On a windy January day, I traveled to New Mexico's Jornada del Muerto in search of the graves of my great grandparents. All I could find were a few wooden posts in the desert, remnants of the cemetery of Cutter, now a ghost town, but once a thriving railroad and mining community of three thousand inhabitants.
I was overcome by the the tragedy of my great grandmother's death here at the age of thirty-six. As I stood in the blowing sand, I remembered a talk given by Maya Angelou that I heard when I was sixteen years old. She had spoken of the sacrifices of our ancestors, made in hopes of better lives for their future generations. I did not want my great grandparent's trials to go unappreciated or forgotten. I decided to write their story.
This novel is based on the childhood of Josie Belle Gore, my grandmother, daughter of a Louisiana locomotive engineer and a Texas seamstress. When her family was separated by circumstances beyond her control, Josie was forced to journey alone through the boom and bust Southwest to eventually arrive in San Francisco in the early twenties. This is a story of loss and redemption, hope and forgiveness, set in the rugged beauty of the Southwest during one of the most turbulent periods of American history.
“Life, like a river, can take some sharp twists and turns. People can shift as much as a water’s course. There are reasons I broke my promises. I want them to be known," says Josie Belle Gore as she begins her tale.
Excerpt, The Ways of Water
"My story is twined, like rope, with that of my kin. The first strand began to fray when Mama, a city girl from Austin, fell in love with a Louisiana railroad man. As Papa ran the steam locomotives across the great desert of the West, Mama followed him. Steam engines always follow water, and we did, too. Life was all about water."
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