He Will Restore
by Helen Chapman
Government corruption. Police brutality. Child abuse.
Ripped from the headlines of Tennessee newspapers from 1875 to 1878.
He Will Restore is a fictionalized retelling of the real adventures of Joe and Teek Brassell, two brothers who gave everything to save their sisters by any means, fair or foul.
Like most people in the area, the family were subsistence farmers, making what little cash money they could from the manufacture of illicit spirits. They were fairly typical, hard working people, with the exception of Egbert, their patriarch, who drank much, worked little, and had a predilection for his young daughters.
Amanda busied herself putting a quick supper on the table for her brothers. Anything to keep from going to bed. She took some sausage from the warming oven, along with some corn bread wrapped in a damp towel. It wasn’t much of a supper, but this year’s harvest had been on the lean side. It was too early for hog killing, and her mother had put by everything they could manage for winter. Normally, there would still be roasting ears clean up until Christmas. This year, they were lucky to have enough for their stock and for grinding to make meal.
Joe retrieved a pitcher of buttermilk from the cold box by the back door. A sausage from last year that had been preserved in a crock of lard and some corn bread didn’t seem all that appetizing to him. He figured the icy buttermilk, clabbered on the back of the stove after his sister Tennessee had churned, would be a nice addition.
Both Joe and Teek avoided thoughts of their oldest sister. She was the one people said “wasn’t right”, or was “teched in the head”. Tennessee was three years older than their brother Jim. Joe didn’t remember her any other way, but Jim told him once that Tennessee used to be a happy little girl, who liked nothing better than playing in the creek that ran beside their house. It wasn’t until after the family had to leave Kingston Springs that she became strange. A year or so before Amanda was born, Tennessee quit talking. She withdrew into herself, into her own little world. The only sound she made was when she would scream during the night.
Joe remembered the screams most of all. They were horrible, gut wrenching cries of an animal in pain. To hear that sound coming from his eight year old sister, who otherwise was perfectly mute, was terrifying to the young boy. Later, after the family had moved from Kingston Springs, and Joe was about ten years old, he put two and two together, and realized the screams stopped when Egbert left his daughter’s room.
He looked at his sister Amanda as she busied herself getting their supper together. She was a pretty girl: blond hair with some red in it, green eyes, very petite and lady-like for a farm girl. She didn’t look anything like their older sister. Maybe that was what saved her from their father.
Recently, though, Egbert had been looking at Amanda the way he used to look at Tennessee. Their father was never an easy man to live with. He was quick to temper, quicker to strike out. He wanted supreme control over those in his household, and it scared him when he saw his children reaching adulthood. Egbert had even been happy when Joe’s wife had died of pneumonia last year, and Joe had to come back home with his little boy.
It was about that time that Egbert starting avoiding his eldest, too. No one mentioned it. But Tennessee had started making a mad dash to the outhouse every morning, holding her hand over her mouth. Her waistline started to thicken a little. But just as quickly as it started, it stopped. Joe had tried to deny what he knew by then had to be true. Tennessee, the girl who never left the house, who was always with family, the girl whose only sound screams in the night, was in a family way.
Egbert had brought that old granny woman up from Cookeville then. She had spent hours gathering things around the farm, and returned at least three times with a basket filled with peculiar flowers and plants. Then she had begun to pound and boil and mix. Finally, the old witch had produced some noxious smelling poultice. She had told Joe to take the baby outside then, because just smelling the stuff could harm him. He had been glad to go.
Joe didn’t want to think about what the old woman had done. But as he sat outside with Teek and his baby boy, James, he remembered wiping way his own tears every time he heard his sister scream from inside that room.
It was the next day when Egbert started looking at Amanda.
This work is deeply engrossing. It is one of those books you just can’t put down because the action keeps rolling like a dramatic thriller movie. The author presents the characters such that you get to know and care about them, and even though you ultimately know their fate as it is based on a true story, you keep hoping that there will be a surprise twist that saves the day. If you need something to read that will entertain you, then this is your book. If you’ve ever been fascinated by true history not mentioned in traditional history books, this is your book. You will feel like you were right there, a fly on the wall, during the entire thing. You can almost smell the moonshine, hear the cries, and taste the good cooking of Miss Lizzie. Ms. Chapman, you have truly captivated me.
About the Author
Helen Chapman is a regular contributor to periodicals, including I Love Catsmagazine, Urban Arts and Antiques, and Catnip Chronicles. Her books include Adventures of a Crazy Cat Lady, Neutral Zone, and The House that Jack Built (written under the pen name of Anne Arrandale). Her latest book, He Will Restore, was published on 1 January 2013.
When she is not writing, Helen rescues cats, and works for a busy divorce attorney.