The Mending of Lillian Cathleen
It’s 1914. American women are demanding the vote. The first flames of the Great War are igniting Europe. But a battle of a different sort rages in Oklahoma. The thermometer registers one hundred six degrees, an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, even for the twenty-eighth day of July.
But this is no ordinary day. A murder trial has concluded, and the jury has reached a verdict.
The star witness for the prosecution fidgets in the old church pew. She’s lost enough, given more than her share. Hasn’t she? The answer rests in the hands of twelve men. Not a single woman sits among the jurors.
Lily eyes the judge. And the courtroom holds its breath.
~ ~ ~
Two experiences in my young life are branded into my memory. One, hearing the story of the abuse of a family member of another generation. The other, the sight of my brother Dalton the day after he drove his small car under a parked 18-wheeler.
That story of abuse and the image of the brother I knew and loved obscured behind the monstrously injured being in that hospital bed crept into my conscious thoughts as I penned the abuse Lily sustained in The Calling of Ella McFarland and The Mending of Lillian Cathleen.
In the picture above, not far behind me and Jerry, eldest of my three brothers, is an irrigation canal, one of the aspects of the farm that kept Mother on edge. “Stay away from the canal” was her final warning when we’d go out to play.
Beyond the oleanders is a field of rich green. That’s cotton, yet to bloom—the fertile field that birthed the McFarland farm and the field ripe for harvest in The Calling of Ella McFarland. And the dogged rows of cotton where Lily first set eyes on Cade in The Mending of Lillian Cathleen.
The Original Ella Jane
We grandkids called our grandmother Mama. That’s what her four children called her, so we grands did the same. Mama spoke in a whisper-soft voice that contrasted with her stout frame, but her will and faith were made of pure steel. She buried 5 daughters and 2 husbands, yet never lost her faith. She’s standing in this photo with her four surviving children. My mother, Goldie, is on Mama’s right.
Mama arrived in Raymondville, Texas in February 1924 as a widow with a third-grade education and 3 daughters to rear. She and her Pyle clan had traveled from central Oklahoma to the southernmost tip of Texas in a train of covered wagons, quite a traffic stopper in 1924. Mama drove her own team of oxen. Settled in Willacy County, she picked cotton to feed her girls and joined a team of laborers clearing thick, stubborn, grizzly scrub brush from ranch land so it could be tilled for farming. $8 per acre, mind you.
She endured a second marriage to a violent alcoholic whose sole loving act was to bless her with another daughter (who died at age 3) and her only son. She was the first to tell me about life in Indian Territory when I was just a mite.
Pa: What a Man
Twice-widowed, Mama married the kindest, most loving man in the world, and Earl Knox became the only grandfather I knew. He served as the janitor at my elementary school, a distinction of which I made sure everyone was aware. Everyone loved Mr. Knox, my Pa. You can bet I was ever-so possessive of him around my friends. He remains in my memory as a sterling example of gentleness toward everyone and faithful servanthood toward his wife, my Mama.
Moving over for Mother
My mother wore us all out with stories about her family’s hardships and faith and grit. (To say nothing of her tales of rattlesnakes the size of telephone poles, panthers roaming the countryside, tarantulas as big around as dinner plates, and her tottering on the edge of death in childbirth. She never held back on literary license.) Mother would be so proud to see my books, which are covered with our family’s handprints, available to the world. P.S. Her friends would run when they saw her coming.
The Birthing and the Announcement
The cover for The Mending of Lillian Cathleen emerged from the skill and artistry of Evelyne Labelle of Carpe Librum Book Designs.
Credit for putting everything together goes to Suzi Q for You’s Brookstone Publishing Group, topnotch in every way. Thank you, Shawn and Suzanne Kuhn and team!
Celebrate Lit Publicity created a blog tour to announce Mending Lillian‘s birth. And what fabulous results have followed. Thank you, Sandy Womack Barela and Celebrate Lit team!
