This week, we’re proud to celebrate American writer Mary V. Macauley. It is technically Black History Month in the UK (the USA and Canada celebrate it in February), but we’re thrilled to be making new friends and connections around the world, especially as Mary’s first book was published while she was living in England.
Pushing Forty! came out while she was in her late sixties and it highlights the lives of mature Caribbean women who, after paying for their daughters to go to college, decide to go themselves. It reflects the lives of contemporary women globally and the richness of friendship and support. It is a profound yet moving fiction based on a myriad of truths from women entering middle age. Mary, having been one of two women who started the very first domestic violence shelter in California back in the late seventies, has always been a trailblazer, and is now a champion of creative ageing and proof that age is nothing but a number!
Mary’s most recent book was published at the age of eighty-three. Free To Be Me, published by Mac Press in March 2021, is an epic tale that will transport you around the world and follows the story of two young Englishmen with the same last name who lived fifty years apart, as well as inhabiting both geographical and social opposites.
As if it wasn’t impressive enough doing this in her eighties, Mary also took on the challenge of social media to help promote the book and get the message out their about later life creativity. She joined Twitter in February 2021, and her first tweets sparked a great response from other older people looking to get published:
This is just the sort of thing we love to see at Autumn Voices!
Free To Be Me Synopsis
The central location of this novel is a centuries-old, wealth-producing plantation in the state of Georgia. Malcolm Hawthorn’s working-class rags to riches story ends with his death, leaving the once-thriving estate without an heir.
Across the Atlantic, Joey Hawthorn, the son of a once-wealthy aristocratic British family, now an impoverished, struggling artist, inherits this American property sight unseen. He has an escalating debt but the new fortune of sharing the same last name of the previous owner. Joey plans to paint the ‘never before seen’ landscapes and send them back home to display in galleries throughout Britain to raise money for the much needed and abundant repairs and avoid debtor’s prison.
As the new owner, Joey engages the remaining slaves to repair the house and rework the land. Is this a blessing or a curse for the once-wealthy aristocrat? His own success is followed by the achievements, grief, and losses of many of the enslaved people on the plantation and others connected to them.
Mabel, raised by her strict religious father, ends up pregnant and is disowned. Her gifted daughter Maize grows up to be a self-taught pianist and catches the ear of Juilliard instructor Monsieur Oliver, who arranges a scholarship. Before she can decide, young Maize is abused by the man who ‘owns’ her mother. Music is the only thing that helps soothe her mind. Fearing another attack, her midnight escape to the bus terminal with the help of a new friend is the beginning of a new life.
Billy, the working-class son of an indentured servant finds solace in his music, but his talent isn’t enough for him to break into the big time. As the seventh and unwanted son of a large family on the estate, he flees to the big city and joins a band where he meets a young woman who catches his eye. But his self-loathing and bitterness over his father’s disdain for him threaten to break their relationship.
Free To Be Me follows the love, loss, and journeys taken for the want for a better life of multiple people spanning two continents over two hundred years and combines three books in one story which begins in the United Kingdom then follows a young man’s journey to America. The central theme of this novel is a century’s old, wealth-producing plantation and those who are either drawn to it or wish to flee from it.
For more information about Mary and to follow her writing progress, you can find her on Twitter as @MaryVMacauley