A highly praised historical novel by former Redding resident Stacia Brown will come out in paperback in early February, following its debut last year.
Accidents of Providence, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, is Brown’s first novel. It has earned praise from O, The Oprah Magazine, the Historical Novels Society, and starred reviews from Library Journal and Kirkus, among other literary critics.
The book follows the story of Rachel Lockyer, a fictional character borrowed from a true story in 1651 about a woman sentenced to hang for killing her infant.
“I like to interweave historical and fictional characters so closely in a narrative that you cannot easily separate them, that you cannot easily tell where the history ends and where the fiction begins,” said Brown, who attended high school in Redding, graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, and earned graduate degrees in religion and historical theology from Emory University.
The setting of the book is 1649. A new law that targets unwed mothers and lewd women presumes anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder. The Levellers, a small faction of agitators, are calling for rights to the people. Rachel Lockyer, an unmarried glove maker, and Leveller William Walwyn are locked in a secret affair. But when a child is found buried in the woods, Rachel is arrested.
From there, one injustice after another fires into the investigation and at the public trial. Memorable characters include gouty investigator Thomas Bartwain, fiery Elizabeth Lilburne and her revolution-chasing husband, Huguenot glover Mary Du Gard, Katherine Chidley, religious writer, haberdasher, and political activist. Spinning within are Rachel and William.
“I loved exploring and imaging the lives of ordinary women—women who weren’t rich or of royal or noble birth—and to think about how they navigated their moral world and made decisions,” she said.
In its review of Accidents of Providence, the Library Journal noted, “Debut novelist Brown has woven an absorbing tale…her story reveals a rich knowledge of the era along with memorable characters, sharp, period-worthy dialog, and a poignant love story…This is the best kind of historical fiction—a combination of love story and murder mystery, with a sprinkling of intriguing historical snippets and wonderful writing.”
Brown, who is working on a second historical novel, juggles writing time with the demands of a job as Emory University School of Medicine’s director of development for clinical programs.
She describes the creative process as one where the work itself often presents dilemmas—compositional or otherwise—that the writer never anticipated.
“The process of writing entails solving or addressing those problems to the extent that your talents and abilities allow, to the extent that the form of your own life allows,” she said. “I think this happens in every creative work to a certain extent. It’s not solving those that are important so much as the attempt—taking a step back and eyeballing it and then moving forward. That’s what makes the work so interesting.”
For more information on Brown and Accidents of Providence, visit staciabrown.com. The paperback version is available for pre-order through online booksellers such as Amazon.
-from press release
Note- Stacia Brown is the sister of Candace L. Brown, a Redding journalist whose work is familiar to anewscafe.com readers.