Meet Betty Sweet from Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thank you. I’m honored that you thought to invite me.

Tell us something about where you live.

I live in the home my husband Norman and I purchased shortly after he returned home from the war in his hometown of LaFontaine, Michigan. It’s a nice place to live. Not too big, not too small. It’s just right. 

If ever I need something that only a city could provide, I’m just a forty-five minute drive to Lansing in one direction and Detroit in the other.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

I’m not sure that there really is anything special about the name Betty. I’m not an Elizabeth or a Bethany. Just plain old Betty. All my life, though, I’d longed for something a little more elegant or sophisticated. But no such luck. 

At least when I married Norman I gained the last name Sweet, which I like very much. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

Well, I’ve mostly just been a little housewife since I married Norm. Between you and me, I’m not especially good at it. That’s not to say that I keep a messy home. But I’d rather spend my time reading or writing or even sitting outside in the yard, enjoying the sunshine on my face. 

Who are the special people in your life?

Oh, I am such a fortunate woman to have a family who loves me. Of course, it’s a family I married into, but as far as I’m concerned it still counts. I don’t know that I’d have anything close to this kind of joy without my darling Norman. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved and he has given me more in this life than I could have ever dreamed. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

The deep desires of my heart have changed as I’ve grown older. I suppose that’s normal. When I was a young girl I wanted nothing more than the love of my parents. Then, as I teetered on the ledge between childhood and womanhood, I longed for the love of a husband. After I got married, I wanted so badly to have the love a child all my own. 

It seems that my deepest desire — to be loved — has also grown in me a yearning to love others deeply. 

What are you most afraid of?

Oh goodness. This is the kind of question that makes me feel a bit antsy. There are so many things in this life to fear. Aren’t there? 

I suppose that my greatest fear is that something bad will happen to someone I love dearly. Even more than that, I fear that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for them. It’s the helplessness that frightens me.

Do you have a cherished possession?

Would you think me terribly superficial if I said that my pink and gunmetal gray Chevy Bel Air is my favorite possession? It’s pretty and shiny and I feel so sophisticated when I drive it around town. Does it help if I tell you that it was a gift from my Norman?

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

Isn’t it fun to daydream? That’s when I let myself wonder about what might happen in the future. Sometimes I imagine that the little stories I tell my nephews will end up in a book. Other days I picture myself working more and more at the family bakery. Still other times I dream of growing old in the house Norm and I have always loved, watching the sunset from my porch. 

I don’t have big dreams. Not really. I guess that’s because the life I have is as much — if not better — than what I’d imagined as a child.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

I never considered myself a particularly strong person. That was always the part my sister Clara played. She was the determined one, the fighter. Clara the Conqueror, I like to call her.

But there are times when even a weak person is called on to show great strength. And in those moments, she does well to remember that her might isn’t her own. It comes from the Lord who is glad to have our burdens cast upon him. 

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I am strong, but only through the power of my Father in heaven.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

How very kind of you to have me! 

Betty Sweet is a pleasantly plump forty-year-old, but when this 1960s suburban woman loses her husband unexpectantly, she struggles to find her purpose in life. She can’t imagine what God has in mind when she finds herself the soul caretaker of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had. 

Betty and her nephew make an odd pair. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. As Betty and Hugo struggle through their grief and the difficulties that life can bring, they slowly learn to trust one another as they discover hope and commonality through the magic of storytelling. 

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, as well as A Cup of DustA Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

Fictional Character Interview: Maggie Galloway, Baker Extraordinaire, from Secrets and Wishes

Maggie Galloway is the sister of Reverend Ian McCormick, from my first book, Rumors and Promises. She can be feisty sometimes, but has as Ian has said “a heart of gold.” And sometimes even has a good sense of humor. I thought I’d invite her for a chat.

Novel PASTimes: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Maggie. I was wondering if you missed keeping house for Ian since you moved to Apple Blossom cottage?

Maggie: Sometimes I do, but I’m sure my sister-in-law, Sophie, is taking good care of him and the house, though my little brother can be a handful.

Novel PASTimes: I noticed you refer to him as “Little brother” quite often, but he must be almost a foot taller than you are.

Maggie: Well, he is my younger brother by four years and I don’t like him to forget that. (Maggie laughs.)

Novel PASTimes: I heard you have some good news lately. Would you care to share it with us?

Maggie: Oh dear, I suppose Ian and Sophie have been talking. I wish they didn’t feel like they had to brag. I mean I’m excited about it and all, but it’s not that important.

Novel PASTimes: Tell me, please! I’d like to hear it from you.

