Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....
In this installment of Page 69,
We put Dawn Hogan’s UNBROKEN BONDS to the test.
Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?
The year is 1956. The scene is a dorm room in a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Knoxville, Tennessee. Michelle, who has been miserably uncomfortable for weeks, has gone into labor. Knowing that the hospital wing is a scary place, run by an equally scary nun, Sister Eugenia, Michelle has convinced her roommates to help her stay with them as long as possible.
What is your book about?
UNBROKEN BONDS is the fictional tale of four teenage girls who develop a lifelong bond of friendship while they are incarcerated in the Frances Weston Home for Unwed mothers; a place where it is expected the girls surrender their newborns to sealed adoptions. The guilt, shame and secrecy of their shared history is the shaky foundation on which they rebuild their lives once they’re released from the home. As they navigate adulthood during the turbulent 1960s in the Deep South, the sisterhood between them is their strength, sanity and soft place to land. The four women support each other as they all, in their unique way, find the life she makes for herself. When tragedy strikes, they must decide to protect their buried secrets from the past or find the children they were forced to surrender.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?
I think it does. Even though Michelle is not one of the characters who carries throughout the story, the shared experience of being ostracized for being a pregnant teenager, is the beginning of the bond for the four main characters. Michelle’s being in labor is something they will each go through on their own. It’s a frightening prospect. There is breaking of the rules in honor of friendship, a recurrent theme, forbidden as well, was divulging one’s true identity and remaining friends outside the home.
wing, I’ll be all alone. Please don’t get Sister Eugenia, I wanna stay here as long as I can,” she begged.
“It’s okay. No one’s gonna get her unless you tell us to.” Jessie stroked Michelle’s hair.
“Do you want anythin’, some water, or a wet towel for your forehead? Gosh, I feel like we should boil water, like they do in the movies,” Rachel nervouslyrambled.
Michelle laughingly chided, “Rachel, you’re such a ditz, but I love ya for it.” The other girls chuckled as Rachel blushed and shrugged.
Timing the contractions, they determined they were ten minutes apart. AsMichelle writhed again, Joanna soothed her. “Don’t tighten up. Try torelax; it won’t hurt as bad. Here, look at me and breathe like this.” Joanna showedher slow, even breaths, stroking her arm. Michelle released the tension in her body and followed Joanna.
When it ended, Michelle asked, amazed, “That helped. How’d ya know what to do?”
“My mama told me,” Joanna answered. “All five of us were born at home on my granny’s farm. I was with her for the last three.”
For the next few hours, Jessie, Joanna, and Rachel tried to make Michelle as comfortable as possible while Missy sat cross-legged on her bed, silently observing. When Michelle complained her back ached, Jessie massaged it for her and Joanna helped her breathe with each contraction. Rachel finally ran to the bathroom for a cold rag to dab the sweat from her forehead. They lost track of time, until Sister Bridget came in to announce lights-out. Immediately the nun started asking questions.
“Her contractions are eight minutes apart,” Joanna answered. Michelle begged Bridget to let her stay in the dorm room awhile longer. Following a brief exam to gauge Michelle’s dilation, she reluctantly decided to let her remain with her friends for the present.
“You’re only halfway,” Sister Bridget informed them. “We’ll have to turn off the lights or Mrs. Fitch will be in here to investigate. Missy, let me borrow your flashlight.”
With the lights out, the girls focused their moral support on Michelle, each cognizant that a similar fate would find her. They passed the time with whispered stories about their families or boyfriends. Hours later, Missy lay sound asleep in
Dawn Hogan majored in English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She’s the mother of four grown children and grandmother to two. She is a full-time author and lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband. Dawn would be thrilled to join your book club for the discussion of her debut novel UNBROKEN BONDS. You can contact her at email@example.com Check out DWHogan.com for more information. You can follow her on Facebook D.W. Hogan author and on Instagram dawnhoganauthor.