Character Interview with Sophia Kumiega from The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

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Thank you for agreeing to answer our questions, Mrs. Kumiega. As I submit these questions to you it is August 1939, and we in America know that tension is mounting in Poland and across Europe as Adolf Hitler threatens one country after another.  Do you mind if I use your Christian name? Sophia, I understand that you’re British. Are you planning to return to England before things get worse? Do you believe Germany will invade?  

When your questions first came, I still held out hope for Poland. Surely someone would stop Hitler. Surely Germany would come to its senses. But neither has happened. Last week, the German army plowed across Polish borders. I expected any moment that England and France would declare war on Germany and fly to our aid as promised. But that hasn’t happened, and this week bombs began falling in a blitzkrieg on Warsaw. To keep my sanity and to provide a record of these early days of invasion, I’m writing my responses to your questions from a half-exploded room inside the public library where I work, though I don’t know how or when I’ll be able to mail this to you. I can’t imagine a way out of Poland now or how I’d ever get to England, British by birth or not.

Your husband is in the Polish military, is he not? Is he on alert?

Yes, Janek is a pilot. His squadron was deployed months ago in anticipation of German invasion. I know this sounds unpatriotic and disloyal, but the truth is that Polish planes are antiquated compared to Germany’s modern machines of warfare. Our pilots fight valiantly, but what can proverbial bows and arrows do against tanks? There’s already talk of Poland’s retreat and that our military may regroup in Romania to launch a counterattack. I’ve no idea if Janek is alive, how he’ll be able to get word to me, or what will happen next. Sometimes I feel as if my insides will burst through my skin. Before, being a military wife sounded so fine. Now it’s simply terrifying, and I wonder if our child will ever know their father.

Poland is a world apart from England. What do you think of it?

Poland is beautiful—a bounteous, fertile land that excels in music and poetry and great literature. I’ve often teased Janek that it is the “old-world land of flowers and finger kissing.” Fine manners and courtly behavior are still prized here. But now, with the war and our best and bravest gone to fight, I have no idea what will become of this culture. Hitler’s attitude toward Poles is that they don’t count—that they’re inferior to Germans, who, under Mr. Hitler, consider themselves a superior race. What that will mean for Poland I can’t tell, but I do fear—especially for the many Jewish citizens here, knowing what Jewish people have endured at the hands of the Nazis in Germany. 

Do you and your husband expect to raise a family in Poland?

I shake my head at how much has changed in these few short weeks and how little we know of the future. When Janek left, I was pregnant. We held such hope. I’ve lost two babies in the few years we’ve been married and desperately hope I will carry this child full-term. We had every expectation of living our lives out in Poland. That has long been our deepest desire.

What will you do if you are unable to leave Poland and return to England?

What would youdo? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound rude. Like anyone, I’ll do what I must. If we are fully, truly occupied by the Germans for the duration of the war, there will be resistance and rescue work. I’ve already heard it spoken of in hushed whispers between the library stacks—the need for secret rooms, hiding places, ways to stash food and water and develop escape routes for those at risk, and partisans to fight. There will be—there already are—orphans who need taking in, families in desperate straits now that their homes have been blown to bits. We’ve no running water or electricity. I’ll do whatever I can—for as long as I can. I’ll do everything possible to protect my unborn child, but it’s all so uncertain. How can we tell when we’ll be hit by a bomb or a stray piece of shrapnel, or be strafed in the street by a low-flying plane? I want my life to count for something, for someone, for more than myself.

Do you and your husband have family or friends where you live, people you can turn to during this time of national unrest?

It was through Janek’s godfather, Pan Gadomski, that I obtained my position at the library—a real coup for a woman and a foreigner. I know that I can go to him with every concern. He seems to have unusual connections inside and outside Poland—ones I don’t really understand, but have learned to value and respect. My best and dearest friend is Pan Bukowski, an older Jewish man living in our apartment building. My faith tends to waver, especially since the terrible loss of my babies, but Pan Bukowski constantly reminds me that God can make a way when there seems no way forward—just as He did when parting the Red Sea for the Israelites. The sea ahead and the Egyptians behind—what could they do but look up? In my mind I see him shrug and smile, lifting an eyebrow to make certain I’ve taken his meaning to heart. I remember the words of my friend as I face each day.

If things go badly in Poland, what can we in America do for you?

Pray. Pray that God will make a way where there seems no way. For your own good, my friends, carefully observe the reasons we’ve been overcome so that America can avoid the patterns of Germany’s aggression and/or Poland’s coming capitulation. Know that belief in one’s superiority to others fosters a myth, and that anti-Semitism or any form of hatred is vile and a portent of evil to come. Pray that God gives you the courage to take a stand where one is needed before it’s too late. And, please, don’t forget us. Come to our aid.

Thank you, Sophia Kumiega. We look forward to receiving your answers to our questions and pray that the world will come to its senses in time to avert Hitler’s threatened invasion of Poland.

