Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Echoes of the Past with Edith Maxwell's Quaker Midwife #7

HALLIE EPHRON: It’s always a pleasure to welcome Edith Maxwell to talk about her latest. And she has so much good news right now — with her 6th Quaker Midwife mystery starring Quaker midwife Roe Carroll (Taken Too Soon) nominated for an Agatha — and her 7th in that series, A Changing Light, published yesterday.

For the record, she also writes Country Store Mysteries featuring chef/carpenter Robbie Jordan (written as Maddie Day), Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries with bike shop owner Mac Almeida and the Cozy Capers Book Group on Cape Cod (written as Maddie Day), Local Foods Mysteries with farmer Cam Flaherty, and Lauren Rousseau Mysteries with Quaker linguistics prof Lauren Rousseau (written as Tace Baker).

She is... amazing. And her new book, A Changing Light, is not to be missed -- it's the final one in what she calls the “series of my heart.” 

I’ll let her tell you why...

EDITH MAXWELL: Thank you so much, Hallie, for welcoming me back to the Jungle Reds, one of my very favorite blog communities. I’m delighted to celebrate yesterday’s release of A Changing Light with everyone here.

Rhys knows that when a historical novelist noodles ideas for a new book, we dig around for what might have been happening in the world, in a region, in the culture at the time we want to set the book.

Taken Too Soon, my Agatha-nominated sixth Quaker Midwife Mystery, took place in early fall, 1889. Midwife Rose Carrol – now Dodge, as the book opens minutes after her marriage to her beloved David – solves a murder on Cape Cod during her curtailed honeymoon. (When I learned that West Falmouth, where I go on solo writing retreat twice a year, was a hotbed of Quakers at the time, I knew Rose had to visit.)

I wanted to end this series of my heart back in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where all the rest of the books take place. (Yes, A Changing Light is the last book. More on that later.) I’d read about the annual Spring Opening, when Amesbury’s world-famous carriage factories opened their doors to the public. Festivities went on for a week, including balls and parades.
[picture of Coaching Parade article, used with permission by Amesbury Carriage Museum]

But what more widespread historical or cultural thing was going on in March, 1890? Ah. That would be the infamous disease without a cure or a vaccine – tuberculosis. It was rampant and devastating. I dug around for information and happened across Robert Goetz’s The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis.

The title, of course, dropped my jaw, literally. TB and the creator of Sherlock Holmes? After I read the book cover to cover (I highly recommend it), I started to write. A local woman, a former president of the Amesbury Carriage Museum, had been the high bidder at a museum fundraiser on naming rights to a character in the series. I was delighted to make Mary Chatigny into Dr. Chatigny, lady tuberculosis specialist.

I wrote scenes where people are concerned about public spitting, and I included mention of the New York City public health department’s ban on the practice. Rose is concerned when she meets a friend who looks ill and is coughing in public. We hear about the town’s police chief having to go off to the new sanitarium in Saranac Lake, New York, for the cure. Mind you, I wrote this book last summer. Yes, summer 2020, when another disease without a cure or a vaccine was devastating families and businesses, an illness also spread by exhaled particles. You all know.

We authors have heard readers say they don’t want to read novels set in COVID-19 days. We’re all scrambling to set our contemporary novels either before 2020 or vaguely after. With this book, I could write about a pandemic, just not the current one. I could bring in a hint of those feelings of fear and helplessness we’ve all had. An echo of the present in the past.

Other changes go on around Rose even as she works to solve the murder of a Canadian visitor to town. The horse-drawn trolley is being electrified. There are murmurs about motorcars. Rose has changes in her personal life, too, some painful, some filled with joy.

Because this is the last Quaker Midwife Mystery, I brought back most of the characters named after other naming rights winners in previous books: Frannie Eisenman, Jonathan Sherwood, Catherine Toomey, and Marie Deorocki. I also brought back Jeanette Papka, the blind woman modeled closely on my longtime friend (and Friend) Jeanne Papka Smith, who starred in Judge Thee Not (my guest post here was about Jeanne).

But wait, you say. Why end the series? Charity’s Burden, book four, won the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel only last year! Book six is also nominated, results to be announced at Virtual Malice in July.


Here’s why. I have loved writing these books. Channeling my Quaker faith into Rose has been a joy. Learning everything I can about my town and living in the late eighteen-hundreds never fails to satisfy. Making the elderly John Greenleaf Whittier a supporting character has been fun. And the readers who love this series adore it.

But there aren’t enough of those fans. I make very little money on these books. It comes down to a business decision. At this point in my authorial career, I’m not willing to spend a third of my year every year writing for love and not sales. And I’m pleased that I ended the series on my own terms, with Rose and David in a good place. All’s right in their world for the moment.

