Missing from her mountain village

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Title: Milk Fever

Author Name: Lissa M. Cowan

Lissa M. Cowan is the author of Milk Fever and founder of Writing the Body. She speaks and writes about storytelling, creativity, work-life balance and creative spirituality. She is a Huffington Post blogger and writes regularly for Canadian and U.S. magazines and newspapers.

She is co-translator of Words that Walk in the Night by Pierre Morency, one of Québec’s most honoured poets. She has been writing and telling stories in one form or another since she was six years old and has received awards for her writing from the University of Victoria’s Writing Department and from The Banff Centre. She is an alumna of The Banff Centre and The Victoria School of Writing. She has had some wonderfully talented teachers along the way such as Nino Ricci, Jane Rule and Daphne Marlatt who have helped her hone her writing craft.

Lissa believes that inspiration for writing can come from anywhere and that lifelong creativity begins by cultivating a deep awareness of ourselves, and the world around us. She coaches her students to develop the skills to tune in—rather than wait for the muse—and to trust their intuition. She believes that true creative work begins with a loving relationship to self and spreads outwards to encompass all living beings.

When she’s not writing or teaching, you can most likely find her in a cafe working on one of her stories or book ideas. She just started work on a creative non-fiction book, though it’s too early right now to spill the beans on that one!

She holds a Master of Arts degree in English Studies from l’Université de Montréal and lives in Toronto, Canada.

Author Links –

Website: lissacowan.com

Book Genre: Historical fiction, literary suspense

Publisher: Demeter Press

Release Date: October 18, 2013

Book Description:

What if the only person you ever loved suddenly disappeared without a trace?

In 1789, Armande, a wet nurse who is known for the mystical qualities of her breast milk, goes missing from her mountain village.

Céleste, a cunning servant girl who Armande once saved from shame and starvation, sets out to find her. A snuffbox found in the snow, the unexpected arrival of a gentleman and the discovery of the wet nurse’s diary, deepen the mystery. Using Armande’s diary as a map to her secret past, Céleste fights to save her from those plotting to steal the wisdom of her milk.

Milk Fever is a rich and inspired tale set on the eve of the French Revolution–a delicious peek into this age’s history. The story explores the fight for women’s rights and the rise in clandestine literature laying bare sexuality, the nature of love and the magic of books to transform lives.


My fever worsened. I don’t recall all who came to assist me on my sickbed during those few days of torment, but I know the village doctor was there for a time, along with a travelling barber-surgeon, an apothecary and a healer of the stone evil. One advised bleeding and another clysters. Still another insisted on purgatives in the way of small spoonfuls of cinnamon water. Margot applied compresses and told me to continue suckling even though the doctors warned

against it.

Eventually your body will rid itself of milk fever,” she said.

Heat consumed every part of me, setting my skin on fire. One night I didn’t sleep and hallucinated instead. In my half-mad vision, all the saints were there before me—Augustine, Teresa, Sebastian, Thomas, Francis, Cecilia—and many mortal beings who were now absent to me. Although I lay in bed amidst damp sheets, I saw my dear mother who died bringing me into the world, childhood playmates of mine who fell during the scourge and were buried together in one solitary grave. A neighbour who didn’t survive the birth of her second child, and yet another woman crying out as her son lay on his deathbed—all of them scaling the exterior walls of my house like red-eyed lepers seeking a crypt to hide their half-deadness. At first, I didn’t want to let these lost souls into my life. They were, after all, echoes of the past, wreckage from a sea-bound ship that never made it home. Although I am afraid of what they showed me, I was compelled to let them in. I awakened in a pool of water, nightshirt clinging to my hot, wet body. My child was no longer beside me. Did the lost souls take her, I wondered. Perhaps the flames licked her all away. Just when I had given up hope of ever seeing my darling baby again, Margot walked into the room. She passed a cool cloth over my forehead and cheeks. Its freshness soothed me.

Where is Rose-Marie? What happened to her?” I asked deliriously.

She is asleep in a basket by your bed. There, you see?”

I raised my head and glimpsed her round face peeking out from the covers. She batted the air with her fists, emitting rapid cries. Margot sat on the bed and looked upon me as a mother does a daughter.

You were burning up.”

Yes. I have spent the night watching saints and others battle the fires of Hades.”

Take the child. She needs your milk.” Margot handed her to me and I brought her to the spot of all my woes.

Amazed to find that feeding her soothed the pain in my bosom, I felt my fever much less than before. A sensation that I cannot put my finger on took hold of me when my milk fever subsided and I became bright-eyed and shiny as a new coin. I am no more able to understand my transformation than I am able to blame Rose-Marie for taking me from intellectual pursuits. My melancholia vanished with the morning mist. My baby’s little mouth curled and eyelids like pea pods opened and closed. When she looked up at me with knowing eyes, I couldn’t help but think it was my milk that produced such a state. My heart was suddenly joyful and I reasoned that there was no better place to be. Her gurgles and chirps told me she was happy in my arms and I now sensed the same emotion holding her. Ten little fingers and ten little toes, she was built of the stuff that made a body unstoppable. I held her always, all day, bestowing kisses upon her downy head. I couldn’t believe that this little nut, this sleeping angel, was mine. I cried and laughed as I rocked her. My words were caresses for her, flowing and erupting. She drank in my sweet hums and coos, her mouth lingering at my every syllable.

After feeding, I wrapped Rose-Marie and myself in a blanket and madly raced down the stairs toward the door. As I combed the garden for a bit of wind to quell what was left of my fever, I sensed my present life slipping away. My head and heart informed me that mothering wasn’t contrary to learning, yet instead part of it. I can write and reflect and talk philosophy just as I can suckle a child. No one can tell me—not even my own father—that it is not a woman’s privilege to do both.

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