Note to readers: The crumpled paper of this interview was found in the weeks after V-E Day—Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945—amid the rubble of the Warsaw library where Sophia Kumiega had worked until the war in Poland began. We apologize for its delay in publication.

About the Author

Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning and bestselling author Cathy Gohlkewrites novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.comand find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks. 

The Medallionby Cathy Gohlke releases in June

ISBN: 978-1-4964-2966-7 | Hardcover: $24.99

ISBN: 978-1-4964-2967-4 | Softcover: $15.99

400 Pages

June 2019

Tyndale.com

All about Joelle from Beth White’s A Reluctant Belle

Name:           Joelle Daughtry

Parents:       Jonathan and Penelope Daughtry. Both my parents are deceased. Mama died as a result of injuries inflicted by renegade Union soldiers during the War Between the States. Papa was killed in a fall from the cupola of the Big House. He was not in his right mind.

Siblings:       My elder sister Selah (my best friend) married the Yankee Pinkerton agent Levi Riggins, who turned out to be a nice man after all. My younger sister Aurora, raised by my grandparents in Memphis, has come home to help run the hotel and try to turn me into a belle.

Places lived:           I spent most of my life at Ithaca Plantation, Tupelo Mississippi. Briefly, after my mother’s death near the end of the War, I lived with my grandparents in Memphis.

Jobs:             Anonymous op-ed columnist for The Tupelo Journal; publicist and co-manager of Daughtry House Resort Hotel.

Friends:       Besides my sister Selah, who has always been my closest companion, I’ve come to love and appreciate my former slave, Charmion Vincent.

Enemies:     Schuyler Beaumont. Just—I have no words for the emotions Schuyler brings out in me.

Dating, marriage: Gil Reese has been pestering me to marry him for over a year, though I’ve known him longer than that. I do not want to be a minister’s wife. Besides, he has fallen in love with my face, but he has no idea who I really am.

Children:     I think I might want children someday. I enjoy teaching. But having children would involve getting married, and I’d have to give up my independence (see the above question). No, on second thought….

What person do you most admire?    I truly admire my sister Selah. She doesn’t let circumstances control her, but she prays and seeks wise counsel before she takes action. That is a tricky balance that I’m still trying to negotiate.

Overall outlook on life:  I believe God put each of us on earth for a purpose. Sometimes I think I know what that purpose is; sometimes I feel like I’m looking at the world through a confused fog. Ultimately, though, I trust God to give me direction and courage at the time it’s needed.

Do you like yourself?      What an odd and fascinating question! Why does it matter whether I like myself? I’m stuck with this façade that others consider beautiful, when I know I’m just as weak and sinful as anyone else on the inside. And every time I open up to communicate, I wind up feeling like a giant freak! On the other hand, I appreciate that I was given a good mind and sisters who love me. They may laugh at my “giant vocabulary,” but they accept my tendency to daydream and make sure I get enough to eat.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life?  I suppose I’d like to look “normal” for one day. People stare at me because I’m extremely tall, and I hatethat! And I would love to have the ability to talk to other people at a party without getting tongue-tied.

How are you viewed by others?          You know, I think people are entirely too aware of what others think. That’s one of the things I’m most impatient with myself about. Why should I assume that people are looking at me with anything but indifference? It’s just that I hate being laughed at. Schuyler laughs at me, which is the main reason he gets under my skin. And I’ve heard people talk behind my back, saying that I’m “stuck up” about my looks. What if they knew how terrified I am of talking in crowds—of producing those “what language is she speaking” looks???

Physical appearance:      Oh, dear. Here we go. A couple of inches shy of six feet tall. Curly red-blonde hair, fair skin that flushes easily under embarrassment, tendency to dress in whatever is most comfortable and closest to hand. Big feet and large hands.

Eyes:             Bright blue.

Hair:             Strawberry. Generally worn in a messy knot on top of my head.

Voice:            Soprano, but a bit throaty. I like to sing.

How would you describe yourself?    Quiet, introverted, creative. I like to read, write, sing, paint and play the piano. I don’t much like people in general.

Fears:            Crowds.

What people like best about you:       I have a strong sense of justice, and I try not to judge people on first meeting. I’m a loyal friend.

Interests and favorites:

Food, drink:           I’m very fond of cat-head biscuits with fig preserves.

Books:          Oh, mercy. Mrs. Alcott’s work is so much fun! I also love Jane Austen’s comedies. But honestly, I’ve hardly met a book I didn’t like in some respect.

Best way to spend a weekend: In the cupola. With a book and a cup of tea. Alone.

What would a  great gift for you be? A book!

What makes you angry?            There is much injustice in the world, especially here in the South, where freedpeople are struggling to negotiate their new lives. There is growing bitterness and violence. It makes me both angry and scared.

When are you happy?     I’m happy when I’m reading, and when I’m teaching someone to read. And when I’m hearing a fine pianist like my brother-in-law.

