In case you're wondering what this "Saint Maggie Series" thing is that I blather about, or in case you've stumbled upon this particular blog for the first time, here's some background.
The Saint Maggie Series is about a woman and her family living in New Jersey during the 1860s. But is it, as one of my friends joked “Little House on the Delaware”? Or is it something else?
While the series certainly has its pastoral and nostalgic components, as well as a load of engaging (usually positive) characters, it is about so much more. I like to think it inhabits a cross-genre space: historical fiction, nostalgic fiction, women’s fiction, and perhaps even literary fiction (although I might be stretching things a bit here).
Stripped to basics, the Saint Maggie Series focuses on how good people find their way in a nation divided by politics, custom, economics, race, and war. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because, like most authors, my subconscious has become integrated with my writing world.
Our heroine, Maggie, is a kindhearted Methodist living in 1860's America. She is balanced by Eli, her free-thinking, newspaperman husband. As a team, they have sort of a heart-head dynamic. And yet Maggie is not all heart, just as Eli is not all head. Even though they are good people, it doesn’t mean they are perfect. They are multifaceted. They make mistakes. They get angry. They can be silly and funny. They’re quirky and sexy. And yet they stubbornly keep returning to one simple but difficult principle: love.
The first book, SAINT MAGGIE (2011), finds Maggie making the decision to live by the Great Commandment as stated by Jesus Christ: love God and love others. She already has taken the risk of working on the Underground Railroad with Eli and friends Nate and Emily. But when the Rev. Jeremiah Madison, the new minister of her church, shocks the good people of her town, Maggie wrestles to forgive him, something which puts her at loggerheads with those same “good” people.
WALK BY FAITH (2013), set in Gettysburg in 1863, asks “Who is my neighbor? And how do I love my enemy?” Eli and photographer Carson follow the 15th New Jersey Infantry Regiment as they cover the war for Eli’s newspaper. Meanwhile, war arrives on the doorstep for Maggie and the rest of the family in Gettysburg. The characters in each setting come into contact with the dreaded enemy and face the difficult facts of war, including Maggie and Emily’s battle with an old enemy.
Book three, A TIME TO HEAL (2014), continues to highlight the themes of loving neighbor and enemy, During in the second half of 1863, Maggie and her family work to come to terms with the violence they have experienced during the battle of Gettysburg, while her daughters’ compassion for enemy soldiers leads them into dangerous territory and puts their stepfather in legal jeopardy.
In book four, SEEING THE ELEPHANT (2016), the family finally returns to New Jersey and the family’s social and economic status begins to improve. Eli’s nightmares, a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and something noticed but not understood by the Civil War-era medical community, eventually leads him to seek treatment. At the same time, his family’s continuing compassion for “the least of these" puts Eli, now Editor-in-Chief of The Blaineton Register, at odds with a powerful industrialist whose interest in the new hospital for the insane will lead to disastrous consequences.
Book five, A GOOD COMMUNITY (to be published September or October 2019) finds Maggie, Emily, and others attempting to provide an education for the six children of color who live on Water Street, who have been deprived of a school of their own. The women end up starting a school for black students at Greybeal House, which unexpectedly blossoms into an integrated academy with 13 students and two teachers. Opposition to the school’s existence grows, things spiral out of control, and an unwilling Maggie finds she is forced to become a leader in her beloved town.
Even though our times are confusing, difficult, and divisive, I find comfort and hope when I write about how a family living over one hundred fifty years ago faced similar issues. They remind me that it is crucial love others, even if our love is imperfect. I hope these quirky, endearing characters and the stories of their lives engenders comfort and hope in readers, and perhaps encourages them to love and heal the world around them.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder