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by Sheila Williams
Fiction / Historical / Civil War Era
The story of a brave and enduring woman as indomitable as Ernest Gaines’ legendary Miss Jane Pittman, in a breathtaking novel that combines the epic romance and adventure of Outlander, the sweeping drama of Roots, and the haunting historical power of Barracoon.
“Emotionally satisfying. . . . A remarkable character portrait.”—Publishers Weekly
Maryam Prescilla Grace is a midwife, born in West Africa around 1758. She has been “gifted” various names, but her birth name is known to her alone. Things Past Telling is a remarkable historical novel that charts Maryam’s journey across an ocean of years, as vast as the Atlantic she crossed when she was only eleven years old. Maryam survives capture, enslavement, and a brief stint as a pirate’s ward where she is both a spy and a translator.
Throughout her triumphant and tumultuous life and across a landscape that spans what is now southern Nigeria to the Ohio River, Maryam gains and loses family, her culture, a husband, lovers, and children. The character is inspired by a 112-year-old woman whom author Sheila Williams discovered in an 1870 US federal census record for Ohio.
Things Past Telling is loosely based on Williams’s real-life female ancestors, from stories told around the Sunday dinner table and clues excavated from historical documents. The exploits of these spirited women are woven like colorful threads into a narrative tapestry of one woman’s life that readers will embrace and carry with them.