In 1961, when Amazing Grace Jansen, a firecracker from Appalachia, meets Mary Elizabeth Cox, the daughter of a Black southern preacher, at Kentucky’s Berea College, they already carry the scars and traces of their mothers’ troubles. Poor and single, Maze’s mother has had to raise her daughter alone and fight to keep a roof over their heads. Mary Elizabeth’s mother has carried a shattering grief throughout her life, a loss so great that it has disabled her and isolated her stern husband and her brilliant, talented daughter.
The caution this has scored into Mary Elizabeth has made her defensive and too private and limited her ambitions, despite her gifts as a musician. But Maze’s earthy fearlessness might be enough to carry them both forward toward lives lived bravely in an angry world that changes by the day.
Both of them are drawn to the enigmatic Georginea Ward, an aging idealist who taught at Berea sixty years ago, fell in love with a black man, and suddenly found herself renamed as a sister in a tiny Shaker community. Sister Georgia believes in discipline and simplicity, yes. But, more important, her faith is rooted in fairness and the long reach of unconditional love.
This is a novel about three generations of women and the love that makes families where none can be expected.
"Stranger Here Below has the feel of an heirloom, treasured stories of friendship, misunderstanding, forgiveness, and mystery. All woven beautifully together by Joyce Hinnefeld's deft, homespun prose. It's a novel I hope mothers and daughters will read together. ...The central characters--Maze and Mary Elizabeth--are coming bravely into the unknown. Enthralled by their journey, I did not want the book to end." -- Patricia Henley, author of In the River Sweet ?"In her lovely new novel, Joyce Hinnefeld introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters--sisters, visitors, pilgrims, strangers--and untangles the mysteries of their lives with her distinctive grace and delicacy. She is a remarkable writer who gives her readers pleasures to savor on every page." -- Joanna Scott, author of Follow Me: A Novel "Lofty plot and cleverly imagined characters..." -- Washington Post "a multigenerational novel spanning decades rich in history... Recommended for its wide appeal to readers seeking thoughtful, well-written fiction." -- Library Journal