British author uses experience in Kenya as inspiration for new novel

Tracy Traynor
Tracy Traynor’s latest novel is based on her experiences in Kenya.

A British woman from Newton-le-Willows, who overcame the difficulties of living with dyslexia to become a published author, has drawn on her experience of life in Kenya as inspiration for her latest novel.

While only one chapter is Tracy Traynor’s “Grace in Mombasa” is inspired by real events, the central character is based on a fellow English woman called Moira Smith who the author met while living in Kenya.

Grace in Mombasa cover
Grace in Mombasa cover

Tracy lived in Kenya for three and a half years with her three sons and then husband, Paul Smith, a chef at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Mombasa.

But the 34-year-old’s life was dealt a series of blows as her ex-husband was fired and the next day the family heard on the radio that the Trade Bank had shut its doors as the director had run away with all the money, which meant all their savings were gone.

With no money, no job and in about to lose their home with a month to go before leaving Kenya, Tracy decided to check out a Bible study class run by Moira, an English lady at the Mombasa Coast Provincial (Free) Hospital.

Moira had dedicated her life to helping the Kenyan’s who arrived at the hospital, and when they first met, Tracy explained she had felt compelled to meet her and see if there was anything she could do to help.

Tracy Traynor in Kenya
Author Tracy Traynor photographed during her time in Kenya with Sam.

Handing her a folder containing a pile of old letters, Moira explained that these were people she had written to in the past to ask for Bibles and trackers, but hadn’t replied. She explained that she hadn’t had a Bible or a tracker to hand out to anyone in over five years and asked if Tracy could write to them for her.

Tracy agreed and three weeks later they were given their flight tickets to leave Kenya, so she drove to Mombasa island for the last time to return the folder to Moira.

When she got there, and excited Moira took her to her room where there were boxes of Bibles and trackers, in both English and Swahili, exactly what she’d asked for. Incredibly, while most shipments from the UK took 12 weeks by sea, these cartons had been flown in, and passed through customs without paying chi money, which was a rare thing in those days.

The two sat down and chatted, with Moira explaining that she had come to Kenya on the 25 July 1953, aged 41 on board the SS Uganda, soon after the end of the Second World War.

SS Uganda
The SS Uganda which brought Moira Smith to Kenya on the 25th July 1953.

Whilst walking the streets she had seen a boy fall from a palm tree and scream, not because he was in agony but because he didn’t want to go to the Mombasa Free Hospital.When she asked why, he told her that people only went there to die.

Passenger List for USS Uganda
Part of the passenger list for the USS Uganda which Moira arrived in Kenya on.

Following him to the hospital changed her life and she simply never left, didn’t go back on the ship and never, even once, returned to the UK.  When the hospital staff finally realised they would never get rid of her they gave her a room to work out of and to sleep in, and she’d been there ever since.

When Tracy met her, Moira was approaching 80 and she said that although she was tired, a convent north of Nairobi had said she could spend her last days with them.

Since then, Tracy has learnt from someone who visited her in hospital at the time of her death that she died in the Coast General Hospital mid 1990’s aged 83. Although several women clubbed together to buy her medicine, Moira selflessly gave it away to the other patients.

Moira is buried in the church at Nyali and Tracy told us she would love to hear from anyone who knew this inspirational woman. If you did know Moira, you can contact Tracy via her Facebook page.

Tracy is donating 50 per cent of all sales of “Grace in Mombasa” to Barnabus Trust Outreach Mombasa.

The Kindle version is available now in the Amazon UK and USA stores for £2.34 and $3.01 respectively (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited), with the paperback edition scheduled for release on December 1. Copies are also being sold from the Studio hairdressers on Queen Street, Earlestown.

Grace in Mombasa blurb

Inspired by true events.  Grace in Mombasa is an intriguing historical saga of betrayal and loss, romance and heartbreak, and one woman’s journey in faith.

 From the day she was born, Grace Clifton has navigated a life of loss and heartbreak, without a mother to guide her and through the ravages of two World Wars. With England in the midst of a Second World War, Grace, along with her best friend Eleanor, come to experience the excitement of love and romance, but all too soon, its deceit and heartbreak. Through it all, Grace is sustained by her unwavering faith in God, but when all she holds dear is ripped away from her, Grace is left devastated and doubting everything she’s ever believed in.

 As the world slowly recovers from war, Grace too begins the process of healing from bitterness and the deep wounds inflicted by life. When an unexpected opportunity comes up in Kenya, Grace seizes the chance to escape the memories, hoping to find a purpose and build a new life for herself. In the city of Mombasa, Grace soon begins to realise she can’t ever distance herself from life’s complications, but if she’s prepared to open her heart, maybe her shattered faith will once more bring her hope, love and the healing that she desperately needs.

Grace in Mombasa is a story about a woman with amazing faith.  However, her steadfastness to God is lost during the war and she determines never to pray again.  Will God simply let her go?  If you like heartfelt dialogue, stories seeped in fact and history, and memorable characters, then you’ll love Tracy Traynor’s moving and inspirational novel.

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