Today we’re meeting Keziah Montgomery from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson.
Novel PASTimes: Thank you for visiting with us today. I love your name! It’s quite unusual.
Keziah: It is definitely that. Keziah is a family name, but not many people know it’s also from the Bible.
Novel PASTimes: Really? I had no idea!
Keziah: Yes. Keziah is one of the three daughters born to Job after he’d endured his time of suffering. It’s a derivative of Cassia and means “a sweet-scented spice”.
Novel PASTimes: Interesting. So would you consider yourself sweet? Tell me about yourself.
Keziah: Some would call me sweet. Others shy. I think most people, especially my family, would consider me compliant. My brother Nathaniel and my father have the big personalities in the family. I’ve always been bashful, especially considering my medical condition.
Novel PASTimes: If it’s not too intrusive, may I ask what condition you struggle with?
Keziah: Epilepsy. Please don’t tell anyone else though. It shames my father and mother terribly. I’m so thankful they’ve not cast me into an asylum like so many others with the same malady. They’ve sternly instructed me not to tell a soul within Savannah’s social elite. Mother fears it will compromise my chances for a good match, though I have little desire for such a thing.
Novel PASTimes: Why not?
Keziah: There are far greater concerns than finding an eligible suitor. Men—friends, cousins, even my own brother—are fighting on bloody fields to decide the future of the Union. And there are others…men, women and children who are trapped in slavery. Some of them are abused and whipped to ribbons for no reason.
Novel PASTimes: Pardon my forwardness, but you sound like an abolitionist.
Keziah: (whispers) That’s because I am. I beg you, don’t tell my family. It was my friend Micah who helped me understand the horrors of slavery.
Novel PASTimes: I take it your family doesn’t share your beliefs.
Keziah: Not in the slightest. They are a staunch Confederate family. If they knew of my involvement, they would disown me.
Novel PASTimes: Your involvement with abolitionists, or something more?
Keziah: I’ve already said too much. I cannot speak on it further.
Novel PASTimes: I’m intrigued.
Keziah: You and most of Savannah. My cousin Jennie is rabid to sniff out as many abolitionists as possible and turn them over to the authorities. So you see why discretion is vital.
Novel PASTimes: Clearly, you disagree with your family on the issue of slavery. What people have had the most influence on you?
Keziah: I’ve always been close to our family’s house servant Hiriam. He’s like a grandfather to me. I so admire his kindness and wisdom. My childhood friend Micah has played a critical role in my life. He’s a physician now and has taught me much about fighting for others’ freedom. He’s the bravest man I know.
Novel PASTimes: You sound very fond of him. What is the best advice he’s given you?
Keziah: Upon seeing the scarred back of a former slave, I was horrified. I’ll never forget Micah’s words to me. He said, “Let his suffering teach you. Remembering will give you a greater compassion. A deeper love for those trapped in darkness.”
Novel PASTtimes: What is one thing you would change about yourself if you could?
Keziah: I used to be ashamed of my illness. I thought being ill, broken, if you will, meant I had no worth. I suppose in many people’s eyes, I don’t. But God has shown me how valuable I am to Him. He gives me my worth. His strength moves in when my failures loom large. That’s a good place to be, because whether I’m muddling through daily thrum of life or fighting for fugitives’ freedom, I cannot boast in my own strength. Any praise goes to God alone.
Novel PASTimes: It sounds as if you’ve learned much from your struggles. On a different note, who do you think will win the war? The Yankees or Confederates?
Keziah: I have no idea. Both the Union and the Confederacy feel God is on their side. Strange, isn’t it? And I have loved ones fighting for both. For the sake of those trapped in darkness, I pray the Union will prevail. Either way, as long as the Almighty gives me breath, I’ll fight to make my life mean something. I’ll not sit idly by. If you’d seen the fear etched into the thin faces of the runaways, you’d know why I can never go back to the way things used to be. How could I when so many are desperate for one taste of freedom?
Thanks for speaking with us today, Keziah. You seem like a very brave young lady.
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people pleaser.
Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018 and is the first of a three part series set during the Civil War. Follow her at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com.