When I started making the rounds of book clubs and book groups with my novel Saint Maggie, I began to hear people say, “What happens next?” They indicated to me that I had left things open at the end of the first book and that they liked the characters and wanted more. People seemed to develop an affection for some characters in particular: Maggie, Frankie, and Eli (some women wished they could find a guy like him – as blustery as he can get sometimes, he does love Maggie with all his heart).
To tell the truth, I had no idea where to go next – except that I recently had returned from a visit to Gettysburg and thought, “Hmmm… interesting idea, but how do I get them there?”
I figured that out. Read on.
In February of 1863, arsonists burn Maggie's boarding house and Eli’s print shop burn to the ground. Fortunately, the boarding house family makes it out safely. Eli’s printing press and other material in his shop are not so lucky.
To complicate matters, most of the men are no longer at home. It is the middle of the Civil War. Patrick McCoy, now Frankie’s beau, and Edgar Lape, Lydia’s husband, enlisted in the 15th Regiment of New Jersey Volunteers in 1862 and currently are wintering in Virginia with the Sixth Corps Army of the Potomac. That same year, once Eli received governmental permission to be a war correspondent follow the New Jersey 15th, bought a news wagon, a horse named Sadie, and took off. Chester Carson travels with Eli to serve as a reporter and to record what he sees on film (note: newspapers were not able to print photographs at this time, so Carson’s work is of an artistic nature).
That left Grandpa O’Reilly and Nate Johnson at home. While Nate waits for New Jersey to start a “colored” regiment, Maggie’s brother, Samuel, offers him a job as a wheelwright at his carriage manufactory, which is now producing wagons for the army. Samuel’s decision is highly unpopular because he has put Nate as a supervisor over some younger white men, and eventually proves dangerous.
The rest of the household is comprised of women and children: Maggie and adopted son Bob; Lydia and Frankie; Nate’s wife Emily and toddler son Natey; and Matilda Strong (a self-emancipated black woman from Virginia) and her daughter Chloe.
Upon hearing news of the fire, Eli and Carson return home. Maggie and her unconventional family have taken refuge with her brother Samuel and his wife Abigail at their mansion some miles outside town, but trouble follows them there: Nate is beaten by ruffians one day after work, and a group of masked men threaten to burn down Samuel’s house. Before any more violence can erupt, the sheriff suggests that it may be best for the family to get away from Blaineton until things calm down.
At this point, Eli reveals a plan to move everyone to his old family home in Gettysburg, ostensibly to help his Quaker sisters and brother-in-law with still-escaping slaves and refugees coming over the Pennsylvania border. His news upsets Maggie’s plans to rebuild her boarding house and causes a rift between the couple that grows.
The last half of the book shifts between Virginia and Gettysburg, members of the family encounter wartime violence first hand and struggle to survive a national cataclysm. It will take a great deal of faith on everyone’s part to make it through, especially when things look their darkest.
Walk by Faith is available at the Squeaking Pips Store for $7.99 (free shipping, tax included, and a signature from the author!)
You also may find it at Amazon, Lulu, and on Kindle.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the background on A Time to Heal, the third book in the Saint Maggie Series.
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder