Janet R Stafford

It's About the Power of Love

 

I recently published my fourth book in the Saint Maggie series. After five years I finally realize what my series is about. (Better late than never, huh?)

 

Stripped to basics, the 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 my subconscious has taken over my writing world. Our heroine, Maggie, is a kindhearted Methodist living in 1860's America. She is balanced by Eli, her free-thinking, determined husband - sort of a heart-head dynamic. And yet Maggie is not all heart just as Eli is not all head.

Also, because they are good people, it doesn’t mean they are perfect. They make mistakes. They get angry. They can be silly and funny. They’re even quirky. But despite this imperfection, they keep returning to one simple but difficult principle: love.

 

The first book, SAINT MAGGIE, 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 people of her town, Maggie wrestles to forgive him, and this puts her at loggerheads with much of the town.

 

WALK BY FAITH, 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 door step for Maggie and the rest of the family in Gettysburg. In each setting the characters come into contact with the dreaded enemy and face the difficult facts of war.

 

The themes of loving neighbor and enemy are carried over in book three, A TIME TO HEAL, set in the second half of 1863. Maggie and her family try to come to terms with the violence they have experienced, while her daughters’ compassion for enemy soldiers leads them into dangerous territory.

 

In SEEING THE ELEPHANT, book four, the family returns to New Jersey. 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, the family’s social and economic status begins to improve. However, their continuing compassion for “the least of these" puts them at odds with a powerful industrialist intent on making Blaineton over in his image.

 

Even though our times are confusing, difficult, and divisive, I find comfort and hope in writing about one family living over one hundred fifty years ago who face similar issues. They remind me of how crucial it is to love others, even if our love is imperfect. I hope these quirky, endearing characters and the intriguing stories of their lives engenders in readers comfort and hope, and perhaps even the desire to love and heal the world around them.

 

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