Looking for Bill, Finding Myself: A Memoir by
Looking for Bill, Finding Myself takes the reader on a journey through my childhood. Born on a Gouda cheese farm in the Netherlands, I was the youngest of a dozen children. In 1952 we immigrated to Canada by ship to live in a rundown house, but in a land of opportunity.
While we adapted to Canadian customs, our Catholic prayer traditions continued. Struggling to find my place in our home, I became the dreamer in the family and the translator for Mom and Dad.
My brother Bill was two years my senior, and we spent hours at barn chores. I liked the animals but was not cut out to be a farmer. Instead, I entered the minor seminary in Grade 9 and ached for home as I started on the path to priesthood.
Bill was an athlete while I was a thinker, and our personalities clashed as we entered our teen years. My childhood came to a halt when we were alone in a back field and Bill died under our overturned tractor. That incident marked the end of my childhood and the beginning of this memoir about the life and the secrets Bill and I shared.
Reviews of Looking for Bill, Finding Myself: A Memoir
I am moved by your story, your honesty, and by your writing… Such a wonderful project, such a wonderful story.
I was deeply moved by your book… It was an extremely interesting read, but more than that, I found it to be a beautiful account of a life, your life. By concentrating on one part of your life — the part from birth until the death of your brother – you related a story which shows how all aspects of your early life together created the path which stretched out before you, and on which you have been walking ever since. I am so very grateful that you wrote this book bringing it to the point of publication, so that others can share in your life.
I love the anecdotes of what life was like for your family when you were growing up... You are such a caring, sensitive person – that really comes through in the book. As well, I think your honesty takes courage, so kudos to you for picking up pen and paper and putting down your truth.
Sometimes we carry things around in our heads all our lives, and to get it out is a very healthy release.
The amount of time dedicated to the Church and to personal or family prayer is astonishing when compared to today. Especially considering the amount of work to be done on farms in those days and the lack of personal space and time, it’s a wonder you had any time to set aside for yourself to grow up!
Questions for book clubs
- What does the account of the Koot family immigration teach us about refugees?
- How would childhood on the farm compare to that of children in town?
- How does life in the minor seminary differ from that of a typical teenage boy?
- How might Joseph’s relationship with Bill have affected him as an adult?