Wildflowers in Winter: Naomi Wark’s Novel About Alzheimer’s and Family Dynamics

About Naomi Wark, Wildflowers in Winter

Wildflowers in Winter -

by Naomi Wark

Though a work of fiction, Wildflowers in Winter was inspired by my husband’s grandmother. Edna Pearson represents any of the nearly six million people in America who are living with Alzheimer’s. Twenty-five percent of whom are cared for by friends and family. In the mid-1990s, my husband and I joined this group. Upon Grandma’s death in 2000, I discovered diaries and binders filled with pages of her memories written over the years. Nearly a decade later, I pulled out her diaries, along with random sheets of sprawled illegible handwriting, and began to read. I recognized the precious gift she’d left behind and it became clear she wanted her story told. Wildflowers in Winter was written in large part as a legacy to a woman who saw so much during her life.

Born in 1902, Grandma attended college at a time when it was a rarity. The first in her family to go on to higher education, she attended the State Normal School in Ellensburg, Washington, built for the sole purpose of training elementary school teachers. She spent her entire life as a teacher, and in her fifties, obtained her Master’s in Education and went on to become one of the first teachers in the state to work with deaf students. Grandma was an accomplished Master Gardener, a skilled artist and loved to travel.

Wildflowers in Winter begins with the death of Edna’s last child. She fears living her remaining years cared for by family members who show little concern for her. But her great sorrow of losing her son turns to joy when, at her son’s funeral, she is reunited after many years with her grandson, David. While David faces resentment from his stepsisters, their unwillingness to take over their grandmother’s care compels him to take on an increasing role in her life, even as her body and mind grow increasingly frail. Wildflowers in Winter tells the story of Edna both through the eyes of an elderly woman suffering from dementia and as a younger woman. Her experiences from her younger years are told from flashbacks triggered by current events. Diagnosed with dementia, Grandma’s increasingly severe episodes of confusion, disorientation and periodic spurts of irrational behavior mirrored Alzheimer’s. For the purpose of telling her story, I emphasized these traits. This allowed me to tell her story in her voice even when her reality differed from the real world. With Alzheimer’s, past memories can at times become the present for patients. For me as an author, one of my biggest challenges was to tell Edna’s past experiences as though she was living them, not merely remembering them. An example is when Edna was in the hospital and she told her grandson she was on a mountain. To her, at that time, that was her reality.

Many of the current events from the book happened, though they are fictionalized. Most of the flashback scenes are drawn from Grandma’s diaries, though not necessarily exactly as written.

Originally published as Wildflowers in Winter: Aging with Alzheimer’s, I was constantly informed by readers the story is more than a story of dementia. Readers have praised the accurate portrayal of not only Edna’s increasing dementia, but also the greater story of family and the message of loss, regret, forgiveness, and most of all, love. For that reason, among others, I reedited the book, had a new cover design created, and republished the book in early 2020 without the subtitle.

I am proud to have succeeded in fulfilling my dream of writing a novel, while at the same time, honoring a much respected and loved family member by preserving her spirit and a portion of her life.

About the AuthorNaomi Wark

Naomi Wark lives on Camano Island, in Northwest Washington, a move that coincided with retirement. She joined the Skagit Valley Writer’s League and focused her energy on completing a novel started years earlier. Wildflowers in Winter is her first novel. First released in 2017, a second edition was released in 2020. Though no longer available, she published two fan-fiction novellas for Kindle Worlds using the widely popular characters from the Veronica Mars TV show. She is currently working on the prequel to Wildflowers in Winter, an historic novel, Songs of Spring, which takes place in Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound region beginning in 1902 until the mid-1920s. Both books draw inspiration from diaries and memories left behind by her husband’s grandmother. As with Wildflowers in Winter, Songs of Spring is a story which besides historical events, focuses on family commitment and relationships. To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” It is up to each of us how we choose to view the gift of family which we have been given.

When she is not writing, Naomi enjoys gardening, long walks, reading, and spending time with family. Besides her participation in the Skagit Valley Writer’s League, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and EPIC Group Writers, Naomi is a long-time volunteer with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which provides financial assistance to families in need and is a volunteer and on the Board of Directors for the Stanwood Camano Food Bank.

Connect with Naomi Wark at:


Share the Post:

Subscribe to Our eNewsletter

SUBSCRIBE to our weekly eNewsletter! Be among the first to know about new authors, podcasts, events, and more for help on your dementia journey. As a welcome gift, you may download our FREE booklet “Caring for a Mother with Dementia,”  featuring 15 quality titles. Subscription is through bookfunnel.com. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Support Our Mission

Your support enables us to continue to provide quality resources for dementia caregivers. We appreciate any donation. Thank you for your support!