A Mother’s Promise by K.D. Alden
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Paperback & eBook; 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Based on the true story behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision, K.D. Alden’s debut is a rich and moving story of one woman’s courage and strength at a pivotal point in America’s history.
Virginia, 1927. A chance to have a family. That’s all Ruth Ann Riley wants. But because she was unwed and pregnant, she was sent away and her baby given to another woman. Now they’re trying to take Ruth Ann’s right to have another child. But she can’t stand the thought of never seeing little Annabel’s face again, never snuggling up to her warmth or watching her blue eyes crinkle with laughter. Good thing she has a plan.
All the rich and fancy folks may call her feeble-minded, but Ruth Ann is smarter than any of them have bargained for. Because no matter how high the odds are stacked against her, she is going to overcome the scandals in her past and get her child back—and along the way, she just may find unexpected friendships and the possibility of love in the most unlikely of places.
“A Mother’s Promise is a powerful, heart-wrenching, ultimately uplifting novel about the bonds of family and one woman’s courage in the face of adversity. K.D. Alden brings history to life with rich storytelling and deep emotion.“―V.S. Alexander, author of The Magdalen Girls
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Excerpt from A Mother’s Promise, by K.D. Alden
(Copyright 2021; All Rights Reserved.)
Dr. Price wore a three-piece suit with lots of authority and a kind smile.
As superintendent of The Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feebleminded, he looked like God, or at least Ruth Ann Riley’s idea of God. She imagined He would wear a fine-cut, hand-stitched three-piece suit like the good doctor’s, with a white coat over it and have pale, narrow blue eyes, thin, refined lips with neatly trimmed whiskers and a beard. He’d smell nice, too, of shaving cream and cigar smoke and heavy volumes of learning.
Doc checked his gold pocket watch and wrote down the time. Time seemed important to him, not so much to her. Ruth Ann told time by how many peas she got shelled, or by how many shirtwaists, nightdresses, petticoats and overskirts she’d hung on the line.
Doc seemed to want more time, but she wished she had less because it stretched and stretched and it wasn’t ever over with. Not ‘til she went to sleep. Then it started up all over again when the cock crowed.
She didn’t want to be here, the focus of attention. Attention was guaranteed to be a bad thing. Better to be invisible. She tried her best to evaporate, like water into air.
But Doc Price wanted to talk to her again for some reason. He picked up a pen. And a file folder. Then he walked round his monster of a desk to sit down.
Ruth Ann knew he must be very smart, because he had read all those books that climbed his shelves to the very ceiling. She loved books herself—fiction that she snuck out of the Colony library. Not these tomes.
Outside, the wind had picked up, torpedoing poor Clarence’s carefully raked piles of leaves and ruining the handyman’s work. Ruth Ann thought uneasily of what a storm might do to the mountains of laundry she’d wrung out until her arms ached. It all hung on the lines. She peered out the window. In the distance, beyond the neatly landscaped terrace outside of Doc Price’s office, she spied a pair of long-johns kicking, skirts flying up indecently, sheets billowing.
“Sit down,” Doc Price said, waving his hand toward a chair on Ruth Ann’s side of the desk.
She limped to the seat, gritting her teeth and sweating with the pain. She’d dropped an iron on her big toe in the laundry. Gotten screeched at by Mother Jenkins for burning her shoe, and the son of a gun still stunk of fried hide.
Doc Price didn’t seem to notice the smell; his nose was buried in some scribbles in the file.
Ruth Ann wondered if she could ask him to examine her toe. But he looked very busy. And what can he do? Tell me to go barefoot? Can’t do that when you work in the laundry and the kitchen.
Doc asked her questions and wrote down her answers, while she went halfway to somewhere else in her head. She did that a lot.
What’s your name?
Ruth Ann Riley.
How old are you?
Who is your father?
Where is he now?
Who’s your mother?
Where does she live?
Do you know where you are?
Yes, sir. At the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feeble-Minded.
Do you know why your mother is here?
Yes, sir. She don’t have no other place to live. Ruth Ann winced. She should’ve said ‘doesn’t.’ But Doc didn’t seem to notice.
Do you know why you’re here?
Her face heated. She looked down at her lap, at her red, raw hands with their gnawed nails. She just nodded.
Why are you here?
You know that, sir.
Yes, Ruth Ann. But I need to ascertain whether you know it.
Ascertain. Doc did drop some fancy words.
Ruth Ann? His voice was sharper. Do you understand why you’re here?
Pressure built behind her nose, tingling. It pushed unwilling tears into her eyes. She blinked. “Wasn’t my fault.” She couldn’t look at him. Write that down, mister.
“You’ve said so before.” Doc tapped his pen. “It’s all right. It’s not important.”
The hell it ain’t. Her anger startled Ruth Ann. It was usually like a toothache; a dull pain, but not fierce, like this. It blew away her mental fog. All of her was present now, in this chair in front of Doc.
“Ruth Ann. Why are you here?”
“Can I just see her?” she blurted. She forced her chin up, her eyes to his. “Please? Can I just see my baby?”
Ruth Ann had been an open wound when they took her infant, bundled up and howling.
Doc packed soothing into his voice on purpose, like gauze into that wound. “Little Annabel is with Mr. and Mrs. Dade. You know that.”
“Can’t I hold her . . . just one time?” Meh, meh, meh. She hated the way her voice sounded. Like a goat’s. Bleating.
Doc looked down, shuffled his notes. He sighed. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
Why? She didn’t say it aloud. She knew it was against the rules.
“Ruth Ann. Let’s get back to the matter at hand.”
Right. My matter don’t matter. His does.
“I’m here,” she said, “because I ain’t married and I had a baby. And that’s bad.”
Doc nodded. “And why else are you here?”
She stared blankly at him. Then she remembered. “They say I’m feeble-minded.” News to her.
“And what does that mean, Ruth Ann?”
She looked over at the diplomas. She could easily read the letters that said where he’d studied, even the Latin ones. She’d finished sixth grade before she’d gone to work for the Dade family. “Feeble-minded means that I ain’t smart.”
Doc Price got up from his desk. He walked around it and folded his arms, looking down at her. “Ruth Ann, we’re going to do an operation on you.”
He’s not asking me. He’s telling me. “An operation?” She didn’t like the sound of that.
“Yes. It’s . . . for the greater good.”
About the Author
K.D. Alden is the pseudonym of an award-winning author who has written more than twenty novels in various genres. She has been the recipient of the Maggie Award, the Book Buyer’s Best Award, and an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A Mother’s Promise is her first historical novel.
K.D. is a graduate of Smith College, grew up in Austin, Texas, and resides in South Florida with her husband and two rescue greyhounds.
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