A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

What was your purpose in including Penny's dreams as though real at first?


My purpose in including Penny's dreams as though real at first was to have the reader experience them as Penny does--only when she wakes does she realize that she was dreaming. I hoped that by placing her great-grandmother in her dreams, I could blur the line between Penny's world and the hereafter and hint at the way in which those who live before us influence our lives.

Because Johnny is color blind, he misses the fact that Lily had been wearing a red caftan, so Penny, alone, knows that the black-clad woman waving to them from the cupola is her great-grandmother. I hoped that her goodbye wave would signify that Penny's great grand-mother is now free to leave this world: to watch over Penny as a spirit, taking the form of a hawk if she pleases.

I wanted to use Penny's dreams, her necklace, and the hawk to remind Penny of her heritage as she develops confidence in her ability to meet challenges and gains a sense of her own self worth.

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Chapter 1: Chapter One
"...Like her father and grandmother before her, the older woman lived in the temple style house in which she was born: Oakden, with tall ceilings and three layers of bricks between the walls of rooms unaltered for generations. If the truth were known, she had preserved her heritage by permitting thousands of strangers ..."

Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
"... offered him a sheepish grin and extended the yellowed roll. “It’s an account of how your great-grandmother started Memorial Day. You don’t have your glasses.... Here, let me read some of it to you.” Penny watched the muscles in Johnny’s thick arms working beneath his ..."
"... veterans, which had been held in Columbus, Mississippi during the preceding week. Penny blinked with incredulity. “I’ve always hated the name Augusta, but Mother must have named me for her grandmother.” “Well, it’s all spelled out in the book you’ve got there; your uncle ..."
"...“Well, it’s all spelled out in the book you’ve got there; your uncle distributed his books around the family. Mom Nichols told me the house where her grandmother lived, and where she spent a lot of summers, is still standing. I’ve got too many balls in the air to swing it right now, but sometime we might drive to Columbus and try to find it—that is, if you’re game.” ..."

Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
"... face. “This is a quicker way to diagnose a disturbance.” Penny reached down her scrub top, into the neck of her tee shirt, and pulled out her great-grandmother’s medallion, holding it up for Flossie Mae to see. “You have a pentagram too!” Flossie Mae’s eyes were big as ..."
"... it up for Flossie Mae to see. “You have a pentagram too!” Flossie Mae’s eyes were big as quarters. “A what? I inherited it from my grandmother; I didn’t know it had a name.” “A pentagram: the symbol of humanity.” Flossie Mae spoke fast, her words tumbling over each other. ..."

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
"... that Dr. Child was no longer on staff. Penny stood behind Maria. “The collage on the back of that door looks like one of my grandmother’s crazy quilts.” Bending down, she whispered into Maria’s ear, “What happened with Dr. Child?” “He didn’t keep his charts caught up, and ..."

Chapter 22: Chapter Twenty-Two
"... begins on page one-hundred.” Penny retrieved the small black-bound work, The Seven Siblings, from the seat behind her. The chapter was entitled “Elizabeth Augusta Murdock (1841-1921).” She examined the picture of a young woman, her own great-grandmother. “You’re prettier than she ..."
"... “I would never have come here by myself. Thank you for bringing me.” “Do you have your necklace? I want to take a picture of you, wearing your great-grandmother’s necklace, standing in front of her home.” To show him, Penny drew the medallion up from the neck of her sleep-shirt, ..."
"...“Your great-grandmother was born in New England and when she was a year old her father, Abram Murdock, moved the family to Columbus and found work rebuilding the railroad. He traded with the Choctaw Indians, and then later he operated a silver mine. The house he built, Elizabeth Augusta’s ..."
"...taught me how to find the North Star: it looks like it’s falling out of the Big Dipper. The ‘drinking gourd’ would have to be the Big Dipper.” She turned back to sit at the foot of the bed. “Do you think that when my great-grandmother was a little girl, in that first house, it was a station on the Underground Railroad?” ..."
"... Penny imagined these rooms as they must have been, with beautiful carpets, heavy silk draperies, and polished furniture. She didn’t have to imagine the china. Her mother had kept a lidded casserole dish, a piece of her grandmother’s pink-rimmed china, on display in their home. A ..."

"...From a long-ago conversation, she remembered hearing her mother say the same thing. She had told Penny that she didn’t like sleeping in her grandmother’s bed because she was afraid the tester would fall down and cut off her legs, and that bed was the one in which both her mother and her grandmother had been born; it must have been a half-tester like this one! ..."
"...grandmothered his side. “Last night I dreamed that an old lady led me though a tunnel from the basement to a hole in this hill. Her smile was like Mother’s.... And the bed I slept in—I think it might be the one Mother and grandmother were born ..."
"...Headed home in the late afternoon, she dreamed of the lady who had managed a staff of Negro servants, including a yard man, coachman, cook, two maids, and an Indian meat hunter—Penny’s own great-grandmother, of whom Uncle Warren wrote, “Her skin was soft as rose petals, yet when her heart told her what needed to be done, she possessed the courage to do it.” ..."

" telling what will happen tomorrow or the next day, but we’re alive and we have each other today.” He stood to go inside, then turned back to Penny. “Everything disintegrated around you, and you came through it just fine. You are a heroine, like your great-grandmother.” ..."
"...Johnny grinned. “You got him where it counts, though. I think the saying goes, ‘Heroes are made, not born.’ They’re just regular people who rise to meet the circumstances at hand, and you do that on a regular basis. Your mother told me her grandmother had extra flowers that she didn’t want to waste, so she put them on some of the Union graves. She wasn’t trying for a medal. She just didn’t let prejudice stop her from honoring the dead, so she became a heroine.” ..."

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"In a story of evolving relationships, Margaret McMillion breathes life into her characters, especially Penny, who must find..."

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