Hidden Hearts: The Peterborough Letters

Betty Beeby was commissioned to paint the fifty-foot mural at the Orientation Center at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City in 1974. In a long and distinguished career, she won numerous awards while illustrating fourteen children’s books and several other volumes. She also was the cover artist for thirty book jackets. She was born in 1923 and raised in Detroit, but she called the house on Torch Lake in Eastport home. She was a graduate of Cass Tech in Detroit and, aided by a Booth Scholarship, from Pratt Institute in New York. She worked as a staff artist for Time Life magazines before marrying Jim Beeby and moving back to Michigan in 1944. They raised their four children in Kalamazoo. She discovered the Peterborough archive in the family barn in the 1970s, and created the lithographs illustrating the book that followed. She lived to see it presented as a tone poem in 1988 and as a ballet in 2011. She died in 2015.

Larry Smith is a New York Times bestselling author of several books, including The Original, Beyond Glory, Iwo Jima, and The Few and the Proud. Prior to that, he served nineteen years as the managing editor of Parade magazine, following stints with five different newspapers, including the New York Times and the New York Daily News. He grew up on a farm south of Charlevoix, Michigan, near the area that became the setting for The Original. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1962. Betty Beeby was a friend of the Smith family. It was her curiosity and diligence that led to the discovery of the letters and diaries that became The Peterborough Letters, assembled and edited by Larry. He has run the New York City Marathon and climbed Mt. Denali in Alaska. He is a member of The Explorer’s Club, and a former president of The Overseas Press Club of America. He and his wife Dorothea live on Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. They have two daughters, Stacey and Jennifer.

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The original story of Hidden Hearts: The Peterborough Letters begins when Betty Beeby finds a cache of decades-old letters and diaries in an old barn on the family property in northern Michigan. Along with veteran journalist Larry Smith, she sorts and makes sense out of dozens of letters and diaries depicting a fascinating and colorful world long gone.

This is the story of Minnie Griffin and the child she bore out of wedlock in 1876. Minnie is told her son is dead a month after his birth. Instead, unbeknownst to its mother, the child has been put up for adoption. Twenty-seven years later, the son, Loren Post, seeks Minnie out. By then she has an orderly, independent life as a dressmaker in Peterborough, Ontario. The shock of learning her son is alive shatters her peace and plunges her into a tumult of raging emotions.

It is 1904 when Loren takes off to meet his best friend and road buddy, Norton Pearl, at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. But first he must go to Peterborough to meet and spend a week with Minnie. The adventure will take the two young men to the fair and beyond, to New Orleans, Texas, the Grand Canyon, Oregon, and Montana while Minnie pursues him with letters posted via general delivery. Captivating and comical experiences spring to vibrant life through the original writings of the young men and women whose stories intersect with Minnie and Loren and Norton. Hidden Hearts: The Peterborough Letters is an extraordinary look into 1904 America. It portrays authentic hallmarks of a particular time in our history — the earnest appetite for culture and self-improvement; the casual, unthinking racism and sexism; and the respect for hard work and endurance. But it is also a touching human story of a family reunited that will stay with you for a long time.


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