Hopeful. It’s supposed to be a town, but the truth is it’s not much more than a wide spot in a road that runs through Georgia. It ain’t on any map, and only a scattering of people have heard of it. But me, I was raised here. My mama’s the one who named the town, named it like she’d name one of her young’uns. Mama said she didn’t know a lot about a lot of things, but she knew plenty about being hopeful.
That’s how Mama was. She grabbed onto things she loved and gave the names to her babies. I got a brother named Free, a sister named Honeysuckle, and another one named Rosebud. All them was things she loved. My name’s Canasta, but Mama never did say why. When I asked Daddy, he laughed like his belly was gonna bust open.
“That’s your mama’s secret,” he said. He promised she’d tell me when I was old enough, but she never did.
Mama was a woman with more than her share of secrets. When one of us kids would offer up a question she didn’t feel like answering, she’d say some things was too ugly to be talking about and that was the end of that. You could ask ‘till you turned blue in the face, and you’d still get the same answer.
Mama was a real pretty woman. So pretty that Daddy George asked her to marry him the very first time they met. She had four kids and a twisted leg, but he didn’t care. He was getting on in years and had a hankering for something sweet. He told her, “Caledonia, I got money and I got land, but I ain’t got no wife and family. You got plenty family but no money, so I’m thinking this would be a fine match.” Mama agreed, and they was married the next day. Back then, Daddy George owned all the land that’s Hopeful.
Them was real good years. Rows of corn, beans, and peaches stretched out far as the eye could see, and when Mama rang the noonday dinner bell a dozen hungry workers came running. They ate ‘till the plates were licked clean, then went back to work in the fields. Some days Mama would be left with a pile of dirty dishes tall as me, but it didn’t trouble her none. All the while she was swishing a soaped-up rag across those dishes, she was whistling a happy tune.
My job was to do the drying, and I told Mama I’d be a whole lot happier if those men did their eating elsewhere. She stopped whistling for about half a minute and said, “Canasta, you be careful what you wish for. Those men work for your daddy, and they’re what keeps this farm running.” After that she went back to whistling and washing, and I went back to drying. I looked over at Mama and could see the proud showing itself like peacock feathers.
Back then we had no idea what was waiting down the road.
Enjoy this book excerpt from Jubilee's Journey
On an icy cold November morning in 1956, Bartholomew Jones died in the Poynter Coal Mine. His death came as no surprise to anyone. He was only one of the countless men forever lost to the mine. They were men loved and mourned by their families, but to the world they were faceless, nameless people, not worthy of mention in the Charleston Times.
Morning after morning those men descended into the belly of the mountain, into a world of black dust that clung to their skin with a fierceness that no amount of scrubbing could wash away. In the winter the sky was still black when they climbed into the trolley cart that carried them into the mountain. And when they returned twelve hours later, daylight had already come and gone.
None of the men complained. They were the lucky ones, they told one another. They were the ones who slept easy. Their family had food on the table and coal for the stove when winter blasted its way across the ridge of the mountain.
At one time Bartholomew thought he could beat the odds, break the chain of events that carried itself through generation after generation. His daddy had grown up in the mines, starting when he was barely big enough to carry a bucket of scrap coal from the chute to the hopper. His granddaddy had done the same. It was the way of life, a dirty, lung-polluting job handed down from grandfather to father and ultimately to son.
But Bartholomew had different plans.
In 1932 he left home to join the navy. “Go,” his daddy said happily. “Go and don’t ever look back.” A life built on a hunched back and blackened skin was not something any man wished for his son, and even though it meant he might never see the boy again he was glad.
After two months of basic training Bartholomew was assigned to the Norfolk Navy Yard and for the next six years he loaded and unloaded machine parts on the ships that sailed in and out of the port.
Norfolk was where he met and married Ruth.
It was love at first sight. Ruth was in town visiting her sister, and as fate would have it he happened to be standing in back of them while the girls waited to buy tickets to see “The Big Broadcast” with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. To Bartholomew’s eye Ruth was far prettier than Dorothy Lamour, and he said so ten minutes after they’d struck up a conversation.
“Aw, go on,” she’d said with a smile.
As they eventually made their way down the aisle of the strand, Bartholomew followed the girls. Before they’d gone nine rows in Ruth pointed to a spot with three empty seats together. “Let’s sit here,” she said. She looked back at Bartholomew, an invitation in her smile.