What makes you sad?     I’m sad when people who call themselves Christians fail to see past skin color, when they hold themselves aloof and fail to show love in tangible ways. What iswrongwith people???

What makes you laugh?             Oddly enough, Schuyler Beaumont—as maddening as he is—is one person who never fails to make me laugh. For a shallow person, he is wickedly brilliant, and his sense of humor so absurdly droll. I can make obscure references to classical literature and ancient history and mythology, and he gets it every time.

Hopes and dreams:         I dream of moving my Negro school to a bigger, more central location and drawing students from all over the state of Mississippi. I want to train teachers who can bring education into all corners of the South. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d also like to write and publish a novel one day.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?    I got my favorite teacher dismissed from the boarding school Selah and I attended. I blurted out to a classmate that this teacher had been teaching us scientific facts about the human brain—facts that contradicted accepted social beliefs about the races.

Greatest success:  I’m proud of the fact that I’ve published several scholarly articles in our local newspaper, even if no one knows it was me.

Biggest trauma:    The day my mother died. During the War, Selah and I were forced to hide under the porch for hours, listening to the ransacking of our house and the violation of our mother and two house slaves. Mama didn’t survive the attack.

What do you care about most in the world?           I love my two sisters and my cousin ThomasAnne with an indescribable depth of devotion. I would do anything to protect them and provide for them.

Do you have a secret?     My identity as T. M. Hanson is a closely-guarded secret—although, I suppose it’s bound to come out at some point…

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you:    It involves Schuyler and a bullfrog and the Ithaca bath house, and I’d just as soon not talk about it.

Beth White’s day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, she writes historical romance with a Southern drawl and is the author of The Pelican BrideThe Creole PrincessThe Magnolia Duchess, and A Rebel Heart. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers’ Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Learn more at www.bethwhite.net.

Meet Percy from Wish Me Home West Virginia by Valerie Banfield

Introducing Percy Bigler, a homespun boy who lives within the pages of Wish Me Home West Virginia, by Valerie Banfield

Novel PASTimes: With me this morning is Percy Bigler, a native of Elizabeth, West Virginia and a participant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s highly acclaimed, yet widely controversial, Civilian Conservation Corps. Good morning, Percy. 

PERCY: Morning, ma’am.

Novel PASTimes: I know the purpose of the CCC is to take young men off public assistance, to provide for their families financially, and to build or improve the country’s infrastructure, among other things. How did you come to enroll in the program?

PERCY: When the stock market crashed back in 1929, it took a while for its effects to trickle into West Virginia. During the five years since, that trickle’s washed away livelihoods, swept food off the tables, and drenched folks with fear. My family managed to tread water until 1934, but when the incessant flow hit flood stage, it was time for me to man the lifeboat and get them out of harm’s way. It was President Roosevelt who tossed the ropes to me, and it was in the form of the CCC.

Novel PASTimes: That’s an unusual way to frame the consequences of the Great Depression. 

PERCY: Flooding is all too common in the hills and hollows, so I reckon that’s why it seems a fitting comparison. Truth of the matter is that some counties in West Virginia have unemployment as high as eighty percent.

Novel PASTimes: Oh my. In that case, flood stage may be an understatement. Tell me about your experience with the president’s program.

PERCY: Some people are downright scornful when it comes to the CCC, but I’m proud of the work we’re doing. Sure, it takes a heap of money to set up a work force like President Roosevelt designed, but we’re saving forests, preventing fires, building roads and dams, and employing conservation techniques that protect our land. A hundred years from now, when someone snags a fish out of a lake in a national forest, or a father takes his family camping at a state park, evidence of our work will remain, and I hope those folks know that it was the men of the CCC who prepared the way.

Novel PASTimes: Is it true that you have been the subject of disciplinary action?

PERCY: Yes, ma’am. I’m embarrassed to say that the sergeant overseeing my training at the conditioning camp and the camp commander in Nevada both took me to task.

Novel PASTimes: Would you mind sharing what happened?

PERCY: I’d rather you got to know me a mite better before I spill the story, especially since my defense won’t sound credible without retelling the events that led up to each indiscretion. I will say that I’m a peaceable person who practices compromise, but in both situations, I ended up on my backside before I could offer another remedy. It’s funny how fast things can go downhill—not that either occasion was laughable. That’s not what I mean.

Novel PASTimes: My notes indicate your education ended after the eighth grade. How do you account for your vocabulary?

PERCY: I may not be schoolhouse smart, but I’m what the folks in the hollow call book learned. They pronounce that ler-ned. When I saw the hundreds of books at the CCC camp library, it set my mouth watering. Shelves overflow with books about history and science, and good reads by authors like Mark Twain. A good story can take you anywhere, don’t you know?

Novel PASTimes: Did you ever imagine your real life travels would take you to Nevada?

PERCY: No, ma’am. It’s as hot out here as the tin roof on Bigler’s General Store, but this is where the CCC sent me, and I aim to make the best of it.

