WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

When former Westfield resident Kay Delli Bovi was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare genetic liver disease requiring a liver transplant, she realized that time was precious.

Her diagnosis spurred her to not only finish a novel she started 25 years earlier while living in the city, but also to write three sequels. Bovi’s Native American historical novels — set in Westfield and the surrounding region — span four centuries, from the 1600s to the 2000s. 

The first book in the series, “Woronoke, A Native American Woman’s Journey,” is the story of a young girl who begins her journey to independence after being captured in 1642 by a tribe of Mohawks from the Hudson River Valley. After struggling to find her way back to Westfield — named Woronoco by the indigenous people — Woronoke eventually reunites with her tribe.

Former Westfield resident Kay Delli Bovi holds a series of four historical novels she wrote (under the pen name JK Bovi) about Westfield and the region.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

Bovi wrote drafts for three sequels, but didn’t start pulling together the details until after she published “Woronoke.” Because of her liver transplant and complications that followed, Bovi didn’t think she would live long enough to finish all four novels.

“I was pleased to have been able to publish ‘Woronoke.’ But as I got stronger, I started writing feverishly with hopeful determination to publish the last three,” said Bovi, who wrote the novels under the pen name JK Bovi.

“Woronoke,” published in 2022, was quickly followed by “Moattoqus” (Black Wolf). Book 2 is about the Mohawk-Pocumtuck War that decimated the Native American tribes in the Connecticut River Valley, allowing the English to move in. The book tells how Woronoke’s sons and daughters struggle to survive amid changes and conflicts in turbulent times of war, revenge and distrust.

In the third book, “Napanna-tash” (Five Arrows), Woronoke’s sons and daughters fight to save their way of life when King Phillip’s War — a devastating two-year war — erupts throughout the Connecticut River Valley. Written from the settlers’ point of view, Bovi said it was the most difficult of the four novels to write.

Bovi said the main cause of the war was that the English believed the native people were subjects of the English crown and should not only abide by their religious beliefs and laws, but also surrender their weapons and land.

“When the natives refuse, the English consider it an act of treason, believing they’re justified in killing them,” said Bovi. She researched the history of the war on the Internet, going into Massachusetts archives and various Native American websites.

Her fourth book, “Onaqua Auni” (Yesterday’s Path), completed at the end of 2023, connects to events in the past books. The main character is a young archaeologist who uncovers “a frightful lineage to a sinister spirit warrior” of the past.

“This book takes place in present-day Westfield, so he’s ordering pizza from Pasquales on Elm Street and shopping around town while trying to solve a mystery,” said Bovi, who lived in Westfield from 1981 to 2007.

While the series are connected by characters and places, Bovi wanted each book to be able to stand alone, which she said, “took some finagling” to make it work.

“There’s a lot of research that needs to be done, and much of it is double-checking facts from different sources to find the truth,” she said. “I enjoy writing about Westfield history because it’s so diverse and interesting. I wanted to stay true to the city’s past, the people who lived there and the events they experienced.”

In writing her sequels, Bovi was attentive to the characters’ ages in relation to the time period and events. She relied on “Westfield and Its Historic Influences, 1669-1919” (1922), by John Hoyt Lockwood; “Westfield, Mass., 250th Anniversary Chronology of Westfield” (1905), by Louis M. Dewey; and “A Key into the Language of America,” by Roger Williams (1643) for historical details.

“My books aren’t full of flowery descriptions or preachy dialogue. My characters are believable and share the same inspirations, dreams, desires and struggles of us living today. My books are about regional history and not only romance — although that’s what keeps readers interested,” Bovi said.

A retired graphic designer, Bovi now lives in Savannah, Georgia. She said it’s very difficult to write about Native Americans who lived in the Connecticut River Valley because much of the information is lost and what’s written down is told from the “white perspective.”

Bovi said she’s received positive responses from readers in Westfield, the surrounding towns and the Connecticut River and the Hudson River valleys. She said many people are interested in learning about regional history when it’s presented as an exciting adventure.

“I really enjoy it when readers reach out to me to share what they know about their hometowns — I can feel the pride with their communities,” she said. While Bovi hasn’t received any feedback from Indigenous people, she’s hopeful that “they know I’m giving honor and respect to them and their ancestors.” said Bovi.

While living in the city, she worked part-time in the art department at the Westfield Evening News, as well as in the composing room at The Wall Street Journal in Chicopee. Bovi said she currently doesn’t have any plans for future books about Westfield.

Her books are available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Bovi also donated a complete set of the series to the Westfield Athenaeum, the Agawam Public Library and the West Springfield Public Library.

“I donate my book to libraries in the area because they’re about regional historical events, people and places readers might be interested in,” she said. “It isn’t my intention to make money from the books, but instead to bring awareness of the past while sharing stories about courage, danger and love.”

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts