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It Happened in Silence by @KarlaMJay1 is a KU Event pick #historicalfiction #histfic #ku #giveaway
Title: It Happened in Silence
Author: Karla M. Jay
Genre: Southern Historical Fiction
Georgia 1921. Mute since birth, fifteen-year-old Willow Stewart has one task to complete—to leave her Appalachian homestead and find a traveling preacher and her brother, Briar. When a peddler kidnaps her, she escapes only to face an unjust arrest and penal servitude to an unscrupulous woman The laws are not on her side. Or her brother’s. How will they outsmart the corrupt system to make it home again?
Poppy is the first Luther in our family. My older brother Luther Junior died in a mining accident on Pigeon Mountain fifteen months ago. He was barely twenty. The explosion happened only six months after Poppy returned from France, sick and dog-tired.
After he was buried in the family cemetery on a high knob, the neighbor men left their handmade leather boots outside the cabin, covered with fresh earth from Luther Junior’s grave. I studied that dark dirt, stuck on the notion that it unfairly exchanged places with my brother. The black soil was free to watch the sunshine poke daggers of light through the morning fog while my brother was destined to darkness. I was only fourteen but learned an oak-size life lesson that day. In order to pack down the pain of losing a loved one, adults turn their talk to everyday concerns, such as how months of foggy mornings could rot through a birch outhouse faster than one bad winter.
Now our new Baby Luther isn’t with us anymore. Appears as if God wants only one Luther in this family.
Poppy is no hand-holder, but our arms touch on purpose as we cross the yard. Everywhere I look reminds me of Mama. The yellow roses she’s trained to climb a fence. The newly planted vegetable garden. Her favorite chair on the porch, with its slightly crooked rocker and pleasant creak creak on the old boards early in the mornings when she’s shucking something or knitting. Her hands always busy. Sassy, the goat Mama bottle-fed when Poppy told her to let it die, stands below the clothesline looking lost and confused. Where’s her morning scratch behind the ears? Mama’s blue gingham dress, the last one she wore before giving birth, hangs empty over the poor critter’s head.
I’m feeling as hollowed out as that piece of clothing.
The guests sit on their thin mattresses, spread out like horizontal headstones in the yard. Some folks are asleep. Others are smoking corncob pipes and trading stories. The woven scents of honeysuckle, fresh churned dirt, and cherry tobacco make me dizzy, and for a moment, the world blurs at the edges. I sense the guests’ eyes following me as I open the gate and coax out Jacca. They all know my purpose in leaving. To find a preacher to give Baby Luther a Christian send-off. But they don’t hear the prayer playing through my head.
I pray that if I ride fast enough, using one of the skills God granted me, nothing will happen to Mama while I’m gone. Burrowed deep inside my heart, a tiny voice, one I don’t recognize, speaks in golden tones. It says Mama won’t pass with all of her children home and by her side. It’s why I’ve secretly vowed to find Briar, even though his parting words to Poppy were that he’d never set foot on our homestead again. Perhaps time has picked away his feeling of scorn.
Slipping the sack’s long drawstring over my head and across one shoulder, I climb onto Jacca’s back. I touch my necklace, return Poppy’s wink, and head off Moss Lick Knob, or as our kinfolk call it, Stewart Mountain.
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We cheer for a mute mountain girl as she navigates the perils outside her holler in search of her brother who is serving time on a chain gang. Told between three main characters, Willow, her brother Briar, and Ardith, a leader in the women’s KKK, there seems to be little hope that she and Briar will ever return home. Readers mention their astonishment at little-known facts from 1921 such as people bought and sold babies without a smidgen of guilt, the women’s KKK grew to number in the millions, and a fellow could do time on a chain gang for walking without a purpose.
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Karla M. Jay is the award-winning author of When We Were Brave, It Happened in Silence, and The Puppet Maker’s Daughter. She started to write books when she was seven. When she's not writing, she's reading, gardening, playing with her dog, or traveling to new places with her husband to try to find a story that has never been told.
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