Author explores Canadian wilderness through animals’ eyes
True to her Carolinian nature, Dr. Judith Barban wanted to spend her summer at the beach.
Her husband, Eugene Barban, had another plan in mind.
“Let's go fishing in Canada,” he proposed, according to Judith.
Eventually, Judith gave in.
“I thought our first trip was going to be boring,” she said. “I was the one who got hooked.”
The couple has returned every summer since.
These trips led to Judith's first novel, the 2009 “Poplar River.”
This month, its sequel “Meredith's Wolf” was released.
Both were published through the ThomasMax Publishing company.
Judith will present both publications on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Aiken County Historical Museum.
When this author initially sat down to write “Poplar River,” she was seeking to create a different kind of novel.
Poplar River is a pure, rustic wilderness site in Canada.
“The impact of Poplar River on the life of anyone who spends time in its solitude can be profound, even magical. It was for me,” Judith wrote in the book's introduction.
Judith's novel begins with couple Karen and Steve Kingsley's honeymoon trip to the river's area.
This seemingly one-time trip evolves into a yearly tradition.
“Karen immediately finds herself at home in the wild,” the book's summary states.
After completing the first chapter, Judith shown it to her husband.
Eugene read it with his thoughts falling onto a one side character – the bald eagle.
“Why not write from the eagle's perspective?” he suggested, according to Judith.
Judith, inspired by this idea, jumped to research all she could about the ways of the bald eagle.
Soon, this creature became a named character – a nursing mother named Cherra.
Cherra narrates the book's second chapter.
Judith keeps this pattern throughout her novel, giving voices to a beaver, a bear and more.
Her sequel focuses on Karen and Steve's daughter, Meredith. Meredith was born in the story of “Poplar River.”
In Meredith's own story, an incident lands her, now 16 years old, back to a familiar spot of Canada. Once grounded, the teenager sets out to find her long-lost friend – her once-pet wolf.
Just like with all her other animal characters, Judith spent months researching the wolf species.
“It was my most exciting research,” Judith said. “They are just so fascinating.”
Similarities between Karen and Judith – like their grown love of the wild – have been noted by readers, Judith said.
“People ask me, ‘Are you Karen?'” Judith said. “My response is, ‘Yes and no. My characters are mosaics of people I know.'”
Judith and Eugene live in Tega Cay, SC.
She was born in Atlanta and taught French at Kennesaw State University and Winthrop University.
During this time, Judith also studied piano performance.
She sometimes performs with Eugene, a fellow concert pianist.
It was Eugene's piano career and teachings that brought the couple to Aiken in 1994.
Eugene's student Jasmin Tiodang was a competitor in Aiken's debut Josef Hofmann Piano Competition.
Eugene was also a judge for several years.
“A significant part of ‘Poplar River' is set in Aiken at the time of the Hofmann Piano Competition,” Judith said.
In the book, Karen competes in the competition.
In 2009, “Poplar River” won ThomasMax's You Are Published award.
“This award is given annually to one deserving author at the Southeastern Writers Association Workshop,” according to the ThomasMax company.
Judith's upcoming book “Crown Jewels” will be a collection of poems.
She will read some of these poems during her presentation next week.
For more information on Judith, visit www.judithbarban.com.
The Aiken County Historical Museum is at 433 Newberry St. S.W.
For more information on Judith's presentation, call 803-642-2015.