And from my treasured writing colleagues, Allison Pittman, Kelly Irvin, Ann Tatlock, and Caryl McAdoo—endorsements:
- “Seeped in mystery, Lily’s story unfolds as readers keep peeling back layers of her tortured past. The amazing young woman works out of her comfort zone for women’s suffrage, always concerned for her loved ones. Author Linda Brooks Davis has a beautiful gift with words, putting me in mind of Jane Austen.” —CARYL MCADOO, Christian author of multiple genres including historical family sagas
- “Years after reading Linda Davis’s first book, The Calling of Ella McFarland, I still recall the characters and many of the scenes—a sure indication of the vividness of Linda’s writing. Now that I’ve read her second book, The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, I know it too will stay with me. If you want to treat yourself to a compelling and memorable read, this is the book.” —ANN TATLOCK, novelist, editor, children’s book author
- “In The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, Linda Brooks Davis delivers a story rich in characters who will tug at readers’ hearts set against a vast historical backdrop that includes the beginning of World War I, the women’s suffrage movement, and the ugly sex trade of young girls. Davis’s lyrical writing allows us to see this world through the eyes of a woman who must overcome a horrific start in life to fight against an overwhelming evil to save others and ultimately herself. The icing on the cake is a sweet, satisfying romance. The Mending of Lillian Cathleen is a keeper.”—KELLY IRVIN, bestselling author of Through the Autumn Air
- “In this thought-provoking tale, Linda Davis takes us from the tiny town of Needham, Oklahoma and into the bustling metropolis of 1914 Fort Worth, Texas, where we get a bit of mystery, a bit of history, and a harrowing glimpse at what it meant to be a woman without a voice. With unflinching commitment and compassion the author speaks for all the generations of sisters who came before us. In The Mending of Lilian Cathleen, she introduces a heroine who is a true force of justice, with a fragility running just beneath her freckled skin. —ALLISON PITTMAN, author of The Seamstress (Tyndale, 2019)
The Harvest Celebration
“You start to overcome bitterness when you share your story. You overcome bitterness when you place your story in God’s hands, over and over, while he does physical therapy on your heart. It’s not an instant change. It takes time. But here’s the kicker – you don’t even have to be ready to believe to start healing.
This was a beautifully told story of healing in the midst of mystery and suspense, and I would definitely recommend this book. There’s a romance element but it doesn’t take a front row seat, and I think man or woman, romance lover or suspense lover or mystery lover, you’ll be tugged into this story the way I was. Maybe God will overcome bitterness in your heart along the way too.”
“The Mending Of Lillian Cathleen by Linda Brooks Davis is a marvellous Christian historical novel set in 1914.
The main theme is that of searching for the lost, reminding the reader of the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son. God relentlessly pursues us. He does not give up because He loves us.
The novel is about the fight for emancipation for women. For too long the world has been dominated by men. Men who abuse and use women. There are the difficult themes of prostitution and trafficking of women and girls. There are some strong female characters determined to make a difference.
Life can be hard. Sometimes in our hurt and pain, we turn from the One who can give us peace. “Are You watching, Ma’s God? Do You care?” God cares. He never takes His eyes off us.
Or we may drift from God. “I let life come between Jesus and me.” We must never take our eyes off Jesus to focus on the world. Sometimes we do not realise how far we have travelled from God until we look back.
Life is a spiritual battle. There is evil in the world. We must fight it by standing on the Word of God and with prayer. “Bathe yourselves in prayer. The forces of evil are forever on the prowl.”
There is the theme of fathers. Earthly fathers may let us down. Our heavenly Father never will.
Love conquers all. Love puts others first. Within the novel selfless souls take care of vulnerable women and children.
A powerful read with life lessons for us all.”
“Lily is a character that will remain with me for a long time, along with her story and overcoming multiple obstacles while discovering the secret to inner peace, joy and love through Jesus Christ as her Savior. Cade, the hero, and other secondary characters added dimension and realism to the story. The vivid descriptive words placed me right there with the characters and kept the pages turning wondering what is going to happen next.”
“Lillian Cathleen’s heart desperately needed mending, like so many people who live in reality today, this fiction tells of a young woman who endures unimaginable horrors at the hand of her drunken father. Thankfully, a godly woman took pity on her and took her to be a part of her family. Lillian was drawn to a trunk that her mother kept for her. Some great history was in it. An awesome story relating to the items her mother left was entwined in the story. Her mother’s legacy of following the Lord, prayer, loving God continued to shine a light in Lillian’s life. An dark story of abduction, and child trafficking was also woven throughout. It was one of those stories that when it was over, I had to take a day or so to rest from reading, it was incredibly intense, but such a good one.
