Okatibbee Creek is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a devastating typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?
Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.
The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.
When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.
“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.
“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”
“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”
“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.
“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.
“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.
“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.
I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.
Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.
“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.
She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.
I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.
In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.
“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”
Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.
Okatibbee Creek is available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook at Amazon. CLICK HERE. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.
Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.