True romance! New York author Tara Bray Smith finds her mother... and a new husband!

Baby Tara with her mother, Karen in beautiful Hawaii

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Tara Bray Smith by telephone on Oregon Public Broadcasting a couple of years ago. Although her book came in with the usual weekly array of fiction and non-fiction books, something about the photo on the cover and the Hawaiian theme -- plus the fact that my ex-husband had left me with two small children in the 1970s -- made me curious about her story. "West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter and a Journey Past Paradise” (Simon & Schuster, 2004), is both a memoir and a history of Hawaii. The book just touched my heart.

Tara's life quest has been very difficult. After Tara was born, her mother Karen became ill and unstable, and then followed a downward path into homelessness and drug addiction, all with the background of the beauty of tropical Honolulu and the other gorgeous Hawaiian islands. For Tara and her younger sister, life was a nightmare. They lived in deplorable and dangerous situations as her mother struggled with mental and physical difficulties. Eventually, Tara's father and stepmom took over, and she was able to obtain reliable and stable parenting in their home.

Later, Tara moved to New York City to attend college, and she graduated from Colunbia University. At the end of the book, Tara was still trying to find her mother, and spent much time flying between Honolulu and New York, but had been unsuccessful in her quest. Her mother might be dead, but Tara had to find her. Sensitively written by this very vulnerable young woman, "West of Then" stayed with me. I recommended it several times to other people. I had to know -- the rest of the story.

A perusal of her web site showed that she had written another book. But it also appeared she was living in Germany. I didn't know why -- and didn't pursue it. Yesterday, her New York telephone number popped up on one of my lists of guests. I dialed it apprehensively...Tara answered and we chatted as if no time had elapsed between our first conversation and this one.

Tara told me she found her mother still alive. Her mother was trying very hard to make a life for herself. She was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was receiving treatment. She has also been able to find her own small home in Hawaii. Currently, she things are better for her.

Meanwhile, this beautiful young author has met and married a loving and accomplished older man -- whom she richly deserves. This is the link to their wedding story in the New York Times. I love romance and this article filled in the details. Her husband is an accomplished photographer. I'm pleased to see they were married in the Unitarian-Universalist faith -- I go to the fellowship here in Oregon and find it welcoming of all peoples, as I did when we lived in Massachusetts.

Here is the wedding announcement.
"Now, we know...the rest of the story..."

Book information at: or you can find it at

To Tara and Thomas -- all the very best to you both for a long and happy marriage.

Blessed be,

Ellen Kimball and husband Al in Oregon