The Endling’s Miraculous Roots

This month my miracles are compacted. At the time I did not see how some of the things that happened to me were miraculous. But I have been shown they were. Rather it was traumatic, or loving, miracles were afoot. Many memories became the bones of a novel, and with God’s miraculous gift of imagination, became the roots of the Endling. Below is a true article I wrote for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s magazine on the impetus for The Endling.

Smoke snaked slowly upward from three smoldering crosses atop the hill. Scattered between them, abandoned bright plastic toys.

Only one week before my grandmother and I had visited the home on the hill to invite the family to church and the children to Vacation Bible School. With our approach, the youngsters left their play to scurry behind their aproned mother who greeted us on the porch. Shy and polite, she accepted the number to Granny’s party line, thanked us for the invitation, but made no commitments.

Now we sat at the bottom of the rocky drive looking up, disgust, fear, sadness, and confusion gripping us. Visions of the terror that must have taken place, fed a live stream of horror through my head. Even at eight years old, I knew what happened. Men concealed in white sheets with cone-shaped hats, stormed their home, planted three huge crosses, issued death threats if they didn’t leave, and used their evil torches to light a sacrilege of Calvary Hill.

Granny gripped the steering wheel with one hand and the gear shift with the other, praying aloud. “Lord God, I ain’t a tall sure what to do here. Am I risking our lives if I go up there and check on those folks? Will the Klan see us and come after us too?” My sister and I sat in silence, biting our fingernails. When Granny got a clear signal from above, she jammed the gear shift into first and stomped on the gas. Faster than the week before we bounced up the steep drive and passed those smoldering symbols of hate, that would forever be burned into my memory.

Granny ordered, “Stay put,” as she exited and approached the house. Knocking hard, the door swung open under her pressure.

The family had left during the night or early morning. The abandoned toys, and the charred crosses stood testament all summer. I returned home to start third grade, still perplexed that my low percentage of native blood did not expose me to the same violence.

Summers were spent, half with my widowed Granny and half with grandparents that had huge acreage, a farm, and sawmill. During those wonderful months in the heart of Virginia, I created even deeper bonds with nature and respect for all of God’s creations. Riding on the tractor seat, in front of my grandfather, we stopped before lowering the equipment and stood in silence. Grandfather taught that the “old ways” meant you offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for the harvest to come. He allowed me to pinch tobacco from his pouch and sprinkle it in respect for the yield that would return. Lunches in the deep shade were ended eating a hoecake with homemade jelly. When whitetail deer peeked at us from the edges of the forest, Grandfather, a man of few words, would nod and say, “that’s the Lord’s way of reminding us to observe quietly.”

Back at school that fall I discovered, “My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George. It became embedded in my core. Having always built playhouses and teepees in the woods. now I wanted to live like Sam in the hollow of a huge tree and survive on mushrooms and acorn flour. But most of all I wanted to belong to the forest as much as the forest belonged to me. From the time I took my first steps, I’m told my pockets were never without a stone, a feather or a beautiful leaf.

When reality forced me to accept that I would not duplicate Sam’s life, I imagined it instead. My heart told me that one day the time would come and I would pen the story of a lone woman thriving in God’s natural cathedral and seeing His majesty in everything.

In The Endling, the character of Emerson Grace is the last of her tribe. Bigotry and bullying having created a lifetime of welcome isolation. Her wise and loving guardian Grandfather has prepared her for life in the three mountains she inherits. She chooses a secluded life that allows her to be in harmony with the magnificence of nature.

Writing The Endling, fleshing out a strong, solitary, spiritual, female that is forced to face a crisis, seemed like penning a tale I have known all of my life. The figural characters resemble a composite of my ancestors. Some events bare the bones of true happenings.

Every day behind the keyboard felt like coming home to the best of the best and the worst of the worst of my childhood. Heart learnings that were buried, germinated, fertilized, and grew, became ready to harvest with maturity. And I am profoundly grateful.
On May 11, 2021, I knew it was all miraculous as I held The Endling in my hands.

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    The Conversation

  1. Deborah (also) says:

    Tank you for sharing the birth of your wonderful book as it endears the book to my heart even deeper. Hearing your stories and reading The Endling makes me more appreciative and longing for the richness of a close family. I am thankful that from storytelling I get a chance to see and “be a part of” a fictional family.

    • Deborah Maxey says:

      Deborah, books have been my family all my life. From first to twelfth grade I attended 21 schools. Long about the third grade, little “book worm” me made one of the first stops in every school the library. I looked for my friends, my family there. Over time I lost touch with my elementary then middle school friends and family in the library but I never forgot them and still recall the great books I’ve read at every stage of life. Because I almost never had lunch money or a packed lunch, being “the new girl,” I spent alone time with my literary family in the library during lunch breaks. I know now that all of that was miraculous too. It served to make me who I am. In the dedication of The Endling, I write about what a huge difference books make in the warp and woof of the tapestry of my life. I am forever grateful that you have added Emerson, Grandfather, Hattie, Madeline, Rick, Deetsy, Bunny and Miah to your family 🙂 Thank you so much for posting.

  2. Martha Wiseman says:

    Thank you Deborah for writing this book. I am halfway through it and it is very hard to put down. I look forward to more books in the future!

    • Deborah Maxey says:

      It sounds trite, but thank you for thanking me. I took long moments to let that sink in. It’s such a blessing. As for not putting it down…well that’s just awesome too! I appreciate your post and if this book sells well my chances of getting the sequels published improve greatly ( I have #2 finished and # 3 in my head developing). Bless you and thank you.

  3. Teresa A Moyer says:

    Thank you for sharing…I need to get this book and read it!

    • Deborah Maxey says:

      Oh, Teresa, I hope you do and if you do please get back to me and let me know what you think. Thank you for your comment!