My late mother described her teenage years during the 1930s as “the good old days.” Despite the Great Depression, she liked to reminisce about how pleasant and simple life was for our family in the small semi-rural town of Toxey, Alabama. I was fascinated by some of her stories. The people she grew up around and their way of life inspired me to write Mrs. Wiggins, the first novel in my new three-book series.
My parents and grandparents were sharecroppers. The people they worked for paid them decent money and treated them with the utmost respect, so they felt blessed. They felt even more blessed because they had their health, a lot of friends, and the support of their church.
On the days when the men did not have to work, they went fishing or hunting. They would also get together to boast about everything, from whose pecan tree produced more rapidly to who made the best cider. The women had a lot of ways to “entertain” themselves, too. They organized quilting bees and listened to gospel programs on the radio. When the weather was warm, they gathered on someone’s porch and shared information about sales, clothing patterns, recipes, and upcoming social gatherings, such as weddings and baptisms. My mother’s favorite pastimes were picking blackberries and attending choir practice, where she enjoyed mingling with members of her church family who lived so far away, she only saw them at church.
The highlight of each year was the annual county fair, which sometimes included everything from hog-calling contests to bareback mule rides. Mama and her twelve younger siblings enjoyed them all. And she cherished the ribbons and other prizes she received for her homemade blackberry pies and apple jelly. But nothing made her beam more than winning the first-place prize (a dollar) for one of her handmade quilts when she was sixteen.
Life was so uncomplicated back then. Even finding a spouse was not nearly as difficult as it is now. My mother told me that when it came time to get married, most marriages were “arranged” by the families anyway, so there was always somebody for everybody.
Prestige and security were important. Girls coveted men who had the most to offer. Preachers, schoolteachers, and undertakers were at the top of the pecking order. But those positions were at a premium. Most of the Black men were sharecroppers, mill workers, and servants.
My mother’s father’s best friend had two sons around her age. They attended church every Sunday and even shared the same pew with my mother’s family. When it was decided that it would benefit everyone involved for the two families to merge, the parents made sure that my mother and my father got together. She was sixteen and he was eighteen on their wedding day. My father was a sharecropper and a sawmill worker.
“What if a girl didn’t love the man her folks chose for her, or what if he was not attractive?” I asked my mother when I was sixteen. Mama had a simple answer to my question, and she said it with a wink: “If her folks liked him and he was a good provider, that was what mattered the most. Love and good looks don’t pay bills.” She confessed that she’d had her eye on my father since she was ten years old. Her dream was to be a happily married woman until the day she died. And she was.
MARY MONROE, the daughter of sharecroppers, is the author of the award-winning and New York Times best-selling God series, which includes God Don’t Like Ugly and God Don’t Make No Mistakes, among other novels. Winner of the AAMBC Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award, the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and the UCAAB J. California Cooper Memorial Award, Mary Monroe currently lives in Oakland, California. She loves to hear from her readers via e-mail at AuthorAuthor5409@aol.com. Visit Mary’s website at MaryMonroe.org.
Reminiscent of her captivating, scandalous Mama Ruby series, New York Times best-selling author Mary Monroe crafts a story set in the Deep South during the Depression, in this tale of a woman determined to have a respectable life—no matter what it costs to keep it ….
Coming from a difficult upbringing, Maggie Franklin knew her only way out was to marry someone upstanding and church-going. Someone like Hubert Wiggins, the most eligible man in Lexington, Alabama—and the son of its most revered preacher. Proper and prosperous, Hubert is glad to finally have a wife, even one with Maggie’s background. For Hubert has a secret he desperately needs to stay hidden. And Maggie’s unexpected charm, elegance, and religious devotion makes her the perfect partner in lies.
Their surprising union makes the Wigginses the town’s most envied couple—complete with a son, Claude, whom Maggie idolizes. Until he falls in love with the worst possible fiancée. Terrified, Maggie won’t let Daisy destroy her son. And when her employer’s brother harasses her, Maggie knows something needs to be done about him as well. In fact, she realizes there are an awful lot of sinning “disruptive” people who should be eliminated from her perfect world.
But the more Maggie tries to take control, the more obstacles are thrown in her way. And when it seems like the one person whom she always expected to be there is starting to drift away, Maggie will play one final, merciless game to secure what she’s fought so hard to earn.