In Maranatha Road, Heather Bell Adams’ first novel, her plot is so tightly woven and her characters so multifaceted that she deserves space on the Appalachian literary shelf alongside Robert Morgan and Sheila Kay Adams. Set in Garnet, North Carolina (fashioned after Hendersonville), Adams tells her story through the first-person perspectives of her four main characters.
Sadie, Clive, and Mark Caswell live on a farm outside Garnet where Clive rules the land and Sadie the house. She writes about Mark,“When we . . . saw Mark coming . . . we never knew how he’d be . . . . On some days he laughed . . . . And other days, he moved slowly, like he was underwater.” Sadie responded so viciously when a concerned grade school teacher attempted to discuss Mark’s “mood swings, his trouble concentrating” that “they were tripping over themselves to compliment Mark instead of criticizing him.” To Sadie’s relief, Mark, now age 22, seems settled since his engagement to the “pale, pink, pretty, perfect Maddie.”
Had Sadie listened to his teacher, she would have discovered that Mark suffers from bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, and that he could have led a more tranquil life.
His three short chapters portray a tortured man desperately seeking middle ground between bouts of energetic frenzy and depression so severe that “. . . even blinking seems like hard work.” He writes “. . . nothing has much color now . . . . It could be that the color has drained out of everything, leaving only gray and white behind.”
Despite his illness, Mark always tries to rescue anyone needing help, which leads him to Tinley Greene, age 17. Her parents recently killed in a car accident, she has no relatives and, since they didn’t attend the Solid Rock Baptist Church and weren’t Methodists, she has only one friend in Garnet.
Tinley and her parents were companions of the heart requiring only each other for emotional, physical, and spiritual fulfillment.
Too young and naive to realize that their relationship was rare and precious, Tinley’s pregnancy with Mark’s child confirms her belief that they are intended to become a family.
For Sadie “family” is her mothering Mark with Clive a kindly, but peripheral presence providing a comfortable livelihood. She gladly attends to his creature comforts, such as producing a perfect chicken pot pie, but woe to Clive when he dares to inquire about their son. After Mark’s first breakdown in front of Maddie, who knew nothing about his illness, Clive asks how he’s doing. Sadie snarls, “How in the world would I know that? You can see as well as I can that he’s not down here for either one of us to see how he’s doing.”
Clive, always scuttling outside to his farm or hiding in his brown chair, seems to be a milquetoast, but his chapters reveal a kindly, contemplative man with surprising prescience.
Mark’s death sets Sadie and Tinley on the title’s eponymous Maranatha road as they come to terms with the tragedy. Loosely translated, “maranatha,” means “the Lord, or hope, is coming.” At the outset, neither Tinley nor Sadie believe that they will ever again experience hope. Increasingly desperate for a relationship like she shared with her parents, Tinley repeatedly encounters disappointment. Sadie, even more possessive with Mark’s memory than his life, blames Clive for taking up too much space in her life. Their first steps on Maranatha Road are not auspicious.
Befitting her plot line, Adams’ prose is sparse, yet abounds with color and symbols adding unexpected texture and unity. The garnet, deep red with golden flecks within, provides the story with touching parallels. Shortly after they married, Clive discovered a chunk of dirt that he recognized as a garnet. He had the rock cut and polished for Sadie, but, rather than having a ring or pendant made, she secreted the stone in a drawer. About finding a girl like Maddie, Mark says, “It’s like how it must be
to find a big garnet when you’re not expecting anything but dirt.” Garnets, mined in Western North Carolina, are especially suited to the story’s theme of family and home.
Adams uses roads to knit her story together. Leading to and from Maranatha Road, the road that Clive and Sadie live on, are flooded roads tossing vehicles into raging rivers and roads that “curl around the land like fingers closing in a tight fist” before opening onto a valley. Mark considers the town a metaphor for his illness, “I’ve always liked the way Garnet’s an in-between place.” But, he laments about the steep roads approaching the town, “before long, you’re headed back up or back down.”
As they travel along their respective roads, Tinley and Sadie encounter hairpin curves, bruising bumps, and hills so steep that the top is invisible. Occasionally, though, they are encouraged by a lovely spacious avenue, so they journey on.
Heather Bell Adams is from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and now lives in Raleigh with her husband and son. She won the 2016 James Still Fiction Prize, and her short fiction appears in the Thomas Wolfe Review, Clapboard House, Pembroke Magazine, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. “Maranatha Road”, her first novel won the Knoxville Writers’ Guild Contest.
Learn more about Heather and her upcoming events or contact her at heatherbelladams.com
View from my Catio
(Tuxedo Cat Par Excellence)
Greetings Friends and Fans:
Over the last 80 years, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon (believe it or not), Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan (via his wife Nancy), George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama (via a videotape) addressed the Boy Scouts Jamboree with the aplomb and dignity expected from a President of the United States.
Then along comes rumpy-trump to take a dump of gargantuan proportions. No surprise there. Then he blatantly lied no surprise there either) about Boy Scout leaders calling to praise his speech when, in reality, Chief Scout Executive Mike Surgaugh wrote a letter of apology “distancing the Scouts from Trump.
What I find fascinating about rumpy-trump’s dumps is the equally gargantuan effort to explain what he really meant or what really happened. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “I wouldn’t say it was a lie . . . .The conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call . . . . He had them in person after the speech.”
Really? Were you there to confirm your claim?
If you’re looking for an honorable job in the cleaning up department, Sarah dear, I strongly suggest that you apply for a position in the Budweiser Clydesdale stables. Their massive rear ends won’t be all that much different than what you’re viewing now, and you won’t have to tongue tie yourself explaining the gargantuan dumps. They are what they are!!
Purrs and creams,