Maggie: I recently received a letter from the Silver Leaf Flour Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You see, I entered their “Don’t Rest on Your Laurels” baking contest and won second place for my original pecan snickerdoodle recipe.

Novel PASTimes: Congratulations! Were you disappointed not to win first place?

Maggie: Perhaps a little at first but I was truly excited to have placed at all. I will receive a silver laurel pin and my recipe will be in their nationally distributed cookbook. Isn’t that exciting?

Novel PASTimes: I’m so happy for you! What does that mean for your future? Will you try next time to win first place?

Maggie: Maybe, but what I’m most excited about is that perhaps with this behind me, the bank in my hometown will approve a mortgage for the bakery I’ve had my eye one there. It has a cozy little apartment above it, just the right size for my son, Philip, and me. It would be so nice to have a home of our own again.

Novel PASTimes: But don’t you like it here in Stone Creek?

Maggie: I do. It’s a lovely little town. I will miss Ian and his little family dreadfully, but sometimes I miss Buffalo and all the memories there. (Maggie sighs.) That’s where I lived with my dearly departed husband, Robert, and his family is still there. It would be good for Philip to get to know them better.

Novel PASTimes: I heard Philip had a fistfight with the new pharmacist’s son, Zeke Harper, was it? Are you leaving town because of that?

Maggie: Of course not! They were just having a little fuss about whose father was the better pharmacist. Philip got his feelings hurt, but you know how boys can be when their tempers flare. I took him to Harper Apothecary to make up and now the two boys seem like old chums.

Novel PASTimes: I’m glad to hear they patched things up. What do you think of Harper Apothecary and its owner, Thomas Harper? I believe your husband was a pharmacist, wasn’t he?

Maggie: Why, yes, Robert was. And a good one at that. Better than—dear me, I’m starting to sound like Philip. I don’t mean to be a braggart, but Robert was excellent at his job. Having a drugstore in Stone Creek is a good idea. I’m sure it’s about time. I’m just not sure about the proprietor.

Novel PASTimes: What do you mean?

Maggie: I know they moved in recently, but the shop was a bit of a mess. Actually, more than a bit. And his four children, poor motherless dears, they are quite rambunctious. Thomas—that is—Mr. Harper has lost another housekeeper to their pranks and has very little control over the children. And he had the nerve to try and sell me some newfangled pills. I guess they’re called aspirin. I just wanted to buy some white willow extract from him.

Novel PASTimes: So you didn’t really like him?

Maggie: It’s not that. Well, he does have his faults. He’s a rather handsome man, but he has such a sad look in his eyes. (Maggie blushes.) I suppose he’s still deep in grief over his wife. He needs lots of help, but I don’t have the time to give it to him.

 Novel PASTimes: I see. Perhaps things will change. In the meantime, Ian told me that the man bringing your award from the Silver Leaf Flour Company is someone by the name of Giles Prescott? Your brother said you had an old beau by that name. Is this true?

Maggie: (Blushes again.) Honestly, I don’t know why he brought that up. I’m sure there’s more than one Giles Prescott in the world, aren’t you? If you’ll please excuse me I really should be starting dinner.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for your time, Maggie. I can see you don’t want to discuss Mr. Prescott at this time.

More about Secrets and Wishes:  Stone Creek, Michigan, April, 1901 –  Maggie Galloway and Thomas Harper clash after their sons collide in a fistfight. Both widowed, they’re each doing their best as single-parents. Outgoing Maggie has dreams for a home of her own and a business to provide for her son as she searches for God’s path for her life as a widow. Reserved Thomas struggles to establish his new pharmacy and take care of his four rambunctious children while wondering how a loving God could take his beloved wife.

When Thomas becomes deathly ill, Maggie is recruited to nurse him back to health. Taking the children in hand, as well, is more than she bargained for, but she is drawn to help the grieving family. Both nurse and patient find themselves drawn to each other but promptly deny their feelings.

A baking contest sponsored by the Silver Leaf Flour Company brings former beau, Giles Prescott, back into Maggie’s life. When Giles offers Maggie a position at their test kitchen in Chicago, he hints that, along with assuring her a good job, it will allow them to possibly rekindle their relationship.

But then a charlatan comes to town, and tragedy soon follows. Maggie and Thomas discover the miracle potions he hawks aren’t so harmless when an epidemic hits Stone Creek. Thomas and Maggie realize they must work together to save lives.

Maggie finds herself caught up in battles within and without—the battle to help the townsfolk in the midst of illness and chicanery, and the battle to know which man—Thomas or Giles—deserves to win her heart.

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and the novella, The Pocket Watch. She is a longtime member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 35 years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at kathleenrouser.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kathleenerouser/, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.}