A Mill Valley neurologist’s childhood dream comes true with his first novel
They say it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. Mill Valley’s Sandy Shefrin Rabin is proof of that.
As a child in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she grew up writing poetry and short stories and dreaming of writing a novel one day. Although she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, she turned to the medical field and became a neurologist in Marin. It wasn’t until early 2017, when her three children were grown up and started, that she finally had time to revisit her writing dreams.
“Prairie Sonata,” her first self-published book, follows 11-year-old Mira Adler’s journey from innocence to experience while growing up in post-WWII Canada in a Jewish-founded community Eastern European laity. It won the 2021 Independent Press Award for Best Fiction, was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2021, and is a recommended resource for the County Board of Education’s High School Ethnic Diversity Program. of Marin.
Q What inspired your transition into medicine?
A My first year at university, I had a fascinating English teacher. He was so inspiring and a great speaker. We had a great selection of literature to read and I just loved it, so I decided to major in English. We were writing a lot of essays and after a while I felt like maybe I was drifting a bit off the mark. It taught me a lot about human nature, but it was becoming abstract. I wanted something a little more concrete to do with my life. The following year, I completed my pre-med prerequisites and went.
Q Why neurology?
A It was also influenced by having a great teacher who brought neurology to life. Neurology is a fascinating field. You’re kind of like a detective, like you are in medicine in general, but in neurology in particular. You have to put all these parts together.
Q Hearing this, it’s no surprise that a teacher plays a big role in your novel.
A That’s what’s amazing. People who read my book before I published it, they pointed out these connections that I never saw and even now, when I read it myself from time to time, I see things that I never saw. hadn’t thought of.
Q What inspired the coming of age story?
A My mother had passed away a few years earlier and I was thinking more about my parents, life and death and who will remember you when you are gone. And when it comes to my parents, who is going to remember their essence? They were lovely people. The initial idea was to model the protagonist after my mother. I set it up in a fictional small town in Canada; my mother grew up in a small town in Manitoba. I thought there were a lot of books around Hasidic and Orthodox communities. I grew up in another Jewish community, it was secular, and I went to a day school where they spoke Yiddish. It was a unique, warm and vibrant community and I thought people should know more about this community I grew up in and this school I went to that had such a big impact on me. So I decided that Mira should attend a school similar to mine. At the same time, the world wasn’t in very good shape when I started writing the novel. There was a lot of fighting in the Middle East and the images on the news reminded me of Bible times. It also reminded me that as I grew up, I believed the world was going to get better. But when I saw these images, it made me wonder if civilization had learned anything over time. And that led to the idea of Mira’s journey.
Q What do you hope people take away from your book?
A It serves as a reminder to be vigilant against bigotry. It reminds us to tell those we love how much we love them. One of my messages is that despite what we learn from our own journeys, we each remember the child within us and don’t let it become a forgotten secret.