A Canadian Girl Grows Up
by Lily Iona MacKenzie
Sexual awakening can be messy business.
Tillie Bishop never knew her father, and when her mother abandons her, Tillie quickly
becomes streetwise. Even in Calgary, forces of the coming 1960s—a decade of rebellion,
discovery, and upheaval—are already at work within her. As a Canadian Girl in Training,
she's tried to follow their Christian guidelines, but she prefers to make up her own.
She smokes cigarettes in the church bathroom during the group's meetings and plays kissing
games afterward with neighborhood boys. Barely a teenager, glamour becomes her new guiding
star, and she fantasizes about a future of dating men and having sex.
At seventeen, during a stay in Toronto, she becomes a band groupie and throws herself into
the "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" scene—just what she she's been looking for. Then, seeking
more adventure, she moves to San Francisco, drawn to its psychedelic night life, leading to a
deeper downward spiral. However, Tillie's grit and ability to face life's challenges are
inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self.
Tillie takes readers on a wild ride through a period of riotous personal and cultural change.
Join her if you dare!
Tillie Bishop eventually becomes a visual artist and changes her name to Tillie Bloom. Follow
the older Tillie in Freefall: A Divine Comedy.
She'll take you into an art world you'll never forget.
Praise for The Ripening
"In The Ripening, Lily Iona MacKenzie has created a child who will be a seeker until
she finally becomes an adult and has done so with compassionate understanding of this
character's confusion. Tillie is not just any child.
"The hard-scrabble life Tillie and her mother lead is set primarily in Calgary, Alberta, with a
brief time on a prairie farm. MacKenzie knows the landscape she is painting, from the Canadian
cities to the prairie 'flatter than their dinner plates,' and the endless sky.
"She takes her reader to the down-on-your-luck Calgary hotels, the Calgary Zoo, and the
Stampede with both the excitement of the rodeo and the sordid underbelly of the midway at night.
"This is the story of a journey, and MacKenzie navigates it expertly. She knows her craft."
– Betty Jane Hegerat, Canadian author of Odd One Out, The Boy, Delivery,
and A Crack in the Wall
"Tillie was born as innocent as any babe, but her life wasn't meant to follow the typical path
of other girls. Even the Canadian Girl In Training program couldn't get Tillie on the right track.
"With the era of free love, hippies, and drugs looming, she finds herself on a train to San
Francisco and a path to self-destruction. Lily Iona MacKenzie deftly takes readers into that
throbbing, psychedelic world of drugs, booze, and one-night stands where they will root for
Tillie as she struggles to find herself. You will be swept along as she painfully learns that
true happiness is seldom found amid the glitter and grime. It's hiding somewhere
else . . . in plain sight. A well-written and visceral story."
– Janice Gilbertson, author of Summer of '58, Canyon House, and The Dark Side
of Gibson Road
"Free spirit Tillie experiments with all that life throws at her in a quest for self-identity
and self-expression in the 1960s . . . The Ripening is a gritty literary
coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s. Tillie is a fascinating woman who lives by her own set
of beliefs and views. I first met her in the novel, Freefall, and I instantly connected with her.
When I think of a sixties young woman, Tillie's personality immediately comes to mind. The
Ripening explores a part of society not normally talked about. The descriptive narration reeled
me in and didn't let go until the very end. Through this book, I truly felt like I went back in
time and lived the life of Tillie . . . At the heart of this story is a young woman who learns
what life is all about and how life can be what you make it . . . Lily Iona
MacKenzie transports readers to the sixties in a stunning tour de force. Highly recommend!"
– N. N. Light
"This is Lily MacKenzie's best Tillie novel yet. If you have read about Tillie before, The Ripening
will complete your understanding of her. If you have never 'met' Tillie, then just binge them all. The
Ripening is the last published, but perhaps first-to-read . . . in any order, you can't go wrong."
The reader hesitates to put this book down....
"Lily Mackenzie's The Ripening is a bold look at early, lost innocence coupled with the
constant struggle to just survive. The story flows seamlessly from past to present and back again,
expertly connecting all the dots. Tillie is a fascinating character having to think outside the
box at every twist and turn. Many surprises await—no second guessing in this expertly
written novel. The reader hesitates to put this book down."
– Nancy Diebel-Downing
"This is a new author to me, and I will be looking out for her work in the future. This story is about Tillie
who has had a tough life and she never knew her father, so when her mother abandons her, she is forced to
become streetwise to survive. Tillie's story goes from childhood to becoming an adult, and her past has
shaped her into the woman she has become now, and all she really wants is for someone to love her for just
being herself. This is a well written story with an intricate and in-depth plot with personal and cultural
changes throughout. I look forward to reading more from this author and I recommend this story."
– Wendy Livingstone
Lily Iona MacKenzie
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Lily Iona MacKenzie sprouted on the Canadian prairies under cumulous clouds that bloomed
everywhere in Alberta's big sky. They were her first creative writing instructors, scudding
across the heavenly blue, constantly changing shape: one minute an elephant, bruised and
brooding. The next morphing into a rabbit or a castle. As an adult, Lily continues to seek
instruction about fiction from clouds. Just as they provide the earth with much-needed
water, she believes that stories have a similar function, preparing the mind to receive
new ideas. Magical realism pulses at the heart of her narratives, her work celebrating the
A high school dropout and a mother at 17, over the years, Lily has supported herself as a
stock girl in the Hudson's Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta
Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States where
she now lives). She also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco,
briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got
her legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, and eventually
earned two Master's degrees (one in English with an emphasis on Creative writing and one
in the Humanities).
She has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and a
memoir in over 155 American and Canadian venues. She also teaches writing at the University
of San Francisco, paints, and does collage.