“I rode to earth on the backside of a comet. Mau Mau Bett saw me blaze across the sky and disappear into the moon, where I reined in the comet with my strong arms, tightened my thighs to make the comet turn, then scorched back across the sky…”
And so begins the historical, biographical novel Truth by Jacqueline Sheehan, an account of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned abolitionist that one reviewer calls “a feat of literary ventriloquism.”
In my last post, I mentioned the “wildly talented raft of authors” that calls Maine home – some of them native sons and daughters, some of them visitors. Sheehan counts herself as one of those
who visits Peaks Island to draw from that Maine muse. Three weeks ago, Jacqueline, a Western Massachussetts resident, retreated to Peaks to write. Sometimes, she burrowed in for hours of solitary writing; other times Nicole d’Entremont‘s Sudden Fiction class welcomed her into their group.
The publication of Truth in 2003 first brought Sheehan to my attention. I never would have imagined sitting together on Peaks Island and chatting over two mugs of hot tea. She and I commiserated on the intensity of trying to “do justice” to real historical protagonists, especially women who have been largely marginalized by history. “That’s how my second novel started,” Jacqueline said. “These other characters kept slipping out while I was writing Truth. It was good medicine.”
That “good medicine” became Lost and Found, a novel that follows a psychologist who relocates to (a fictionalized version of) Peaks Island, Maine to become an animal warden when her husband suddenly dies. Lost and Found‘s cover – with a design that you simply can’t walk by if you love dogs – encloses a mystery that delights its readers.
Her third novel, Now and Then, lures us into the fantasy genre, a time travel into the past. Regardless of genre, Sheehan’s books transport us to distant places, times, and emotional landscapes.
Given that Sheehan wrote parts of all of her novels on Peaks Island, it’s not surprising that her current project, a sequel to Lost and Found, returns to Peaks Island as a setting. “I knew I wasn’t done with those characters, or rather, they weren’t done with me.”
With our tea finished and dark clouds threatening, I climbed aboard my bike and said only a goodbye “for now” to Jacqueline. She plans to return to Peaks to attend the Maine Reads Festival in April. We’ll look forward to her return!