After the movie Bartholomew took Ruth and her sister, Anita, for ice cream sodas. Before it came time to pay the check, he was in love. Forever, eternally, and deeply in love. With her soft brown eyes and lips that fairly begged Ruth was as warm as a wool coat on a blustery day.
Today it's time to meet Louise Palmer…a woman destined to go through a lot of heartache before she finally discovers WHAT MATTERS MOST. Excerpted from the novel, this is Louise Palmer…
Ask me why I fell in love with Clay Palmer and I’ll tell you. It was because he was the exact opposite of my father. The first time I saw him, I noticed the serious expression tacked onto his face. Right away I suspected he was a settled-down man, a man who’d be content to spend the whole of his life in one place. When he proposed and said we’d buy a house nine short blocks from where he’d lived as a boy, that was proof positive.
After living with the man almost thirty years I know his heart as well as I know my own, and I can assure you, Clay doesn’t want to move. He’s just feeling the dreariness of this winter weather. The truth is he’s as happy in this house as I am. Why would anyone leave a place where they’ve got everything a person could wish for?
It’s that job. I’m glad he’s going to retire. Once he’s out of the bank he’ll have a new outlook on life. He imagines he’ll be bored, but he won’t. Lord knows there are plenty of things that need fixing around here, and he’s already got that nice little workshop in the basement.
So, we’ll have less spending money. That’s okay. I can stretch a dollar. When we were first married he was only making half of what he makes now and even with raising two kids, we got along just fine. We did it then and we can do it again. As far as I’m concerned, hamburger’s the same as steak. It’s just ground-up.
WHAT MATTERS MOST is scheduled for release on April 15th.
In the Words of Clay Palmer… an excerpt from What Matters Most
Uncle Charlie died a month ago today. He was nine years older than Pop, but he lived twenty years longer. Pop was a nose-to-the-grindstone man; Uncle Charlie wasn’t. I suppose that’s the difference.
It’s funny how something like this suddenly gets you thinking about your own life. I look back and I don’t like what I see. I see me too busy to come for a visit, too busy to take time for frivolous things like fishing. I’m Pop all over again. I’m even starting to look like him.
I try to recall the last time I was truly happy. Happy enough to let go of a belly-shaking laugh like Uncle Charlie’s. I can’t remember a single one. I’m not unhappy I tell myself, but I’m beginning to wonder if not-unhappy is the same as happy. I don’t think so.
I wasn’t always like this. When I started working at the bank, I was young and full of great ideas. I figured I’d stay a year, maybe two, get some experience under my belt, and move on. It never happened. Thirty years I’ve been there. Day in, day out, the same routine, the same complaints, the same weary faces.
Summer before last Herb Kramer retired and I thought for sure I’d get the district manager spot, but I didn’t. A kid thirty years younger than me got it. The president’s nephew.
So why do I stay? That’s what I’ve been asking myself. Unfortunately, I’ve got no answer. Something has to change, but I’ll be damned if I know what that something is.
Please come back on Monday to meet Louise Palmer. WHAT MATTERS MOST is scheduled for release on April 15th.
The Twelfth Child is the story of friendship, lost love, dysfunctional family relationships and greed as it evolved around the life of one woman, Abigail Anne Lannigan. She was a free-spirited, independent woman much like many we know today, but perhaps out of place in the rural mountain life of the early 1900’s. As you go through some of the discussion questions, try to imagine yourself back in that era, years before women were allowed to vote, a time when men controlled the destiny of women.
1) In the opening chapter the elderly Abigail Anne Lannigan rapidly develops a friendship with Destiny Fairchild, a young woman in her early twenties – do you think such a friendship is unlikely? Why do you think a young girl would have an interest in such an elderly woman? Did you early on consider that Destiny had an ulterior motive in developing the friendship?
2) Abigail Lannigan took an immediate dislike to Elliott, even though he was supposedly a blood relative – why do you think she felt that way? What was your reaction to Elliott? How did you feel about Abigail tricking him into claiming he was a Baptist?
3) After Livonia died, Abigail’s father was extremely opposed to her continuing school, why do you think he felt that way?
4) Abigail’s father was set on the idea of her marrying Henry Keller, do you think he was simply concerned with her welfare or had ulterior motives?
5) Henry professed his love for Abigail, do you think she should have stayed and married him? Why do you think she couldn’t bring herself to respond to his love?
