The giant barn-shaped house out in the country had a couple rooms added on. They'd finished the basement and turned it into a large dormitory-style room for the boys. Daniel slept in there to keep an eye on the boys at night. The girls had three bedrooms set up by ages, each room able to accommodate two to four girls. The bunk beds were regularly taken apart and moved from one room to another as kids of different ages came and went.
For the past two years, I'd been situated in the middle room, always with another girl or two, but close enough to the others so I could hear them cry at night and go check on them.
Ma and Pa were like the grandparents from a TV show or something—gray hair, except for when Ma's was tinged with blue. They'd had a "shotgun wedding," as Ma called it, when they were sixteen. Shortly after the wedding, she lost the baby and never could get pregnant again. They started taking in the occasional stray, and finally got officially certified as a group foster home when Pa finished building the house and they could move out of the trailer.
They never had a harsh word for any of us kids, just, "Here are the rules, and you can stay as long as you abide by them. Break the rules, and you have to leave."
Getting kicked out of the Lyons' place meant going back to the state facility in Raleigh. No one got beat here, but a look of disappointment from Ma or Pa did more good than any whipping. We got home-cooked meals rather than institutional food, and we had a field and a forest to play in, a pond for fishing, and enough chores and homework to keep out of trouble.
Every Sunday, we piled into two vans and headed for Sunday School and church service. Every evening, Pa would read a passage from the Bible and tell us what it meant, and explain how we should apply it to our daily lives, and then we'd have prayer requests and prayer time.
I wrote down the same prayer request every night and handed it to Ma. "Dear Lord Jesus, please help me find my momma." And every night, Pa or Ma would pray and ask Jesus for every child's prayer request to be answered. Except if they asked for a new bicycle or video game or doll. Pa said we shouldn't pray for material or selfish things, but only for the Lord to provide what we need, and for us to learn how to be better Christians, like how to love someone who hates us, or forgive someone who'd done us wrong. And we could pray for other people, so some kids prayed for their mommas or daddies to find a job or quit meth or to get out of jail soon and become good Christians. We could write down prayers of thanks, too, like when kids would thank the Lord for the Lyons and for the food and for not having to sleep with their little brother who wet the bed.
Pa didn't mind praying for me to find my momma every night for ten years. He didn't think it was asking for a material or selfish thing. But after a while, I wasn't even sure I was praying to find Momma, or if not writing it down one night might look like I didn't love her anymore. The first night I didn't make that prayer request might be the first night the Lord Jesus would listen to me.
When six-year-old Hannah's brutal honesty is mistaken for lying, she stops speaking. Her family, her community, and eventually, the entire nation struggle to find meaning in her silence.
School officials suspect abuse. Church members are divided—either she has a message from God or is possessed by a demon. Social workers interrupt an exorcism to wrest Hannah away from her momma, who has a tenuous grip on sanity. Hidden in protective foster care for twelve years, she loses all contact with her mother and remains mute by choice.
When Hannah leaves foster care at age eighteen to search for Momma, a national debate rages over her silence. A religious movement awaits her prophecy and celebrates her return. An anarchist group, Voices for the Voiceless, cites Hannah as its inspiration. The nation comes unhinged and the conflict spills into the streets when presidential candidates chime in with their opinions on Hannah—patriotic visionary or dangerous radical. A remnant still believes she is evil and seeks to dispatch her from this world.
Hannah stands at the intersection of anarchists and fundamentalists, between power politics and an FBI investigation. All she wants is to find her momma, a little peace and quiet, and maybe some pancakes.
One word would put an end to the chaos if Hannah can only find her voice.
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About the author:
In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, I’ve written fiction most of my life. The newspaper biz has taken my family and me from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, I’m as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. I now reside in a small community in Wisconsin where I manage the business operations of a daily newspaper. The variety of places I’ve lived and visited serve as settings for the characters who invade my head.