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A Tale of Two Mothers

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world –

What the quote above fails to state is that the hand that rocks the cradle is one of constant self-sacrifice. Not only do mothers sacrifice their bodies to bring children into the world, but they lose THEIR time, THEIR interests, and have to broaden THEIR goals and THEIR world to include their children. A woman’s life is never the same once she has children, and for most of us our life is divided in half, our life before children and our life after children.

It could be said that Keeping Secrets is a story of two mothers – Mary McKechnie and Abigail Cayle – both of whom sacrifice their lives in different ways for their families.

When the book opens, widow Mary McKechnie is in danger of losing her five daughters: Sarah, twins Annie and Katie, Rebecca, and Martha. Her deceased husband, in his will, gave Mary control of the property, but he named her older brother, Lawrence Langdon, as the girls’ guardian. Lawrence has insisted that Mary work only for members of the Society of Friends so the girls won’t be influenced by “outsiders.” If she works for outsiders, even disorderly walkers like Amon Cayle, he insists he will take the girls and place them into indentured servitude. Unable to get enough work, and after a series of disastrous events, Mary takes enormous risks and violates her brother’s mandate in order to keep her girls with her.

Kitchen fires in colonial America weren’t surprising since almost all food was prepared in them and they were the only source of heat and warmth. Besides death in childbirth, fires were the next most common way for women to die. (Some historians argue more died in fires than in childbirth.) Abigail Cayle offers the last sacrifice of her life as the fire sweeps through the kitchen. When the book opens, her husband and children are still dealing with her death, her sacrifice, and the aftermath of the fire that nearly took their eldest son David’s life as well. Abigail’s death is as influential in the lives of her family as her life, and it is through both her life and her death that Amon and David begin to heal and to forgive themselves.

The essence of motherhood hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. The act of creating a life for nine months in the womb, and the act of doing whatever necessary to preserve that life once it arrives is a natural imprint on a mother’s soul. Despite the passing of time, the call of motherhood is no different now than it was 250 years ago.

Mary McKechnie, having lost two boys before her girls came along, knows the precious blessing of life, and even though she is a working mother through circumstance, her girls come first. She’ll do anything to keep them together as a family.

Abigail Cayle, too, knows the precious blessing of life, and her choice speaks to the highest sacrifice a mother can make. She’ll do anything to keep them alive.

I think a traditional woman’s role in the home is an exciting, awesome adventure.

I am apparently in the minority.

For some reason, authors don’t tap into the rich history of women. There’s a lot of conflict and turmoil in families no matter what time period you live in. While the modern world spins a tale that women in the past had no control, I believe this is simply just not the case. Women had a great deal of control over their own worlds, and likely had more control over their men than women do today. I think we, as a world culture, despite the women’s liberation movement, have lost sight of the true role of women and the influence they have when they are who they are – women.

In Breaking Promises, the torch of womanhood is passed to Annie McKechnie. She must come to terms with her desire to be a career woman and her growing desire to be a wife and mother, a vocation she has fought against since childhood. Both paths are fraught with difficulties, and both have rewards and sacrifices. She will have to make a choice in the end.

But for Annie McKechnie, it is a choice that could cost her everything.

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