Local author’s approachable retelling of Haiti abduction story a first-time success

CENTRE WELLINGTON – When Louise Brubacher sat at a desk in the kitchen of her Moorefield home and began writing her first published book, Captured by Gangsters, she had no idea it would be such a success.

Over 7,600 copies have been sold through online marketplaces, local retailers and personal sales in less than a year since being published in March 2023.

Brubacher, a Centre Wellington resident takes readers on a chronological, non-fiction story in Haiti in October 2021, when her nephew Dale Wideman was abducted among a group of Christian Aid Ministries missionaries and children.

The group of 17 was taken hostage at gunpoint and held for ransom until the remaining hostages escaped during a December night the same year. (Some had been released before.) The abduction made headlines across the world, and the Advertiser reported on the local Moorefield resident’s experience shortly after his return in 2022.

Brubacher gleaned material about what happened from various sources, including testimonies from other hostages and the diaries they kept on paper towels.

The story is told from Wideman’s perspective and stays grounded at the camps with the hostages.

If the hostages are wondering how an argument with one of the gangsters brandishing a gun will turn out, the reader is too. Both are on the same journey, and none the wiser until the very end, when Brubacher zooms out and brings everyone in on the efforts of U.S. law enforcement and Christian Aid Ministries to free the hostages.

The book can be thought of as a condensed and more approachable version of Katrina Lee’s 360-page Kidnapped in Haiti, which includes the many perspectives of different people and groups over the same timeframe.

With illustrations by Centre Wellington resident Rachel Martin, Brubacher describes the book as being “high interest, low vocabulary.” At just 104 pages, the book’s 16 chapters can be read in under two hours.

The bulk of the book was completed in February 2022 and the manuscript accepted in the summertime by TGS International, a publishing house affiliated with Christian Aid Ministries banner.

Starting with a trove of first-hand accounts for her first book turned out not to be the blessing Brubacher had imagined.

“When [I] actually had to get it down in a readable form that hangs together it was more difficult than I thought,” she told the Advertiser.

Brubacher hit a case of writer’s block after eight chapters but managed to write through it.

“I would sit down (and write) pretty much everyday probably there in January and February for several hours at least,” Brubacher said of her process.

Prior to writing the book, Brubacher’s experience was limited to small fiction and non-fiction stories published in church papers.

“It was a bit of a new thing,” she said, adding a two-month editing process was “certainly a learning curve for me.”

Brubacher hopes the book can be used for struggling readers, and offered an anecdote from an educator trying to help a struggling student.

After being given the book to try out, Brubacher said, reading from a note, the boy told an educational assistant it was “the best book he has ever read and wanted some extra time to read his book.”

“That is why I wrote it,” she said. “That was the crowning joy.”

These days she devotes a day each week to writing; one she admittedly guards with a sort of jealously.

Brubacher’s next book is scheduled for release in March.

Titled The Habit Hunt, the 32-page picture book is a departure from Captured by Gangsters, following the story of four- and five-year-old siblings Curtis and Violet as they search for the misunderstood “habit” on the family farm.

Brubacher expects to be at Living Waters Book Store in Elmira with her titles on March 21 for an author signing event.

Louise Brubacher

Captured By Gangsters can be purchased at the following locations:

– Magic Pebble Books, Elora;

– Karger Gallery, Elora;

– Evergreen Variety, Harriston;

– Misty Meadows Market, Conn;

– Orchard Lane Bulkfood Store, Moorefield;

– Wallenstein General Store, Wallenstein;

– Living Waters Book Store, Elmira;

– Reapers of Hope/Christian Aid Ministries Ontario headquarters, Moorefield.

To purchase copies directly, Brubacher can be reached at: 226-820-3592.