Author Debbie Maddigan (left) and Laura Gilbert share a laugh together.

Squeaks offers a story of hope

Chilliwack, A Little Girls Called Squeaks, Laura Gilbert, Debbie Maddigan, book

A Little Girl Called Squeaks is a story of hope and faith emerging out of the depths of despair.

Chilliwack resident Laura Gilbert was nicknamed “Squeaks” as a young girl, and the fast-paced story of her life was written by her friend, Debbie Maddigan.

“This was not an easy book to do,” Gilbert tells The Progress.

“Going back through all those chapters was quite hard.”

Neglect. Violence. Addiction. Abuse. All figured prominently in her early life from Penticton and Princeton to Vancouver’s downtown eastside.

The book is also an incredible story of survival, chronicling Gilbert’s journey to sobriety and stability. Making it through was made possible with the help of what she calls “God shots.”

“I think God shots are times in our lives where we can look back and see how God shot his presence into our midst,” she writes at the end of the book.

Gilbert and Maddigan met when Maddigan was a pastor several years ago. Gilbert mentioned that her counsellor had suggested she write a book about her life. Writing a book had always been on Maddigan’s bucket list, and voila, the book project was born.

They met weekly for a year. Gilbert, who reads at about a Grade 4 level, would tell her agonizing story, while Maddigan made copious notes.

“There were times when I had to take a break from it,” she says. “It tore my heart out at times. Even today our children are not necessarily valued the way we think they should be. The big problem was that nobody was Laura’s advocate.”

Society as a whole needs to step up and advocate for kids in trouble like Laura, says the book’s author. She vowed henceforth never to suspect a child was in trouble and not to report it.

“I think it’s a travesty that children are living this life,” Maddigan offers. “This is what happens to them if we don’t step in as a society and be a voice for these children. They’re abused and broken little people, and many fall into drugs and alcohol.”

In the book, Gilbert was only a little girl when her mom would stash her under the bed while entertaining men for money.

“That really happens and not just on TV,” Maddigan says.

The two women grew very close in the process. They laughed and cried in equal measure.

“She and I are like sisters now. And it’s our hope people will understand what this kind of life is like, and see that there are ways to get out, if they desire it.”

The atrocities the young Gilbert lived should have made her the most miserable and bitter person on the planet, Maddigan says.

“But when people meet her, they find the most sweet, beautiful and kind person,” she says. “That’s the work of God in her life.”

If even one reader is helped through her story, Gilbert says it will all have been worth the trouble.

“They say you’re only as sick as your secrets,” she says. “I wanted to get my story out there in order to serve God, and also to help kids like me, who have given up and have no hope.

“I want them to know, no matter what, it is possible to heal and get better.”

Meet Laura Gilbert and Debbie Maddigan in person, where they will be selling the book, A Little Girl called Squeaks, at Party in the Park Night Market, on Friday, Aug. 5 starting at 5 p.m.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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