Underneath the shoulder length, wavy, gray hair and glasses, lies the strength of a woman who survived an abusive marriage and found love the second time around.
Della Howe, 85, of Camas, has written her third book, “Al’s Twisted Mind,” about her ex-husband.
In the book, Howe, who uses the pen name Marie Jensun, has changed her former husband’s name.
She married “Al” when she was 18, and he was 21.
“The book is a novel, inspired by real life events,” Howe said.
She came from a conservative, traditional home. The 24-year marriage was good for the first two years, Howe said, before “Al” became a masochist.
They had three children, in addition to a son who died at birth.
“He absolutely was not abusive to the children,” Howe said.
During the marriage, she kept a box of notes in a closet.
Those recollections served as the basis for the book, which is written in memoir form.
“The notes moved with me when I moved out,” Howe said.
She and “Al” owned the Fern Prairie Market in the mid-1950s.
They divorced in 1975.
Howe’s other books are “Son of Abortion” (fiction) and “We Remember Fern Prairie,” co-written with Jane Woodworth. Howe has also written articles for magazines, including “Go West.”
She was born in Fern Prairie and has lived in the Camas area her entire life.
Howe attended Camas High School before working on the family farm for a few months. That was followed by working 42 years at the paper mill in Camas, and she retired in 1991.
She recently participated in a weekly writers group, in Vancouver, for one-and-a-half years.
The individuals, of various ages, critiqued each others’ work.
“When I finished writing the book, I spent more years rewriting it over and over — never satisfied — feeling I was too uneducated,” Howe said. “That is when I started going to a ‘Meet Up’ writers group.
“Then when I had to quit going there, it happened that my publishing company phoned to find out if I had my manuscript ready,” she added. “I said ‘yes,’ and let go of all negative thoughts and here I am today.”
Howe is hoping the book will lead people to tackle the problem of child molestation.
“It is thought by some that these twisted minds come from little boys who grow up to be husbands,” she said. “‘Al’ was molested as a 14-year-old boy. That is what the psychiatrist thought caused him to be what he was.”
One of Howe’s neighbors, Alison Jurgens-Meyer, an illustrator of children’s books, helped edit the novel.
It has been a challenging month for Howe. Her partner of 40 years, “Don,” died recently, three days shy of his 71st birthday. Howe writes about how they met, in the book.