If you are one of my Rose Carrol uber-fans, I’m sorry. But you never know. She has starred in Agatha-nominated short stories before (scoot to minute 21 here and watch me read “The Mayor and the Midwife” from Blood on the Bayou). She might well again.

HALLIE: We’d love it if you join Edith and me in an online chat about A Changing Light next week on April 22 at 7 pm EDT. There will be door prizes! For information and to register: https://edithmaxwell.com/event/a-changing-light-launch-party/ 

Readers: Did any of your forebearers contract TB? Have you mourned the end of a beloved series? I’ll gladly send one commenter an ebook version of A Changing Light. I’ll also send anyone a signed bookplate if you own an unsigned copy of any of my books. Write to me at edith@edithmaxwell.com with your snail mail address and let me know which book or books you’d like a signature for and if you’d like the bookplate endorsed..

About A Changing Light: Midwife Rose Carroll sees signs of progress and change everywhere. Her New England mill town presents its 1890 annual Spring Opening, when world-famous carriage manufacturers throw open their doors to visitors from all over the globe. This year’s festivities are tainted when a representative from a prominent Canadian carriage company is murdered and plans for a radical new horseless carriage go missing. Faced with the question of whether the two crimes are connected—and a list of suspects that includes some of Amesbury’s own residents and any number of foreign visitors—Rose delves into a case with implications for the future, even if the motive for murder is one of mankind’s oldest.

Agatha Award-winning author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell is a member of Mystery Writers of America and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. She lives with her beau and maniac cat north of Boston, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. She hopes you’ll find her at Edith M. Maxwell and Maddie Day Author.

73 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Edith, on your newest book. While it’s sad to know it will be the last in the series, it does sound as if it will be a special story indeed . . . .

    To the best of my knowledge, none of my ancestors contracted tuberculosis but I’m certain those days must have been much the same as the ones we’ve had as we deal with this pandemic; surely it was a concern for everyone . . . .

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    1. Thank you, Joan. They were hard times, indeed.

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  2. EDITH: Congratulations on the release of A CHANGING LIGHT!

    I am reading it right now. It is fun seeing this new chapter in Rose and David's lives, as well as learning how the horseless carriage will change society in the 1890s. I did smile when I saw that the Canadian couple came from Ottawa, Ontario. Although I am sad that the Quaker Midwife series is ending, at least you are able to bring back all the fave characters and hopefully end the book in a satisfactory manner. The scenes were people are coughing and the police chief going away to the sanitarium for the cure brought enough realism about how these diseases were treated.

    Yes, my maternal grandmother contracted TB and died at the age of 39 in Japan. I don't know any other details except that my mother had to raise her 3 younger siblings (she was 19).

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    1. How sad about your grandmother. And that's a lot for a nineteen-year-old to take on.

      Ottawa - with both you and my sister living there, it sprang to mind! ;^)

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    2. EDITH/ROBERTA: Thanks. My parents did not speak much about what it was like living in post-WWII Japan. I know that the rationing and other restrictions continued for many years into the 1950s.

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  3. Edith, I'm so excited to read this book. While I'll mourn that it's the last, I totally understand your reasons.

    As for TB, my mom and dad raised one of my cousins from age 6 months to 6 years because her mother contracted TB and was in a sanitarium all that time. Thankfully, she survived although I remember her being very frail for the remainder of her life.

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    1. Thank you, Annette. Six years in a sanitarium is a long time!

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  4. Edith, though I wished you a happy book birthday yesterday on Facebook, let me say it a day later here on JRW as well.

    It's always a great bit of news when I see that you have a new book coming out and the publication of A CHANGING LIGHT is no exception. I am saddened to see that it will be the last book in the series but I think I had an idea this was coming from the title and through our talks at a couple of signings I attended. I am saddened by the news however. But I'm glad to see there's a chance of short story appearances in the future.

    I don't know if I've had any relatives in the past that had to deal with TB, I'm not the genealogist of the family or anything (that would've been my late parents).

    Have I mourned the end of a beloved series? Well, not including your Quaker Midwife series NOW, there was a series that I really enjoyed and was sorry to see end (oddly, for pretty much the same reason you are ending yours). It was the White House Chef mystery series by Julie Hyzy. It was just such a wonderful set of books that reading that last book was just a bummer.

    Also, the unplanned endings of Sheila Connolly's series is sad. I still have a bunch of books to read in those series since I was a latecomer to all of them but knowing the end is nigh for those adventures (and without an official ending) is not something I'm looking forward to either.

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    1. Thank you, Jay.