6) Judith Troy, Abigail’s school teacher, went against William Lannigan when she helped his daughter get a job in the city and leave home – do you think she had the right to interfere in such a manner? What would you have done?
7) During the Great Depression when she was hungry and out of options, Abigail took the job in a speakeasy, even though she knew it was illegal and she could have been arrested, what would you have done? Should she have considered returning home and marrying Henry as her father wanted her to?
8) Abigail seemed to fall in love with John Langley the moment he walked into the library, have you ever experienced a similar reaction to someone? Do you think she was simply awed by him, or is such a reaction is possible?
9) Abigail knew John was a travelling salesman, but should she have been suspicious when he kept finding excuses for being elsewhere during the holidays? Should she have confronted him about this? And, why do you think she didn’t?
10) When Abigail told John she was expecting a baby, he said he couldn’t marry her but offered to continue the relationship – she was desperately in love with him, so why do you think she turned and ran instead of taking him up on his offer?
11) After she lost the baby, Abigail sent John away even though she still loved him, do you think you could do the same? Why do you think she chose that path of action?
12) Why do you think Abigail’s father never responded when she sent him the pipe for Christmas?
13) The reader does not discover that Abigail is already dead until mid-story, did that come as a surprise to you?
14) At the end of the story, Abigail indicates that even though Destiny did not get the bonds she wanted her to have, everyone got what was coming to them – do you agree? Did you feel there was a sense of poetic justice in the final resolution?
15) Would you have changed the ending and if so, how?
16) Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
17) Can you speculate on what might eventually happen to the bonds?
The novel Spare Change addresses a number of issues and covers a time span of over fifty years, which of the following would you consider this book – Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery, Women’s Fiction or Inspirational Fiction?
The story takes place in the first half of the twentieth century, do think it was possible back then to successfully have both a career and a family?
Have you ever known a woman who, like Olivia, felt having children would be a detriment to the other aspects of her life?
Olivia had a lot of foolish superstitions; do you have any superstitions you know are foolish?
After Charlie’s death, did you suspect the okra soup Canasta gave Olivia actually had a magical quality that brought about happiness?
When Olivia returned to live in Charlie’s apartment the residents felt she was responsible for his death and they shunned her—do you think there was something she might have said or done to convince them otherwise? In a similar circumstance do you think you’d be more forgiving or do you think it’s human nature to resent the interloper?
Ethan Allen’s mother Susanna was a lot like Olivia in that she had aspirations of a career and she did not want children – did they differ only in education and refinement or could you see other distinctions?
Susanna’s husband Benjamin knew she wanted to be a singer when he asked her to marry him – was he at fault for thinking he could change her or was she to blame for thinking he’d be her ticket to New York?
Susanna and Ethan Allen had a rather strange relationship; it was not parental but did you believe it to be loving relationship?
When Susanna finally decided to take Ethan Allen and go to New York without Benjamin, was she justified in making that decision?
When Benjamin took the money Susanna had saved to buy a new tractor, was he justified in doing so? How do you think you’d react if, without prior discussion, your spouse withdrew your savings and bought something he wanted/needed?
Ethan Allen was not your typical innocent child—he manipulated people to get the things he wanted—was it excusable because of his home life? Did you see the parallel in the way his parents manipulated each other in their attempts to get what they wanted?
The gas station owner Tom Behrens helped Ethan Allen get to Wyattsville, do you think he was in his mind righting the wrongs of his own childhood?
When Ethan Allen arrived at Olivia’s why do you think he was reluctant to tell the truth of what he’d seen?
Did you think Detective Jack Mahoney was simply trying to close a case or had a genuine concern for Ethan Allen?
Did you feel Sam Cobb got involved as he did because he was trying to garner a departmental promotion or because he was trying to protect his father? If you were in the position of knowing your parent or sibling had committed a crime would you tell the truth to investigators?
What about Emma Cobb, should she have hidden the bloody shirt and what did you see as her alternatives?
Although Olivia never wanted children, she allowed Ethan Allen to stay—what did you see as her reason for doing so? Did you feel that it was because she had also experienced the feeling of being alone and friendless?
After Scooter Cobb was killed, Olivia told the police that she shot Scooter but she allowed Ethan Allen to believe that he had done it. Did you see this as a kindness to the boy because he could now believe that he’d saved someone he cared about whereas with his parents he’d been helpless to do anything?
The final chapter takes place in Heaven, would you have written it differently?