to write creatively, she went on to join the American Christian Romance Writers, now the American Christian Fiction Writers, a professional organization dedicated to Christian fiction.
Through ACFW, Turansky joined a critique group that consisted of five women. Together they shared their work and provided feedback for each other. All women had not yet published their work, but would publish their works in the future.
“I really recommend critique groups as a way to really polish your writing and to build friendships that are supportive and helpful,” she said.
Turansky has been honored for her work with the following awards: the ACFW Carol Award, the Crystal Globe Award, and the International Digital Award.
As for the future, Turansky will continue the story of the McAlister family. It will take place 10 years after No Ocean Too Wide, following World War I, and focus on siblings Garth and Grace.
When looking back on the success she’s had over her career, and considering that she’s publishing her 20th novel, she said, “it’s encouraging, and I’m grateful that I’ve had these opportunities.”