      Yes, I was also sad when the White House Chef series ended, and all of Sheila's, of course. I remember how sad I was to finish the last Dorothy L. Sayers book and knowing there wouldn't be any more.

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    2. JAY: I was also sad when the White House Chef series ended. That was a "book for hire" contract that Berkley initiated and ended. And since Berkley "owned" the rights, she could not continue the White House Chef series on her own. That is partly why Julie switched from cozies to writing thrillers.

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  5. Congratulations on both the release of and the nomination for "A Changing Light"! So exciting and so very well deserved.

    Love the way you research your books to make them so authentic that one feels like they have been zipped back in time to personally experience the time, the discovers, the prejudices and the difficulties of the time. I, personally, fell in love with Rose from book one. Sad to hear her story will end with this book, but also understand your decision.

    Sadly, I had to miss the release party last night, but sure got high hopes of attending the one on the 22nd.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Thank you so much, Kay, and hope we see you on the 22nd!

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  6. Congratulations on your book birthday, Edith. It is sad to see the end of a series but you are ending it on your own terms. It will take a while for me to catch up with all of your series, (being kind of late to mysteries) but I accept the challenge. Good luck with the award nomination!

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    1. Thank you, Judy. I hope you enjoy settling in with my books as you can.

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  7. Congratulations on A CHANGING LIGHT. I am so sorry to see the end of this series, but completely understand the reasons. I felt the same way when Margaret Maron ended the Bootlegger's Daughter series. I was happy for her, and for you, that you were both able to do it on your own terms.

    As far as I know, my family managed to escape TB. How terrifying it must have been. I didn't know the origin of the "no spitting" signs I remember seeing from my days traveling the New York subway! I thought they were there for courtesy and common sense. Very interesting!

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    1. I thought it was interesting, too, Kait.

      And thank you. It wasn't an easy decision.

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  8. Congrats on the new book Edith, and condolences on the loss of the series. Even if it was the right move! I loved the White House chef series, and also Ann Cleeves' Shetland books. I still miss them! And not to mention that two of my earlier series were ended by the publisher, the golf lovers mysteries and the advice column mysteries. Those felt like losing dear friends as well!

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    1. Thanks, Roberta. Yes, your earlier series (which I read and loved) and the Shetland books. So rich.

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  9. Happy book birthday, Edith. It's sad to see the series end, but, as you say, it's on your terms.

    I have no person knowledge that any of my relatives ever had TB, but then much of my family history is shrouded, especially on my dad's side. My grandfather broke with his family because of their alcoholism. But my aunt has done research on my mother's side and she's never mentioned anything about TB.

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  10. Oh Edith, of all the books you and Maddie write, the Quaker Midwife series is my favorite! Very sad to see it end. I had expected to start reading the book today since I had preordered it ages ago. But no - for some reason it won't show up here until Saturday. Oh well, anticipation is good.

    When my mother was in college in the early 1940s the medical people there determined that she had TB and so she had to drop out. Her family took her all over to different doctors, sanitariums and specialists who finally told her that no, she didn't have TB, had never had TB. So that was a big relief but she never did go back to college, got married and had me and my siblings instead. Although she never knew exactly what happened she always thought somehow her records got mixed up with someone else's.

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    1. Thanks so much, Judi - and sorry!

      What a shame your mom didn't go back to college. Mixed up medical records are dangerous (and the reason I've had two hand surgeries instead of one...).

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    2. Oh my goodness, Edith and Judi: mixed up medical records! How awful (but could it be the seed for a mystery?)...

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  11. Edith, I was very pleased to find A Changing Light on my tablet yesterday. I’m now very sad to learn that it will be the last in the series but I understand.
    I think there is a cosmic connection between your books and me. Some years ago, I told you that my father was born in Rose’s town of Amesbury, during the years my grandfather worked in the USA. What I didn’t tell is that his name ( and mine ) is Chatigny, as the one you wrote in this post.
    In addition, I’ve read your Country Store series in the last months in which Robbie’s mother Jeannine died on January 16th as my mother Jeannine did. Very special, don’t you think ?

    I’m not aware of TB problems in my family.

    I’m always sad at the end of a series because , usually when immersed in a series , I feel like losing friends. I’ll have to come back to name some but for now I have to go.

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    1. Wow, Danielle-momo - that gave me goosebumps! I will tell Mary, although it's her husband's name.

      Thank you for reading and loving my books.

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    2. DANIELLE: Wow, that is eerie about your mother Jeannine.

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  12. Congratulations on your book release. I know fans will be sad to see the series end, but I do like that it is on your terms.

    I don't know of any relatives that had TB.

