Category Archives: Books


Pandita RamabaiFriday, April 5 is the day the Episcopal Church (USA) dedicates to Pandita Mary Ramabai. It’s also the date of her death in 1922.

At the time of her birth in 1858, Rama was an unlikely candidate for Christian recognition. Her father was an itinerant shastri who took his family from temple

Rama's family
Rama’s Family. She is second from left.

to temple. He recited scripture for alms. It was a hard existence for Rama, her brother, and her sister. There were two other unusual aspects to her childhood. Rama’s father taught her to read, and he didn’t arrange a marriage for her.

In 1876 famine took everyone in Rama’s family, except her brother. They continued to wander and recite until they arrived in Kolkata, where Indian reformers were enchanted to meet an educated woman, a woman who Rama and her daughterhearkened back to an earlier age. Rama lectured, married, and bore a child. She lost her brother and husband to cholera. Most people would have given up on life, but Rama made friends with nuns from England who sponsored Rama’s journey to their mother house at Wantage, and her education.

At Wantage, Rama accepted baptism for herself and her daughter. She also decided to open a school for Hindu half caste widows, and went to America to raise the funds.

Standing in front of Mukti MissionRama went back home and opened her school. She also founded an ashram at a small village near Pune. The ashram, Mukti, still cares for women and children. All of these accomplishments are noted in the church explanation for recognizing Pandita Ramabai.

But they don’t discuss Rama’s exploration of a more personal, emotive faith led to the first pentecostal revival in 1905. The narrative passes over that to emphasize Rama’s translation of the Bible into Marathi, a massive undertaking Rama completed just before her death.

In writing Rama’s Labyrinth, A Biographical Novel, I was continually struck by Rama’s shear force of will, a tsunami that removed all obstacles in her path. I didn’t find her personally likable, zealots seldom are. But she was mesmerizing. Learning about and writing Rama’s story, I sometimes felt I could sense her approval and/or disapproval of what I wrote.

I’m glad the Episcopal Church honors Pandita Ramabai for her life’s work. I wish they mentioned the Holy Ghost Revival she ignited in 1905.

Black & white illustrations in public domain.

Rama’s Labyrinth: A Biographical Novel. Publication details at bottom of page.

Dinner with Penelope

The question came up yesterday. If I could have dinner with any literary heroine, who would I invite?  I felt like should choose Elizabeth Bennett, because her character resonates with modern readers. But then I thought, one has tea with Elizabeth Bennett, not dinner. So, I set her to the side. Next I thought of… Continue Reading

Two Coins: A Sense of Place

My latest book, Two Coins: A Biographical Novel, officially released this past Friday, February 1, 2019. And, I’m excited to share some of the background to Mary Pigot’s story, and how I found it. While doing research for Rama’s Labyrinth, I ran across several references to the case of Pigot vs. Hastie, a civil suit… Continue Reading


Throughout the summer I’ve highlighted books I enjoyed reading. It’s the last week of August, and today is the final installment of Summer Reads for 2018. I don’t know if the books under discussion have been to your taste. They’re all books I enjoyed with historical fiction and literary fiction the most represented genres. The… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Two Novels of Forgotten Women

THE HANDFASTED WIFE It’s 1065 and Edith Swanneck is worried, because “These days everyone talked of how important a church wedding was, a priest listening to vows exchanged in the church porch and then blessing the marriage.” [Handfasted Wife, Chapter 1] Edith Swanneck didn’t stand on the church porch with her husband Harold Godwinson. They… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton & Patsy Jefferson Randolph

We see Alexander Hamilton every time we take out a ten dollar bill. Our first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton believed in a strong central government led by the executive branch, established the national debt as a means of developing international credit, and built the Bank of the United States. Alone among the Founding Fathers,… Continue Reading


Changing up the reading list a little with two novels about families and growing up. Officially the genre is called coming-of-age, and though it specifically refers to the transition from youth to adulthood, I don’t think it’s a process that’s ever complete. Both of these novels are engaging, and good vacation reading.   MATCHMAKING FOR… Continue Reading


Good historical fiction takes the reader into an authentic world where the story is presented against the backdrop of actual customs and material culture, for example, food as it is eaten and prepared or family customs such as purdah, the seclusion of women within the household. When there’s also a mystery involved, it becomes more… Continue Reading

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