Novel PASTimes: What about your personal life, Percy? Do you have a sweetheart waiting for you to come home?

PERCY: No, ma’am. I will say that I met a nice looking gal who lives here in Hawthorne, but she’s nothing like those from back home. Pretty and smart as she is, I think she scares me more than she entices me. I reckon I’d be better off with one from my own neck of the woods, one who delights in the simple things in life. One like . . .

Novel PASTimes: Why, Mr. Bigler, I think you’re blushing. Would you care to enlighten our readers?

PERCY: No, ma’am. That’s all I have to say on that subject.

Novel PASTimes: Then, let me ask one more question. What do you fear, and what to you hope to find, when you finish your work with the CCC and go back to West Virginia?

PERCY: First off, I try not to worry. It takes more effort than living the day that’s set before me. That said, I hope the Depression ends before I go home, because I’ll need a job once I get there. I hope that when I return, I’m just a grown-up version of the country boy who left. I have faith that regardless of what I find when I walk into the only place I’ve called home, the Good Father will determine my next steps. 

VALERIE BANFIELD is a talespinner to the lost, the loved, and the found. She is the author of eleven novels, co-author of three West Virginia-themed tales, and recipient of the Cascade Award for Historical Fiction. In the course of writing about West Virginia, the hills and hollows beckoned her, so she uprooted her tent stakes and planted them in the Mountain State’s red clay soil. Right now, she’s pretty sure she’s home. 

www.valeriebanfield.com

www.amazon.com/dp/1091036616

Meet Violet Channing in Beside Still Waters by AnnaLee Conti

My name is Violet Channing.  Orphaned at a young age, I found myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me died. 

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, at his death my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors. 

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire was my greatest fear. 

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor. 

“It’s just a cold,” she said. 

But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee. “Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”

Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her. 

Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory. At the corner grocery, I bought a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. On the Classifieds page, an ad caught my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Could this be the answer?

Before I could grow fainthearted, I penned an application and mailed it off to the address.

A week later, I received a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulsed through me as I withdrew the note which requested that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dressed carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invited me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson described the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, was recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother had died, and the girl’s father needed a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounded too good to be true until she told me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I knew about the Yukon was that it is wild and frigid. Did I have the courage to go there?

I thought of my shabby apartment. I had nothing to keep me here, but would I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox?

I decided to take the leap. Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fell in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

About the Author 

ANNALEE CONTI’s experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties provide inspiration for her writing. She has published numerous short stories, devotionals, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House, as well as four books. Beside Still Waters is the third novel in her Alaskan Waters Trilogy that tells the life and death saga of a Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.

AnnaLee is also a teacher and ordained minister, who resides with her husband in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. Together, they have pastored churches in New York State for more than 35 years and are now retired. Learn more about AnnaLee and her books at www.annaleeconti.comand sign up for her inspirational blog at http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/.

Meet Abby from Allison Wells’s War-Torn Heart

Tell us a little about your family, Abby.

  • Well, my name is Abby, I’m the second child of Nathan and Grace Walker. I have an older brother, Peter, and then younger than me is Reba, Jake, Eliza, and Gabriel. I’m also close to my Aunt Dottie who doesn’t live too far away. My father is a banker in our little town, and my momma is the best momma there is.

You are close to your brother, Peter, aren’t you?

  • You know, if someone had told me when we were little that he’d be one of my best friends, I would have laughed. But Peter and I became very close as he grew up. I guess that’s what happens when you go through the same thing and have the same morals. Peter has always stood up for me and protected me and I adore him for it. 

You tell people that you want to become a career woman. What do you think you want to do?

  • When I said that I was thinking about maybe being a secretary or something in an office. But after making a wedding cake for someone special, I knew I wanted to learn more about baking. It’s just something I have a knack for, and who doesn’t love a pretty cake?

Tell us about Harvey Nicholas.

  • Oh my. Harvey, well, he’s just the kindest, most amazing man you could ever hope to know outside of my daddy. He loves God, loves his family, he’s very smart, and I’ll tell you, he looks good in a uniform.

What was it like growing up so close to Clemson College?

  • I didn’t think too much of it. It was just always there, down the road. I had a few girlfriends who would go to dances the cadets put on and a few even met husbands that way, but it was never much my scene. I never imagined a Clemson cadet would find me! God definitely had his hand in that.

Tell us about the war.

  • Oh, can I not? That dreadful war. It tore apart the most beautiful family I ever have seen. I’m sure it tore apart many families. And because of that war, I almost lost my Harvey. Both as a casualty of war and as a casualty of Clarice Renard! But you’ll have to trust me on that until you read the story. That’s enough war talk for me.

Okay then, how about PJ?

  • Who wouldn’t love to talk about PJ? Peter Junior, my brother’s sweet baby boy. I was there when that child was born and I will love him his whole life long. Never have you seen a child so loved by his parents and extended family. I know he might grow up a little spoiled given his circumstances, but I pray that God will use this child’s life to glorify Him!

