The Georgia plantation known as Magnolia Landing has been an ideal place to grow up for Malayna and Hattie, two girls of different races born just hours apart. They have been best friends from their first breathes due to the unusual and unpopular beliefs of Malayna’s father that all men are created equal regardless of skin color. Their idyllic youth is shattered by a Civil War that takes their fathers away from home, leaving the girls to survive on their own as they learn to navigate their new reality; working to keep their families both well-fed and safe. That is until the war and Northern soldiers come to Magnolia Landing. This is their story of love, friendship, and survival… against all odds.
Targeted Age Group:: 20 and older
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always been fascinated by the American Civil War era. I knew that I wanted to write historical fiction. I also knew that I wanted to show that not all Southern plantation owners were inherently evil slave holders. I grew up in the rural South where people still struggled (and some still do) with the races mixing. We, however, are a multi-racial family and I wanted to challenge readers to examine the possibilities of interracial relationships, friendships, and families. The desire to combine all these goals in my writing led to the creation of Magnolia Landing.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
While the characters are fictitious, I have borrowed characteristics from real world people. Malayna is what my Mama raised me to be – strong and resilient. Many times, when my husband would be deployed overseas, I would hear “oh you’re so strong” or “I don’t know how you do it.” The truth is no one knows what they are truly capable of until being strong is the only choice they have. I had four little girls at home to continue raising so I simply did what needed to be done just as Mama taught me. Mama and Grandmama are, therefore, each a reflection of my Mama in their own ways. Mama, like Mama in Magnolia Landing, was a prayer warrior who would pray her way through any situation until she was forced to take a different route. Then she’d continue to pray while taking the different route. Mama, like Grandmama in Magnolia Landing, taught us that all people are people regardless of the color of their skin. We all bleed the same color was a phrase she liked to use, especially when she would try to explain to some less enlightened people of my youth that heaven would not be segregated. People had better learn to have friendships across racial lines and learn to embrace integration in all areas of life, because that’s the way we’d all be living in heaven. I vividly recall her having this argument quite frequently with one of my aunts.
John and Mary Elyse Wellington had been blessed with a good life in the small community of Bryan County, Georgia. John was a wealthy plantation owner, and his family resided quite comfortably at Magnolia Landing. He steered as far from politics as a Southern landowner possibly could, but word of civil unrest was flying through the country like a flock of wild birds. As the unrest took on the life of an out of control wildfire, the flock became larger and larger so that it was now upsetting the peace the Wellingtons had always enjoyed.
Magnolia Landing supported the Wellingtons, their daughters—Malayna, Marianna, Mischella, and Johnna—and their servants (or “necessary helpers” as Mama preferred to call them) quite well. No one ever went without, no matter what the color of the skin. Grandmama liked to say, “No one chooses the skin they’re born into any more than they choose their family.” It was this forward thinking that kept the Wellingtons on the edge of the elite social realms of Southern gentility. Daddy’s wealth placed them in the upper echelons of society, but his opinions and his views on slaves being people too did not. Grandmama raised my daddy, John, to be the kind of man who believed all people were people no matter where they came from, who they were born to, or the color God chose to dress their skin in. This way of thinking didn’t make Daddy a very popular man, so he tended to steer clear of all political conversations regarding slavery.
There were no overseers here. Daddy had no need for overseers or whips or punishments of any kind because his rules were so relaxed and easy to live by. Many plantation owners from the surrounding area envied the peace the Wellingtons enjoyed, but generations of fear prevented them from living the same way. Still others thought John Wellington was eccentric at best, and crazy at worst, because he adamantly maintained that all people were created equally, no matter what color God made them.
The Wellingtons were quite wealthy by the world’s standards, but my sisters and I only knew that we had no worries. We did not realize that our father was one of the wealthiest men in the state — quite possibly the nation. As for Daddy, he simply viewed his wealth as proof that his leadership style was preferable to the tyrannical measures employed by most plantation and slave owners. Even so the unrest in the country over slaves’ rights upset him greatly, but only due to his concerns for where it would lead. His concerns were for more than just himself. They were for his family, his land, and all the people who depended on him and the life he provided for them on his tranquil 1,920 acres.
My best friend, Hattie, and I couldn’t have cared one whit about abolition, or state’s rights, or war, or any of the other things we were hearing. In January of 1861, news arrived that Georgia had seceded from the Union and was joining the newly formed Confederate States of America. April 1861 brought the news Daddy had been dreading … the nation was at war! It wasn’t bad enough that the country had been torn in two, but now the men of the nation were determined to kill each other over their principles. It all seemed silly to me. Daddy told me to keep my mouth shut and not to voice those opinions out loud for fear of repercussions against Magnolia Landing. My name is Malayna Wellington Carver, and this is the story of how my family, my best friend, and Magnolia Landing survived the war.
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