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  13. Congratulations and sorry at the same time, Edith! I can imagine how hard it is to give up something you love, but, on the other hand, I'm pretty sure that vacuum is already buzzing with ideas for new series (plural, knowing your productivity!).

    I miss Sheila Connolly's Ireland series--the more because the ending was so unexpected. And Ann Cleeves' Shetland series. Also Pat McIntosh's historical mysteries set in 15th century Scotland. The last one certainly read as if she planned it to be the final book. And, sob, Morse. And Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series, although I love that final book with it's focus on her parents.

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    1. Thank you, Flora.

      So many series to miss! I haven't read the Scotland books - will check them out.

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  14. I'd only just started A Changing Light when I discovered by reading this post that it was to be the last in this remarkable series. So now I am determined to read it v-e-r-y slowly...

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  15. Edith: mega congratulations on your latest release the award nominations, and also condolences on the ending of this beloved series. But, as others have said, closing it off on your own terms must be satisfying for you.

    I didn't realize that you had so many pen names; I have some investigating and reading to do! Thank you.

    I just re-read favourite series that have ended, thus not ever losing those friends I've made on the page. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Amanda. Actually, I have re-released the two Lauren Rousseau Mysteries as Edith Maxwell books.

      Glad you can find pleasure rereading.

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    2. Devoured the two Re-releases of Lauren Rousseau. Thank you for “claiming” them as EdithMaxwell. A fond farewell to Rose and David and all those Amesbury folks.

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    4. I also enjoyed reading the Lauren Rousseau mysteries last year. I am glad that Beyond the Page Publishing agreed to re-release them under your name.

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  16. Well, that was a tough decision, I know. I'm a book behind, and was fretting about it a bit, but now I will savor the last two books even more.

    Your body of work is so impressive, Edith, and this is most definitely a series you can be proud of. Finishing it on your own terms is a glittering bonus.

    Whenever I read the Rose Carroll series I always picture her as a young Edith. Which of your main characters do you identify with most, or is there a bit of you in all of them?

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    1. Oh my gosh, what a question, Karen! But first, thank you for your kind words and for reading my stories. I am terribly proud of this series.

      But, um, I modeled Rose physically on a midwife I had for my second son's birth. Peggy (not a Quaker) was tallish, slim, dark-haired, and with the calmest presence you could imagine. None of which I've been except dark-haired, and I wasn't a Quaker until I was nearly forty.

      The real answer is that there's a little bit of me and my experiences in all my protagonists, and a lot that comes out of my imagination, which has been on overdrive since I was a child.

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    2. A friend here in Ohio is a nurse midwife, and an old hippie, and she is also super-duper calm and unflappable. I'm sure she soothed many a delivering mother!

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  17. Congratulations on the new book. I know that you all write for love but that sadly love does not fill the larders. I admire your decision and maybe you can thin of her as just being in the wings.

    As to TB, I don't remember any stories of an ancestor who had it but when i was little, not yet in school, a women who lived down the street got TB and went west either Arizona or Colorado, to get better. Her son was in the same elementary school as my sister so my mother drove him back and forth to school every daly with my sister and I think he would come back to play some afternoons until his father came to pick him up. His mother did get better and came home but I think it was at least a year.

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    1. What hard times for families TB presented, Atlanta.

      Thank you - who knows, maybe there will be another Rose book when she's a mature midwife with a passel of children at home!

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  18. Edith, I’m so sorry the series is coming to an end. I need to get caught up on reading the books. I think I’m about halfway through the series.

    My maternal grandmother had TB in the early 1940s. She was in and out of TB hospitals for about two and a half years. She recovered and lived to 83! My mom’s youngest sibling was in 8th or 9th grade when my grandmother first got sick. My grandfather worked 3 to 11 for the railroad, so he wasn’t home when my uncle got out of school. From what I understand, other members of the family (my mom’s other siblings and their spouses) helped out by having him at one of their homes after school. I think sometimes he slept over. (My mom was still single then and commuted to a job out of town.) He was well taken care of and grew up to be one of my favorite people in the world!

    By the way, my grandmother passed the time in the hospital by reading non-stop! She especially enjoyed reading about faraway places, probably because they were so different from what she was living at the time. She rarely spoke to us grandkids about her time in the hospital. I do remember, though, that she couldn’t understand why other patients would complain about being bored, instead of reading!

    DebRo

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I love that your grandmother was a reader (and that she survived)! Seriously no reason to be bored when you have books.

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  19. I'm sad that this is the final book in your Rose Carroll series, but am glad that you were able to finish this series on your terms. And, Rose's stories are definitely re-readable.

