The Okanagan Regional Library is hosting an online talk with a Vernon author whose latest work tells the story of her decades-long journey from tragic loss to new understandings of life and love.
Destanne Norris’s debut book, Leah’s Gift: A Story About Reframing Loss, is an autobiographical story that centres on the loss of Norris’ daughter, Leah, who drowned at one-and-a-half years old in 1995.
Published in 2020, the book comes decades after Leah’s passing and the result is a deeply touching meditation on the transformative powers of love, loss and art.
In Leah’s Gift, Norris illuminates how her revelatory art and journal writing helped her reframe unanswerable questions to find new meaning and purpose in life after she lost her young daughter.
Leah’s Gift has garnered rave reviews from a variety of sources, including praise from ORL host librarian Christina SueChan, who writes: “A work of art, 35 years in gestation, created by a courageous woman. This is for those who have lost, yes — but also for those who want to live fully.”
The book has all the trappings of a visual artist, which is Norrris’ primary focus. Throughout the pages are landscape-based paintings that have been featured in public exhibitions. Paintings she created 10 years before her daughter’s birth become premonitions in this context, as demonstrated by her reflections on the first painting found between the pages of Leah’s Gift.
“Where had this image come from? Why was I attracted to painting a baby? I have no idea. At 25 years old, I was not even thinking about being a mother… Its meaning remained a mystery to me until 1995, 10 years later.”
In 2020, Norris starred in a feature documentary, Beneath the Painted Surface by local filmmaker Brian Taylor, which took viewers through her life and work as an artist. That film enjoyed a short release on Amazon Prime in the U.S. and U.K., but has now been released to the public on YouTube.