New WWII novel has Copper Country connection
MARQUETTE — The new World War II novel, “The Ways We Hide,” features a character raised in Michigan’s Copper Country.
The book’s author is Kristina McMorris, whose New York Times bestseller, “Sold on a Monday,” sold a million copies since its publication in 2018.
“The Ways We Hide,” inspired by true accounts, is about a mastermind illusionist and inventor called upon by MI9 British intelligence to develop escape devices to aid Allied prisoners escape German forces.
“Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival,” reads a synopsis of the book from its publishers, Sourcebooks Landmark. “Having survived a traumatic and dangerous childhood, Fenna has developed a well-honed ability to control her surroundings as a defense mechanism that keeps her crippling fear of enclosed spaces at bay. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to a daredevil escape artist, offstage she is the true genius of their act.
“For all of her talent, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by MI9 officers in search of civilians with specialized skills but she reluctantly joins the unconventional team. As an inventor tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, she develops tools such as compasses, magnets and containers to conceal maps that can be hidden discreetly in the seams of uniforms. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the trenches of war, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past.”
In the author’s note at the end of the novel, McMorris wrote that while seeking inspiration for a new book, she came across an old photo that she believed was a snapshot of children sleeping. It turned out it was a picture of young victims of the 1913 Italian Hall tragedy in Calumet in which 73 people, most of them children, died in a stairwell stampede that is believed to have resulted from a false cry of “fire.”
She also read articles about how Monopoly game boards were used to smuggle escape aids to Allied prisoners of war.
McMorris, who lives near Portland, Oregon, said the Monopoly tale suddenly merged in her mind with the Calumet tragedy, as a “driving backstory,” as she called it, for the fictional illusionist.
“Like watching a movie at double speed, I envisioned a rush of scenes from what would become ‘The Ways We Hide,'” McMorris wrote.
She also noted that the timeline of the Italian Hall disaster and World War II were nearly impossible to reconcile in the path of Fenna’s life. So, she invented the town of Eden Springs, fashioned after Calumet, with a Christmas Eve stampede based on the real event — making a few adjustments, of course.
For example, party attendees were reduced by several hundred because of the decline in copper mining compared with the booming years of the actual strike.
Lisa Wingate, author of “Before We Were Yours,” called the book “a riveting tale of intrigue and illusion, danger and historical myster, but at its heart the story of one woman’s struggled to escape her own past.”