“Dark Enough to see the Stars in a Jamestown Sky” – April Book Club Selection
Have you ever researched an ancestor so extensively that you felt like you knew them? Have you wished you could tell their story in a way that would do justice to their life experiences? Connie LaPallo did just that with our April book selection: “Dark Enough to see the Stars in a Jamestown Sky.” Her journey in writing the story of her ancestor, Joan Peirce, one of the few women who survived the Jamestown “starving time” in the spring of 1610 is remarkable. Join us this month as we step back in time and discover the story that Connie LaPallo uncovered. Become part of the conversation in our Goodread’s Family Locket Book Club group.
By Connie Lapallo
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The book begins in 1649 Virginia with Joan as an old woman telling her story. She relates her childhood in England in 1592, the misfortunes she encounters as a young woman, and the adventures of crossing the ocean and working to survive in the wilderness through the “starving time.” Reading the book, I became so involved in Joan’s life, I hated to see the book come to an end. I was thrilled to discover that LaPallo has published a sequel titled: “When the Moon has No more Silver” and is currently working on the third book of the series, “The Sun is But a Morning Star.”
On my initial reading of the book, I was impressed with how LaPallo told Joan’s story in the first person narrative. I wondered how she was able to make Joan come alive on the written page. LaPallo’s website is a wealth of information. On the homepage, LaPallo describes her experience with Joan:
I quickly learned who was in charge. Joan Peirce wanted to tell her own story; in my mind, I heard her speak with authority and even defiance. I knew that a first-time novelist, especially one writing historical fiction, should never attempt to write in first person. “That effort most always fails,” I read. Yet, Joan was speaking to me clearly. When I attempted to convert her words to third person, the intensity was lost. It was not, after all, my story to tell.
In telling her own story, Joan often spoke to me of things that seemed far-fetched. I would research the facts only to find Joan knew what she was talking about! I gradually realized that Joan and the story knew what they wanted to be—what they should be.
As a family historian, I have often felt compelled to work on a certain ancestor or family line, so I was interested to read of LaPallo’s genealogy background. Like many of us, once she started researching her ancestors she was hooked. LaPallo writes of her research beginnings and inspiration for the book:
During the writing, Joan became so real to me that I knew her voice and what she would say in any situation. I began to understand her and to sympathize with her. In the novel, I was dedicated to maintaining historical accuracy, and I have tremendous respect for all these women and children. I did not sugarcoat their story, but I did not defile it either. These one hundred women, in my mind, were the first American heroines as Bemiss suggested. God bless each one for their courage. Most lost their lives and were buried in unmarked graves. But a few, like Joan, at least have a name and a story which one can trace.
All the women and children who ventured to Jamestown in the first two years of settlement, most of them unknown and unremembered, still have something to say:
“Do not forget us.”
Join us this month as we read about and remember Joan Peirce and the other women and children at Jamestown in the spring of 1610.