Sometimes I do a “What I liked” “What I Didn’t Like” thing, but this time, I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. So, I’ll do what I liked and then a warning.
What I described above is why I liked the story so much. The writing style was very good. The narrative was quick moving and first person, which I really seem to enjoy. The story teller can paint a very clear scene in just a few words. I definitely got the feel for the era it was supposed to take place in – written in the voice of an old-time news reporter, I could hear the clipped, fast spoken voice in my head, as I was reading.”
From The Becca Files:
“The Mending of Lillian Cathleen takes the reader on a journey back into a time in the world when women were in a desperate fight for fairer treatment. Be prepared for your temper to flare as the tangible injustice seeps from the pages …
This book has a remarkable ability to move the reader’s heart to compassion towards the situations that the women faced …
This was a moving novel and one that was well worth the read. It reveals the danger of being a woman in 1914 America, and gives a better understanding to why women needed to fight for more equal treatment. I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction.”
From Inklings and Notions:
“This is the first book I have read by Linda, though I look forward to reading more of her stories! Lillian’s story was a fascinating one that dealt with some hard subjects, like abuse and standing up against it. The story also has a mystery and intrigue. This story drew me in from the very start! I enjoyed getting to know Lillian.”
From A Reader’s Brain:
What a beautiful & yet heartbreaking story our author has written for us! Can I just take a minute to appreciate the cover, and how beautiful that is?
The treasure found within the pages is one that is truly emotional, eye-opening, and heartfelt. The weaving of the Lord within the circumstances our characters face reminds us of the hope we have in the Lord at all times and in all places.
The author so clearly depicts the good vs. evil, and really makes us cringe at the villains found within. The conflicts the characters find themselves in are truly heart-pounding, emotional, and sometimes just simply heartbreaking … the plot certainly was one that kept me glued to the page until I finished the story in one sitting.
Our heroine is truly that in every way, and yet a totally relatable and down to earth character. The history contained within was also artfully portrayed.
I feel that any fiction reader should give this masterful story a read!
From Musings by Maureen:
… I was soon caught up and page-turning as it kept getting better and better.
The author gives us a glimpse into the dark side of something that was happening back in the early 1900’s, and unfortunately it is still going on.
The world Lillian is embracing is about to enter into a worldwide war, but she is supporting rights for women, and the vote, all the while dealing with missing her mother and newly found treasures from her.
Don’t get too comfortable, there seems to be bomb shells fall around every corner, and you never see what is coming! One thing I did see was love for fellow man, and those that are less fortunate, heartwarming and scary at the same time, and you won’t want to put it down until there are answers.
From Baker Kella:
This novel was not as light-hearted as I was expecting. Instead, it deals with abuse, adduction, human trafficking, and suffering. Lillian is a well portrayed heroine, taking up the cause of woman everywhere by becoming a suffragette. Its an interesting read and I’m interested in reading more of Linda’s novels in the future.
From Just the Write Escape:
The story gripped me—held me fast. Horrors that no one wants to think about played across the page and all without giving the kinds of details that readers don’t need. For that, I was grateful.
. . . a fabulous story . . .
In The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, Linda Brooks Davis writes a compelling tale of family secrets, miscarriages of justice, the threat of what would become “The Great War,” and the horrible reality of sex-trafficking.
Too often, we like to think of those beautiful, glorious days of the Edwardian period as too genteel for the horrors of modern life, but sin lived and thrived in the “good old days” just as it does now.
From Mary Hake:
I found this historical novel, set during World War I, intriguing. It deals with some tough topics and included plenty of suspense—holding the reader’s attention, with increasing eagerness to find how all the threads weave together to complete the whole story. The author skillfully regales the account in first person present tense, which is hard to do well and usually turns me off. I hardly noticed this point of view since the tale pulled me in. Lily seemed so real and really made me care about her and the ones she holds dear.
… The secrets from Lily’s mother’s ancestors added another captivating element. This book would make a good one for discussion in a book club or high school.
From Janice’s Book Reviews:
This is quite a story. Lily was such a strong character, she wanted to find the truth and nothing will stop her . . . A lot of surprises. The more I read the more exciting the book was.