You and your sister-in-law Emmeline go on a road trip, where do you go?

  • We drove across South Carolina to go to Charleston – with PJ in tow! Neither of us had been there or even seen the ocean before, so that was a treat! I’m so glad Emme got to see it, you know? But we weren’t there for a vacation. We were there for some truth digging and confrontation. That Clarice had a scheme up her sleeve, but after talking with Harvey’s Aunt Doris, I knew I had to discover just what was going on.

There is a happily ever after, though, right?

  • Well, you’ll have to read my story to find out the details, but I can say that yes – my own story ends happily. It was not how I ever expected God to write my life, but I put my trust Him and He has never failed me once.

Allison Wells is a Southern wife, mother, and writer. She became a Christian at the age of sixteen. She’s a graduate of Clemson University and she still lives close enough to hear football games on Saturdays. She love to read, hates the snow, prefers the mountains to the beach, loves the color turquoise and she will belt out any 80s song from the top of her lungs. Allison’s motto is “Life is short, eat the Oreos.” She thanks the Lord for her husband and four children daily.

Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Historical fiction based on real historical people can be a tricky genre to pull off. I admire Callahan for taking on C. S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman. I knew little about her, and I expect that is the case for many fans of C. S. Lewis. She brought Joy to life while exploring her complicated relationships and her chronic health issues. I loved the way Lewis is shown as well, the way he depended on Joy emotionally and enjoyed their philosophical and theological discussions. From what I can tell, Callahan treated these historical people fairly. In the author’s note she explains how she did her research.

That alone is enough to give this book a high rating, but the writing is seller, captivating, and caused me to read this book quickly. I love a novel that pulls me in like that. If this was made into a movie, I think it would be better than the new one on Tolkien.

Highly recommended.

Meet Darcie from Ann Gabhart’s New Novel The Refuge

Name:           Hello, I’m Darcie Goodwin.

Parents:       Arvin and Hilda Wright were my parents. My mother died in the cholera epidemic of 1833 when I was nine. My father, burdened with grief, sent me to live with an older couple, the Hatchells. Granny Hatchell, not my birth grandmother but she became a grandmother of my heart, needed help with household and garden chores.

Siblings:       My little sister, Rosie, died of cholera at the same time as my mother. My father took my two little brothers to live at the Shaker village for a while after my mother died, but he then went back to get them and took them to Ohio with him. He came for me but I didn’t want to leave Granny Hatchell.       

Places lived: I grew up on a farm in Kentucky and then lived with the Hatchells on a different farm. Finally my husband and I went to the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, Kentucky to escape a cholera epidemic in 1849.

Jobs:  My father sent me to live with the Hatchells as a companion/helper to Granny Hatchell. You might think that was kind of a job although it felt more like being with family. My husband and I kept living with her after I married. In my time, most women are wives and mothers who worked alongside their husbands on farms. Not many paying jobs for us except as maids, seamstresses or maybe a schoolmarm.

Friends: Granny Hatchell was the best friend I could ever want. But then when I went to the Shaker village the three sisters who shared my sleeping room came to mean so much to me. Sister Helene, Sister Ellie, and Sister Genna were all very different but we became as close as natural born sisters.

Enemies: I don’t think I have any enemies. At first when I was at the Shaker Village I had some problems living the Shaker way and that caused some difficulties with Eldress Maria. However as time when along and after Anna Grace was born, Eldress Maria and I found a way to care for one another.

Dating, marriage:  I married Walter after he helped me bury Pa Hatchell. Walter was a wonderful man. Strong and loving. I couldn’t have had a better husband.  

Children:  I have a sweet baby, Anna Grace. I love her so much. I loved her from the moment I knew I carried her in my womb, and I’m so thankful the Lord helped me after she was born. 

What person do you most admire?  That would have to be Granny Hatchell who shared her faith with me and helped me know that even in our most desperate times the Lord walks along beside us, an ever ready help in times of trouble.

Overall outlook on life: I want to be optimistic and cheerful, but I’ve walked through some hard valleys where such an attitude is difficult to maintain. But you can’t curl up in a corner and give up on life. You have to keep going, keep trusting the Lord for comfort and help, and believe the sun will eventually shine through those dark clouds.

Do you like yourself? That’s an odd question and not something I have ever considered. If I can believe the Lord loves me and I do, then that is enough.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would, if I could, change the tragedies in my life. My mother and Rosie would have never died of cholera. But then if that had not happened, I wouldn’t have gone to Granny Hatchell’s. I would have never met Walter. I wouldn’t have Anna Grace. I suppose it’s best not to play God and simply trust him to guide us through life.

How are you viewed by others? Those who are part of my life know I am far from perfect but they are still ready to love me. It is such a blessing to be loved.

Physical appearance: I am short in stature and slender. Granny Hatchell used to say I wasn’t as big as a minute but with the energy of a hound dog pup. 

