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  • Mj Pettengill

The Incredible Angels of Etched in Granite


The Angels' Lament, Mj Pettengill
The Angels' Lament, Mj Pettengill

I often write about Nellie, Abigail, Samuel and others. However, as I continue down this seemingly endless road, more remarkable individuals continue to show up. They have been tolerantly waiting, sometimes for centuries, for their time to reclaim their voices and the simple fact that they even existed. The space in between writing the books is a time when I am open to what emerges. I have always mentioned the importance of being in the void. Some of the most significant insight dwells within it. What I mean (from a writing perspective) is that it's easy just to dive in and start writing. However, when writing Down from the Tree, I learned that it is vital to pause and allow stories and characters to show up. There are so many to choose from, but only certain characters are to be given a seat at the table in the Etched in Granite Series. I have shared my reasons for choosing Fall River when it would have been easier on many levels to write about Lowell or Manchester. This is where intuition comes in. Fall River continued to show up in various ways, illuminating the path. I trusted it, and here we are. I am well into writing the fourth book in the series, The Crows' Path. At this point, the characters have made themselves known. The places and events are coming in at an almost alarming rate. I am grateful to have opened the doors to those who have waited so patiently for their turn to speak. So here is a brief recap about the background of The Angels' Lament. These books stand on their own, but I strongly recommend reading them all and in order. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1872—a time of radical social and economic change in America—a time for expansion, discovery, and healing. For some, it meant piecing together the fragments of their lives, rebuilding families, homes, and communities. For others, it was time to leave the safety of their small towns and venture into nearby, rapidly growing cities, to prosper and find their long-awaited independence as industrial wage earners.

The Angels’ Lament, is the second book in the Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series. In Book One, we become acquainted with the inmates, workers, and various individuals connected to the Carroll County Farm. We are afforded a brief glimpse into the life of Abigail Hodgdon’s sister Sarah, who leaves the family farm in the rugged New Hampshire landscape for the textile mills of Fall River, Massachusetts. In the 1870s, Fall River was the second largest producer of cotton cloth in the world. Manchester, England was number one. During this time, along with the rapid increase of wealth for the few families that dominated the industry, a massive surge of immigration occurred, changing and reshaping the labor force, and altering the roles of men, women, and children for generations to come. The narratives explore the complexities—torment and adversity, decay and chaos—of the weaving together of that richly textured world. Also covered are the fundamental power struggles within the political, economic, and cultural development of the era. Impossible to focus on one group without the others, and as divided as they appeared to be, they were bound by their afflictions. As agents of change, they often set aside their differences and came together to stand up for their rights. This civil unrest has been a work in progress now for almost two centuries. Looking back, it may appear as if much has changed. However, I urge all to examine their efforts through a more transparent lens, and refocus.

In the face of oppressive paternalism, the growth of corporate power, and textile capitalism, the millworkers became victims of social and moral collapse due to public neglect, incalculable abuse, and greed, unknowingly paving the way for the future.

The narrative spans generations, reaching back to the shores of Ireland during the Great Hunger—a catastrophic historical event, systematically deemphasized and misunderstood. The characters are fictitious, intended to bring voice to the long-forgotten, extraordinary folks, silenced within the passage of time.

Sarah brings us into a spinner’s world while living in a cramped tenement unfit for humans. Her sheltered background could have been a fatal weakness, but her fortitude prevailed.

Lamplighter, August Wood, shares his experiences as a street kid in New York City, in and out of the Children’s Asylum, and on a westbound Orphan Train.

Bess Adams, pianist extraordinaire, daughter of an influential corporate lawyer, and surrounded by servants, seems to have it all.