It took nearly dying for Theresa Dodaro to find her life as writer.
In 2001, Dodaro, who grew up in Baldwin, contracted a strep infection that doctors thought originated with her son.
When she finally got out of the hospital, Dodaro said, she tried to focus on her writing. “The Tin Box Secret” was self-published last year. It is Part 1 of a young-adult trilogy, and it is set in Baldwin in the 1960s.
Dodaro, 57, said she finished the book a couple of years ago, about 10 years after she started writing it.
“When I started writing, I didn’t know it was a trilogy,” Dodaro, whose maiden name is Zimmardi, said recently. But I didn’t want to let go of the characters, so it developed into a trilogy.”
The book, she said, is “descriptive of what life was like in Baldwin.” It focuses on three teenagers, Julie, Heather and Petra, who are trying to navigate their way through life against the backdrop of the stormy events of the times. When Petra finds a box filled with her great-grandmother’s correspondence, the girls must unravel the secrets behind the letters and face the results of their own choices.
The book was inspired by Kate Chopin’s 1899 groundbreaking pre-feminist novel, “The Awakening,” Dodaro said. “It affected me so much in college that it stayed with me,” she said. “Women, especially, didn’t have choices then. We have choices now. It doesn’t always make it easy, but we at least have choices.”
Doddaro said there are similarities in “The Tin Box Secret” among her characters and herself and the people and places she knew in Baldwin and the region from Nunley’s Carousel to the old Hempstead Terminal. “In this book, I deal with private personal issues,” she said. “I can’t change things, but in my book, I can.”
But among her biggest influences were the effects of her illness and her family. She said she found herself having a difficult time after her stay in the hospital.
While her son quickly recovered from his infection, Dodaro’s condition worsened. Her doctors believed that she had a cut that became infected.
“I was very ill,” Dodaro recalled. “The strep was in my blood system. I was in a coma, on a respirator, in renal failure and in congestive heart failure.”