STRANGER HERE BELOW
In 1961, when Amazing Grace Jansen, a firecracker from Appalachia, meets Mary Elizabeth Cox, the daughter of a Black southern preacher, at Kentucky’s Berea College, they already carry the scars and traces of their mothers’ troubles.
Poor and single, Maze’s mother has had to raise her daughter alone and fight to keep a roof over their heads. Mary Elizabeth’s mother has carried a shattering grief throughout her life, a loss so great that it has disabled her and isolated her stern husband and her brilliant, talented daughter.
The caution this has scored into Mary Elizabeth has made her defensive and too private and limited her ambitions, despite her gifts as a musician. But Maze’s earthy fearlessness might be enough to carry them both forward toward lives lived bravely in an angry world that changes by the day.
Both of them are drawn to the enigmatic Georginea Ward, an aging idealist who taught at Berea sixty years ago, fell in love with a black man, and suddenly found herself renamed as a sister in a tiny Shaker community. Sister Georgia believes in discipline and simplicity, yes. But, more important, her faith is rooted in fairness and the long reach of unconditional love.
This is a novel about three generations of women and the love that makes families where none can be expected.
$14.95 / $15.95 CAN | Fiction Paperback | 5 1/2 x 8 1/4 | 288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-60953-074-7 | Carton Quantity: 24
“What does my mama do in Memphis?” Vista had asked her grandmother once as a child, and her mamaw, a woman of few words, had simply said, “Well, I don’t reckon we’d want to know.” And that was the last time Vista asked.
Her mother showed up every few years for a meal and a night’s sleep and to borrow money, her hair blackened and permed and her lips painted ruby-red. She was the only person who ever called Vista by her given name:
“And how’s the little Visitor doin’?” she’d croon on her way up the front steps, lacing her fingers through Vista’s dark curls absentmindedly. Then on she’d go, in search of her own mother, and Vista would go back to playing with her rag doll or rereading one of the Elsie Dinsmore books Miss Drury had lent her. The fact that this guest was her mother hardly seemed to register. But her mother would laugh with Mamaw Marthie.
They shared the same sense of humor, if nothing else. Years later, Vista would learn that they’d chosen her name, with a smile and a wink, together. Visitor Lane Combs—named both for the long-gone male visitor who’d left the way he had come, along the back lane, and for another visitor, the monthly kind, that failed to show up after the first one had left. Over time, and at the teacher Miss Drury’s urging, Mamaw had shortened the name to Vista. But on her mother’s infrequent visits, she was always reminded: “And how’s the little Visitor?” And all Vista thought then, though she never said it, was, Seems to me you’re the only visitor here.
When they learned her mother had been hit by a streetcar and killed, not too long after that visit when Vista was fifteen, Vista didn’t shed a tear, and if Mamaw mourned, Vista never saw it.