With the advent of summer in New England, I thought I would share some of the real locations I incorporated into JHATOR. Sofia, the protagonist in the novel, hikes the conservation areas near her home to find respite from her grief. As she interacts with and absorbs the wisdom of some of the local wildlife, she learns a new way to deal with her sorrow. The conservation areas listed below are lovely natural places. I hope readers of my book might enjoy them for the literary references as well.
AUDUBON SANCTUARY AT MOOSE HILL, 293 Moose Hill Parkway, Sharon,MA: The first and oldest Audubon sanctuary, Moose Hill offers of vast overview of Massachusetts varied ecosystems. In the book, several important and dramatic events take place on the ledge, including a violent confrontation between Sofia and Anat, the vulture. Take an easy hike along the Billings Trail to the Ledge Trail and you're there. Along the way, you'll pass a large stone cistern that was part of a farm that once occupied the land. At the ledge, you can look across the tree tops and sometimes spot a hawk skimming below your feet. The red cedar tree that Sofia loves is there. It has a slender trunk but its bark is twisted and blasted by exposure to years of wind and storm. As you gaze across the trees, you will spot Gillette Stadium in the distance. From your lofty vantage point, you can either bless or curse the Patriots if you feel so inclined.
BORDERLAND STATE PARK, 259 Massapoag Avenue, N. Easton, MA: This is a relatively flat and easy place to hike with open meadows, rock formations and wooded trails around a large central pond. The Ames Mansion is across an open field by the parking lot. There are sometimes tours of the mansion but the grounds are also nicely landscaped. This area is only a few miles from Moose Hill but for the purposes of my story, I moved the entire park so that it was directly adjacent to the Audubon property. This device helped explain how a five-year-old girl could walk into the woods and disappear or how Sofia could follow Afra, the doe, into the woods at night and become so thoroughly lost.
ROCKY NARROWS, Off Rt. 28, Sherborn, MA: This is one of many properties protected by The Trustees of Reservations. It is a heavily wooded area and somewhat more strenuous to hike than Borderland but it has two lookouts that provide views of the Charles River. Rocky Narrows itself is a spot where the river winds between two 650 million-year-old granite walls. The other is one of the many King Phillip's lookouts scattered about the state. While I didn't place Sofia directly in this location, many of the wooded spots I described were inspired by Rocky Narrows. It can also be reached by taking Snow Street to Forest Street off Rt. 28.
GREAT WOODS, Oak Street off Elm Street, Mansfield, MA: Sofia's neighborhood conservation land, where she often walks with Jet, is modeled after Great Woods. It is where Sofia stretches out on a grassy meadow with her dog and where she encounters Anat feasting on the rotted carcass of a dead mammal. Much of the property used to be a farm, long abandoned and overgrown. Stone walls run throughout the woods, including one that borders what appears to be an abandoned and decrepit orchard,
If you are one of my readers, I hope you will visit some of these beautiful spaces if you find yourself in southeastern Massachusetts.