Eyes: A mixture of brown and green that sometimes looks golden.

Hair: Red and curly. I had a difficult time keeping my curly hair tucked away under my Shaker cap.

Voice: Not high and squeaky. Not low and growly. Just a normal voice.

Right- or left-handed? Right-handed.

How would you describe yourself? I don’t know that I should. I think it’s best to worry more about how we are inside than our outward appearance. But should I try to describe myself, I suppose I would say a small woman with a big spirit who is willing to attempt almost anything.

Characteristics: I am a willing worker. I hope for the best. I love easily. I have known sorrow that has made me have empathy for others. 

How much self-control do you have? A great deal. I lived with the Shakers for a while. They have many rules that require self-control.

Fears: I fear losing those I love, especially my sweet baby.

Books: The Bible is the best book for me. I have Granny Hatchell’s Bible and it is a great source of comfort to me. I do love reading other books as well but while I was with the Shakers, they didn’t allow reading of novels. You could only read the Bible and books written about their founder, Ann Lee. 

What would a great gift for you be? The gift of love and a good home where I can mother my baby and any other children the Lord gives me. That’s all I need. 

When are you happy? Happiness can be more an inner attitude instead of the result of outward things. The Bible tells us that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but sometimes it’s hard to have that happy heart when things aren’t going well in one’s life. But I am happy as long as I am with my family.

What makes you angry? I am angry if I see my friends or family mistreated. That doesn’t mean I don’t have flare ups of anger over silly things. I am a redhead after all. So if I draw a bucket of water and then trip over a cat, I won’t promise not to get cross. 

What makes you sad? Losing my mother and little sister to cholera made me sad. So did losing Granny and Pa Hatchell. And I was devastated when I lost my husband, Walter in an accident. 

What makes you laugh? My baby makes me laugh. Anna Grace is such a happy little girl.

Hopes and dreams: A happy family. What more could I hope for?

Biggest trauma: Losing my husband in a riverboat accident.

What do you care about most in the world? My family.

Do you have a secret? No. Well, I suppose I did have a secret in my early weeks with the Shakers after I discovered that I was carrying a baby. I had no idea how the Shakers would respond to that since they don’t believe men and women should live as man and wife. But that is a secret that usually can only be hidden for a short time.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I love my Shaker sisters. They were so kind and supportive while I was carrying my baby and after she was born. I love Leatrice and admire her spirit and the way she loves her father. I also admire her father, Flynn, for the way he would have walked through fire for Leatrice.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I prefer to concentrate on the positive. There are a few things about Mona that needs improvement, but the child has been through some difficult times. 

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: Raising my children to be strong and to know the Lord.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was often called on the carpet by Eldress Maria for times I did not properly remember the Shaker rules. Not exactly embarrassing since I cared nothing for learning the Shaker way, but such moments were uncomfortable at times.

Ann H. Gabhartis the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The OutsiderTheBelieverThe SeekerThe BlessedThe Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to RedemptionThese Healing Hills, Angel SisterLove Comes Home, and more. Writing asA. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills.  Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.

Meet Mandy Clark from Laura L. Drumb’s From Now Until Forever

The book From Now Until Forever is set in 1853 Indian Territory and tells the story of eighteen year old Mandy Clark who is captured by the Kiowa warrior Ken-ai-te and taken to his village to live. This exciting and fast-paced novel was meticulously researched with the aid of a Kiowa Elder to ensure it is historically accurate. The spiritual and emotional journey Mandy makes as she learns how to adapt to being a Kiowa woman and ultimately discovers the destiny God has planned for her make this award-winning tale one women, men, and even teens can enjoy. It is the first of three in the Foreverseries.

Q: Mandy, thank you for meeting with us. How was it you came to live with the Kiowa?

A: Delighted to do so! I was captured by a warrior named Ken-ai-te—pronounced keen-uh-tay— so it was not an easy time at first. I was terrified and lonely but God was faithful to encourage me every step of the way with comfort through His Word, making my new life more bearable. 

Q: What kind of tasks did you have to learn how to do in the village?

A: A big one was how to utilize every single part of the buffalo killed in the hunts, for everything from tools to utensils to clothing, and of course for foods of all kinds. I was amazed at how even the tiniest bones counted and nothing was ever wasted. It all started with how to butcher the massive beast and then get all the parts back to the camp before it rotted in the sun or wild animals stole the meat. An older woman Sleeping Bird taught me, and although I was not very cooperative at first, I soon learned how to get it all done properly. I resented her at first but soon came to see her as a friend and later as a second mother to me as she taught me everything.

Q: What were some of the less pleasant tasks you were required to do?

A: The first thing was one of the worst, in part because I was exhausted that day and in part because I was so repulsed by the smell. And when I learned what I was handling, my stomach lurched! It was a “green goo” made from—are you ready for this?—buffalo brains and the liver! All mushed up together and then I had to put my hands in it!