I have not read any books by the author before, I always recommend reading books by new to you authors. I loved the spiritual aspect of the book. Actually I think this would make a good movie.
From A Baker’s Perspective:
I cannot even imagine being Lily in that court room. Things were so different back in the early 1900’s, and think today a lot of women forget that. As much as we might complain, we have it pretty good today ladies. This book will remind you of the hardships that women used to go through simply based on their sex. I think the outcome of the trial was exactly that – based on that fact that Lily’s testimony was basically worthless because she was a woman. The book also brings to light some issues that not happened back then, but happen today too and the world probably doesn’t even realize it. There were some parts of the book that were difficult to read because it just breaks your heart. Linda Brooks Davis is not afraid to bring all the horrid things that happened back then to light, and I have to be honest that this book is not for the faint of heart.
That being said, what an emotional and wonderful read. Lily’s journey to rely on and love her Heavenly Father was a pleasure to read. I think sometimes when someone has a horrible earthly father (which struck a chord for me in a very personal way), it’s hard to remember that we still have a father who cares for us. We have someone we can call Daddy, talk to, cry with, and even laugh with. With this faith element woven throughout the entire book, it made it easier to read read the parts that broke my heart. Because in the end, God is in control. Through all the good and the bad.
This is a book that will move you. Yes there are difficult topics presented, however it is such a touching story that you cannot help but read on to see what is going to happen next . . . Historical fiction lovers will most likely devour the book once they start reading.
From Lis Loves Reading:
The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, by Linda Brooks Davis, is an historical fiction novel that tells a realistic and emotionally poignant story of one woman’s journey through serious loss, rejection, and grief. At times the story is heavy with extremely raw emotions and very painful truths. Yet, this journey through and beyond despair and heartache is significantly strengthened and uplifted by meaningful moments of grace and gentle reminders that hope, restoration, healing, and reconciliation are made possible through God’s mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, the second book in the Women of Rock Creek series, may not always be an easy, light-hearted read because of its serious themes and content; however, it is an extremely meaningful, relevant, and thought-provoking novel. The author, Ms. Davis, is exceptionally talented at telling the story through the first person perspective of the main character, Lillian. Throughout the story, it is Lillian who must bravely pursue the answers to tough questions, while also fighting desperately to grasp the healing and the hope that might be found within her heartbreak. And it is within her search for hope and healing that the significant themes of this novel manage to encourage and inspire. Lillian perseveres. She carries on. She accepts help when needed. She chooses courage and selflessness. She finds faith. She fights for freedom and redemption for herself and for others. And in so doing, she becomes an inspiration, and her story becomes one of encouragement and hope. Lillian’s story shows that even though life can be very hard, and trials can befall anyone, God’s strength, grace, and forgiveness are always available to make the process of healing and restoration possible.
Ms. Davis is truly a gifted storyteller. She seems to be unflinching when it comes to crafting relevant stories that need to be told. In The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, Ms. Davis has written a compelling work of historical inspirational fiction that I can certainly recommend to all late-teen and adult readers who enjoy stories that include history, mystery, romance, and faith.
I found The Mending of Lillian Cathleen to be interesting and authentic. It is a deeply moving and thoughtfully written novel that touched me through its skillful use of relatable characters, historical settings, and meaningful themes. This powerful novel deftly explores issues and emotions that are related to very difficult experiences, including child abuse, child abduction, and even sexual abuse. Those who are sensitive to direct or indirect references to these issues may find certain scenes in this novel tough to read. However, these difficult scenes are never presented without also referring to the mercy, hope, and healing that is made possible through the abundant love, forgiveness, and grace of Jesus Christ. Above all, The Mending of Lillian Cathleen is a story of redemption and new beginnings made possible through the unconditional love of God.
As I read reviews such as those above, I weep. They take me back to the days, hours, and moments I, the author, lived in Lily’s skin–a place of agony and shame. But one of joy, inspiration, and empowerment too. We all sustain internal injuries. For some, the wounds fester, never really healing, only hiding beneath great welts of burled flesh. Wounds can’t heal in the dark. They must be exposed to the Light–the Healer of Hearts and the Lifter of Heads.
May He alone be glorified by Lily’s story.