    My Father-in-Law was born in a very small town in Central Texas and was diagnosed with tuberculosis as a boy in the 1930's. The cure was rest and lots of milk. He and his family moved to a sanitarium in West Texas where he had to stay almost nine months. In a strange aside, my Mother-in-Law was diagnosed with tuberculosis twenty years ago, and they removed a part of her lung, after which it was determined that she did not have tuberculosis ~

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    1. I'm glad you find the books good for repeated reads! How odd that they had to remove part of a lung to find out she did NOT have TB.

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  20. Congratulations on the release of your book, Edith, but I'm sad to hear it is the last! I will read very slowly, and savor, and hope to see Rose again, maybe in short stories or a novella.

    No TB in my family history that I know of, but the history of the disease is fascinating.

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    1. Thank you, Debs. YThe history is fascinating - especially Conan Doyle's role in searching for a cure!

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  21. I should add that TB is still with us, in new forms that are more difficult to treat. A subsidiary character in my series, the lawyer who is the executor of little Charlotte's estate, has been diagnosed with TB.

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  22. I have never read any of Edith's books, but after this essay, I think I have to hunt them down!

    My father had a sister who died of TB on her 20th birthday, in 1936. Her husband also had TB. So much has improved since then!

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    1. I hope you do, Liz!

      Sad about your aunt. TB definitely hit anyone.

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  23. I'm sure it was a hard decision to end the series. Glad you got to do it on your terms.

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  24. It's so hard to let a series that you love go, Edith. I'm delighted you were able to end it with a story you are so invested in. But also, you never know when a series will come back and demand to be written. I have learned to never say never :)

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  25. I'm glad you got to end your series on your own terms Edith. As for TB, my favorite aunt had it. I don't really know when, 30s or 40s, but she did check into a sanitorium for a while. That was here in Texas, and researching it, there appears to have been quite a few hospitals set up for TB in the state. As kids my cousin and I ran across a scrapbook she had made during her time there. She'd written happy poems and illustrated them, some dedicated to the nurses there.

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  26. I walked away from my first series - it wasn't all that hard when I took a hard look at what I was making (per hour, per word, whatevah) ...

    And the best man at my wedding was diagnosed with TB soon after. He was really sick for quite some time and lived to tell about it. For a long time after, my husband and I were tested periodically to see if we'd caught it. Fortunately not.

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  27. Fortunately, Hallie! Thanks again for welcoming me to the blog today.

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  28. Congratulations, Edith, on A Changing Light. I'm behind in the series, but it is so historically interesting, and Rose is such a great character. It's sad news to many that this book is the last one, but I have to agree with your reasoning on it. I am, however, surprised that it isn't a best selling series. So much good stuff there.

    The only connection to TB I've had was a false scare. My sister Jerrye Jo (who is now sadly deceased) went to the doctor about something when she was in college and some tests were run. I was eight years younger than she, so I was probably around twelve or thirteen. I remember a phone call from our family doctor came and my sister had been diagnosed with TB. Well, I recall my mother and sister being devastated and me wondering about my sister going away to a special hospital for TB. Then, not too long after that call, we received another call from the doctor saying my sister's test results had been mixed up with someone else's and that my sister didn't have TB after all. Talk about relief flowing through our house. Of course, looking back on it, I'm appalled that the doctor's office got it wrong and scared us all so.

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    1. Another case of patient record mixup. What a blessing your sister was fine! And thank you for your kind words.

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  29. Congratulations on your new release and I'm sorry to see the series end. My uncle Joey died when I was quite young and my Mom told us he had pneumonia, but after his funeral we all had to get tested for TB. I remember all of us going to the drug store to be tested. Ended up we all tested negative. It's one of the things I remember about my childhood and I don't remember too much.

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    1. Thanks so much, Dianne. Interesting what children get told - and what they don't.

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  30. I just finished A CHANGING LIGHT, and I'm sad it's over, and glad I didn't know until I finished with it. I fully agree with each author's decision about when "it's time" but I'm going to miss all these friends . . . oh, and now I see, there were lessons in the book to prepare one for loss. <3
    OTOH, I've had friends say they wait until a series is completely finished before starting it, so now they can start.
    * I may adopt the ambiguous answer, "I have no MINOR vices." I'm sure there will be many other applications . . .

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    1. Thank you, Mary. A woman I met said that at a bar long ago. I didn't ask...

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  31. Edith..I reviewed A Changing Light on my Blog and at NetGalley https://myainbookblog.blogspot.com/2021/02/achanginglight-netgalley-quaker-midwife.html Am now putting it on B&N and Amazon. I have bought Books 1-4 and ready to get #5 So Enjoyable

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  32. Congratulations, Edith. I loved how your research led to the book.

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