Q: Oh my! That must have been awful! What was it used for?

A: It was used to soften the hides, so they could be turned into a pliable piece of buckskin that was almost like velvet cloth, to make it suitable to wear. The goo was worked into the hide over and over while it was drying in the sun. I am not sure whyit worked, only that it did. I loved wearing dresses made from it because they were somehow comfortable all the time, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. But it was back-breaking, smelly work all right.

Q: What are some of the foods you learned to fix?

A: And eat, don’t forget that! I quickly realized that if I wanted to survive, I would need to find some way to get all of it down and keep it down. The Kiowa loved it of course but it took me some time to get used to most of it, believe me! Let’s see, bread cooked on a rock instead of in an oven, for one. Then there was a dried buffalo jerky of sorts called pemmican, with all types of spices and berries chopped up and added to it. It would last a long time and could be eaten anytime we couldn’t light a campfire because of the weather, or for the men when on a hunt or in a war party. And a third one was a type of sausage made, of all things, from the buffalo intestines! The meat was chopped very fine and lots of other spices added in and then stuffed into the long string, with rawhide used to tie off sections for cutting it apart later. Then the whole thing was put into the coals of the fire to roast slowly. After I finally got up my courage to try it, I discovered it was rather tasty! Their foods were quite interesting, to say the least!

Q: You were given a Kiowa name, is that not right? What was it?

A: Yes, that is correct. Ken-ai-te gave me the name Prayer Woman, daw-t’sai-mahin Kiowa. And perhaps that was one of the reasons I chose to respond to my captivity with faith rather than with anger. Well, much of it at least! Such as every time when I begged to be released so I could go home, my captor’s response was that I would belong to him from now until forever. So as I shared my faith in Christ, I often used that same phrase to explain to him the concept of eternity. What started out as a negative ended up bringing freedom to us both!

Q: When did you realize you were falling in love with him? 

A: Well, it happened very slowly over a long period of time. It wasn’t just that one day I woke up and knew I loved him! Far from it, in fact. I didn’t want to be Kiowa, as God did not make me an Indian. And he didn’t want to love a white woman, either. I cannot explain further without telling part of the story that is best left for reading about it, but suffice it to say, God proved with how He brought us together that He has a sense of humor!

Q: Did you ever fear being killed while you were living with the Kiowa? 

A: Oh, definitely, quite often in fact. I hated living in a tipi with a man to whom I was not married and I was frightened of him for some time. There was also an evil warrior in the village whose name I am no longer permitted to say by Kiowa tradition who threatened me on numerous occasions with death or even worse, life as his slave. I knew he had some kind of blood vengeance against me and so was forced to trust my captor would keep me safe from his threats. And if someone could die of loneliness, I believe I would have done that if it hadn’t been for Sleeping Bird. Eventually I had other friends there but for a long time I was pretty miserable. 

Q: What was your favorite thing about living with the Kiowa?

A: Well, I would have to say of course, meeting and falling in love with Ken-ai-te! But besides him and Sleeping Bird whom I came to love very much as well, I would have to say getting to meet Chief Tohausan. He was quite a character and something he told me changed my heart radically. I can’t tell you what that was, you will have to read the book and find out for yourself! But it was profound in its implication on my faith and in my future with the Kiowa, even though he was not a Christian, and I’m grateful my Heavenly Father allowed me to hear it from this man. As I said, He has a sense of humor, all right, but most importantly I am grateful to have learned from my unusual experience with the Kiowa that no matter what happens God loves all of us, no matter the color of our skin. He is so good!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Mandy!

About the Author

Laura L. Drumb lives in the Tulsa (OK) area with her husband of almost 47 years. They have two grown daughters and seven delightful grandchildren ranging in age from 14 to 8. With a passion born out of a father who ensured that even as a child she would recognize the value of learning about other cultures and peoples around the world, she has continued that commitment by traveling with her family for most of her adult life and now writing Christian historical fiction. In addition, she is active in her church, reads voraciously, does scrapbooking to preserve her memories of a long life well lived, shares better health and wellness through a natural approach with Plexus, and tries always to remember where she put her keys!

www.amazon.com/dp/B0722N1HKD

www.facebook.com/lauraldrumb

Interview with Alice from Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess

Elise Cooper: Do you like the nickname “The Other Washington Monument?”

Alice Roosevelt Longworth:I actually can’t recall who first dubbed me with that particular moniker—some newspaperman or other—but I’ve rather grown to revel in the title. After all, I’ve personally known every president back to McKinley and an invitation to my salons was considered mandatory for entrance into Washington society. A fossil of my age might as well be a monument to something!

EC: How would you describe yourself?

ARL: In one word, a gadfly. Someone has to make people question themselves—especially those politicians on Capitol Hill—and I supposed it might as well be me. 

EC: How would you describe your dad?

ARL:Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest man I ever knew. While far from perfect, he advocated living a strenuous life for himself, his children, and his country. It’s because of him that I wrung every last experience from my long life. 

