My Great-aunt Belle left a journal she wrote in the 1920s and ’30s. She died in 1939 at the age of 55 from complications of appendicitis. I never got the chance to know her, and I would love to be able to sit down with her for a cup of tea.
Aunt Belle noted so many cultural things in her diary—who she voted for, the famous boxers of the day, the way the neighboring farm boys were building tractors out of truck chassis, and all the community events and gossip. She never had children of her own, but she doted on her nieces and nephews. I think I would have loved her.
My great-aunt gave such a vivid picture of life in rural Maine that I wanted to write a story in that setting. I decided to push it back to 1918, near the end of World War I, because of the added tension, and also because my grandfather (Aunt Belle’s brother-in-law) served. He was drafted close to the end of the war, and I adapted some details of his story to fit in for my heroine’s brother. River Rest is purely fiction, but many of the events in it were inspired by things that really happened in my family.
Judith, the main character in the book, has left her teaching job at a rural school to help her family. In real life, my grandmother (Aunt Belle’s sister) was a schoolteacher before she married my grandfather. Judith has a lot in common with both my Nana and Aunt Belle. She loves her bird feeder, she learns to make quilts, and she cooks many of the same things my Nana served. Her life on the farm is a lot like theirs was.
I love Judith because she keeps on, even when she is tempted to fall into depression as her father did. She knows people are depending on her, so she perseveres. I hope readers will take away from this novel a sense of family closeness and spiritual rest.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty novels and novella in the historical, mystery, and suspense genres. A native of Maine, she now lives in western Kentucky. Visit her website and sign up for her occasional newsletter and monthly book drawing at: www.susanpagedavis.com.