My new summer novel, The Edge of Summer, is a deeply personal story, woven from beautiful memories of my childhood. The novel is inspired by my grandma’s buttons and button jars. I grew up in grandmas’ sewing rooms, playing with those buttons as they sat behind their Singers making my school clothes or turning scraps into beautiful quilts. These small moments changed my life and perspective on life profoundly.
My Grandma Shipman (Viola, my pen name) stitched overalls at a local factory until she couldn’t stand straight. And my Grandma Rouse was also an accomplished seamstress. But even after sewing all day for work, nothing brought them more joy than finding the perfect pattern or creating their own designs and taking a seat at their Singers. It represented one of the first times in my life I was able to witness in real time what happens when talent meets inspiration.
My grandmothers both had Singer sewing machines, and I thought they were the most beautiful things in the world: Black with a beautiful gold inlay pattern atop the original, old treadle oak cabinet, glowing with a rich patina. Moreover, they had jars and tins – even old Crayola boxes – filled with beautiful buttons that lined their cabinets and shelves. I still have many of them to this day. As I write in The Edge of Summer, Miss Mabel tells her daughter, Sutton, the following, inspired by my grandmas’ own words to me:
“Look at these beautiful buttons. So many buttons in my jars: Fabric, shell, glass, metal, ceramic. All forgotten. All with a story. All from someone and somewhere. People don’t give a whit about buttons anymore, but I do. They hold value, these things that just get tossed aside. Buttons are still the one thing that not only hold a garment together but also make it truly unique. Lots of beauty and secrets in buttons if you just look long and hard enough.”
My grandmothers were like ballerinas at their Singers, their bodies in motion and in tune with the machine. It was a gorgeous dance to watch. They were also the first “artists” I ever knew, though they were never called that and would turn red today at the mere utterance of such a fancy word. But they taught me to create. To take pride in what I created. To continue perfecting my talent.
The Edge of Summer is inspired by these memories. It’s also inspired by the thoughts that spun in my head as I watched them sew, especially as I grew older: What were my grandmas like before they were my grandmas? Did I know everything about them? Where did this love of – and great skill for – sewing come from? And, although I knew of their sacrifices, I wondered how much they truly had to sacrifice – and maybe even hide – in order to get here, right now, happy and sewing in a home with their grandchild watching them work?
Like Miss Mabel in The Edge of Summer, my grandmothers overcame so much in their childhoods. But I know it didn’t come easy. It never does. In today’s age, we have so much information at our fingertips. We seek out our ancestry. We search to find who we were. We want to know how our families came to be. My grandma used to say, “We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know from where we came.” We seek that more than ever these days.
As with every novel I write, The Edge of Summer seeks to answer an important question. In this novel, it is this: Why do we too easily and too often go in search of shinier luxuries and people— things we believe will fill our lives with more happiness and importance—when true worth already lies inside and in front of us if we are just capable of opening our eyes and hearts enough to see it?
The Edge of Summer is a timely reminder of the beauty of family, faith, finding your own strength and coming home.
I wrote this novel to remind readers that families are not perfect. They never will be. But – if we were blessed to be loved by our families, as flawed as it may have been, and even if our parents were not who we wished they had been or the love they gave was not as much or as demonstrative as we would have liked – we were still blessed to be loved. At its heart, this novel seeks to ask if we should be thankful for those sacrifices and if maybe, just maybe, that love is enough for us to stitch together a beautiful life and a future.
I truly hope you love The Edge of Summer. And I’m so excited my new holiday/winter novel, A Wish for Winter, will publish this fall! All my best for a beautiful, blessed summer! XOXO!