EC: Did you sometimes feel like an orphan in your own family?

ARL: Certainly, when I was young I often felt somewhat removed, somehow “other.” After all, I was the only child of my father’s first wife—who died after my birth—and a constant reminder to my father of the love he’d lost. My stepmother did her best to raise me, but I didn’t make her job an easy one!

EC: Did you resent being sent as a young child to be raised by your aunt?

ARL: Never! I loved Auntie Bye with all my heart—she was often the one person in the family who really seemed to understand me. And once I was older, I understood my father’s need to recover from the grief that came from losing his beloved wife and his own mother on the same tragic day. 

EC: Were you constantly looking for your father’s approval and attention?

ARL:Always! Who wouldn’t want the undivided attention of Theodore Roosevelt? 

EC: How would you describe the relationship with your dad?

ARL:My father was larger than life and I sought to emulate him in everything I did. Unfortunately, that meant we were often at loggerheads—we’d have gotten along swimmingly had I been a boy, but smoking, shooting guns, and gambling were hardly considered proper behaviors for the well-bred daughter my father expected. However, all that changed with the 1912 election, when my father realized what an asset I was to his campaign. 

EC: Did you always enjoy confronting society’s norms by smoking, shooting a gun, driving a car…?

ARL:Of course! Who wouldn’t enjoy doing all that? 

EC: Do you agree with this quote, “A Roosevelt is never defeated, not in the polls, and not on the battlefield”?

ARL:The stark reality is that sometimes we do lose a battle—be it in war or the polls—but the important thing is to never give up. My father once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again and again…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly—my father never gave up in anything and neither did I. 

EC: How would describe your relationship with your husband Nick?

ARL:Ah, Nick, my darling little lamb. Nick was both my greatest friend and my greatest enemy throughout our marriage. I think we both challenged each other (and maybe made the other person crawl through hell on more than one occasion), but we emerged stronger on the other side for it. 

EC: Were you angry at your husband for not supporting your dad in the 1912 election?

ARL:Not especially, since I knew what a difficult place my family had put him in, what with forcing Nick to choose between his friend and home state supporter in President Taft versus my father. In fact, my father essentially commanded Nick to support Taft so he could save face in Ohio. That said, I was certainly upset with some of Nick’s extracurricular activities during the election!

EC: Was getting the Pekingese puppy Manchu the best gift ever given to you?

ARL:I certainly received many fabulous gifts over the years—my Cuban pearls and the gold filigreed fingernail sheaths from Empress Dowager Cixi rank right up there—but Manchu was by far my favorite! 

EC: Why did you like the saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone sit right here by me?”

ARL:While I’d never take aim at an innocent lamb, I certainly didn’t mind taking potshots at the powerful denizens of Washington. (Who, let’s face it, often deserved it.) Take my cousins Franklin and Eleanor as an example—Eleanor started the Roosevelt family feud with the Teapot Dome stunt she pulled while my brother Ted was running for New York’s governor and Franklin (whom I referred to as Feather Duster) grew power-hungry when he ran for an unprecedented third and then fourth term as president. If someone wanted to sit next to me and dish about them, who was I to argue? 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

ARL:I had so many over the years: that my father would return to the White House, that I would find love, and that my daughter and granddaughter would live happy lives. I suppose my greatest dream was to wrest every experience from this life, and I think I accomplished that with gusto. 

THANK YOU!!

Stephanie Marie Thornton is a high school history teacher and lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter. She has written many historical novels about strong women after becoming  obsessed with women from history since she was twelve.

photo by Katherine Schmeling Photography

Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner

Berkley, 3/19/19

The story begins in 2010 as Elise, a woman who is aware that Alzheimer’s is stealing her away, flies alone to find her childhood friend whom she just located thanks to a new iPad with internet. Elise and Mariko became friends during WWII at an internment camp, but this story is unlike any WWII novel I’ve read. As I was taken back to 1943, I learned a lot about these camps I never knew, including the fact that they housed German Americans along with Japanese (and even some Italians.) While the camps accommodated families and allowed the residents to continue observing their cultural heritage through foods, activities, and language classes, they were still terribly unfair, especially to the children like Elise and Mariko who were born Americans and knew very little about Japan and Germany.

The way Susan Meissner presented the older Elise and her determination despite the terrible disease she struggled with was expertly done. The mystery of why Mariko and Elise were separated and unable to connect before kept me turning pages. Elise is a character you root for as she had to endure so many relocations to unfamiliar places—and unsafe places her family returns to Germany in the last year of the war—and the questions she inevitably had about who she was and where she belonged. And you will still root for the older Elise as well who married in order to find that sense of belonging and ultimately discovered she had to establish it for herself.

I love historical novels that teach you history, and this one certainly does that. But in my opinion, this is one of the best Meissner novels yet. Highly recommended.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author and publisher for the purpose of review. I have given my honest opinions.

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner