Roadmap of the Soul

Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Priya Tharmaseelen

Sonia Palleck’s powerful four-book series, Leave the Little Light On, tells the story of Athena Brkovich, a precocious young girl who navigates a gauntlet of trauma through her childhood, teen years, young adulthood, up to the front porch of middle age. Indeed, very soon into the series’ first installment, “Windsor,” Athena and her two older sisters are sent to live with relatives when their mother is hospitalized, and their father finds himself unable to care for them. This sets the rocky baseline for the experiences yet to come.

Inspiration to write this series came suddenly. Sonia still remembers the day: early on the morning of March 1, 2020. At an ungodly predawn hour, Sonia awoke to the sound of a man’s voice, which said to her: “It’s time to write!” 

“That voice came from outside of my consciousness,” Sonia remembers. “I looked around, asked if someone was there.”

No one was there. Sonia was alone in the house.

“I got out of bed, went and got a journal and a pen,” she says, “and I started writing.”

Still half asleep, journal before her, Sonia found herself writing about a character named Athena.

“As I was writing and I realized she was me, I felt some resistance to sharing my personal history,” Sonia says, “but then I realized that there’s a greater purpose to getting this message out to people.” 

Sonia was born in Windsor in 1968 and spent the first seven years of her life on Albert Road near the Ford Windsor engine plant. 

“I grew up in a war-time house,” she recalls. “Seven of us lived in that three-bedroom house. My mother didn’t drive, so I took the city bus to Gordon McGregor Public School.”

When she was seven years old, Sonia’s family moved to Tecumseh. 

“The population was about twelve hundred people, at that time,” she continues. “We were the second house in that subdivision. My parents worked in Windsor, so we were latchkey kids, fending for ourselves at home and around the neighbourhood.”

Sonia attended Victoria and A. V. Graham public schools and then Belle River District High School for grades nine and ten.

“I completed grades eleven to thirteen at Herman high school,” she says. “I attended the University of Windsor and studied science on an academic scholarship. After graduation, I was accepted to dental school in London.” 

Sonia has been a dentist since 1993 and an orthodontist for the past twenty-five years. Seeing up to a hundred patients a day, it’s not like Sonia has the spare time to read a book, much less write one—or four of them—but over an eighteen-month period, she did just that.

“I wrote an hour a day,” Sonia says. “From four o’clock in the morning until five. And then I went about my day and never gave the writing another thought—until the next morning. Every day I sat down and it just came back, this voice speaking to me, the words flowing.”

Among the surprises Sonia encountered during the composition of the book series were all the connections through the narrative that naturally formed. 

“I never plotted out the story,” Sonia says. “I just wrote what came to me, so I was surprised that as I got into the series, the later books, I would make connections back to something I wrote in Book One. The connections came up on their own.”

Another surprise was seeing how some people, with whom Sonia didn’t feel particularly aligned, were often the ones who pushed her to see things from a new perspective. 

“An event might not seem important at the time,” Sonia says, “but looking back on it, it now gives me pause to consider something, to see situations differently. Recognize a pattern. It didn’t seem important at the time, but in retrospect… there were many people who were helpful to me who didn’t get mentioned in the book.”

In her professional life, Sonia is a pioneer of digital technology in orthodontics and lectures internationally—as well as instructing part time at Western University—teaching colleagues about customized appliances and outcomes to advance the profession. Sonia has traveled the world doing this, but she never forgets her Windsor roots.

“I think Windsor was a magical place to grow up in at that time,” Sonia says. “It’s extremely multicultural—everyone belongs somewhere… to a church, or a hall, or a cultural center. Windsor, with its blue-collar persona, has humility, which is something that is lost on a lot of people. Humility doesn’t mean groveling; it’s recognizing that we all have lots of opportunity to learn. Humility is necessary for learning. Windsor has that as a vibe, which makes us very powerful in terms of being able to shift to change, be malleable, to move through things. Windsor has a good sense of humour. It can be gritty. When something doesn’t work, we get down to work and fix it.” 

Sonia has her own experiences of things not working, having to be malleable, and finding peace through humility. Inspiration to write Leave the Little Light On came after a series of reversals in her personal and professional lives. She lived through a divorce and lost both of her parents a few years apart. Sonia regrouped, reconnected with her humanity and realized that shaming and blaming only hindered healing. Rather than simply internalizing what she learned through these painful experiences, Sonia sought to encourage others by authoring her books.

And she is not done yet.

“Right now I am working on a two-book series, which is a totally different tale,” Sonia says. “And I’m also working on a Christmas story about the feminine divine, which I hope to have finished by December.”

Then she muses: “There are times I stop and wonder: ‘What is my genre?’ And I realized, it’s the human heart. The light and the dark and the condition of love. That’s a thread in all these books. That’s what I write about—the human experience.” 

To learn more about Sonia’s books, visit her online at

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