By Special to the Daily Journal
TUPELO – Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore will host an in-store event to promote “Trials of the Earth” by Mary Mann Hamilton from noon until 1 p.m. Friday. Kerry Hamilton and Sheilah Hamilton Partin, the late author’s great-grandchildren, will be on hand to sign and discuss the book.
Originally published by the University Press of Mississippi in 1993, this important work has long been out of print and existing copies have been much sought-after and costly.
John Evans at Lemuria Books in Jackson said he has lost literally thousands of dollars in sales while the book has been out of print, noting that people who own a copy hestitate to loan theirs out but recommend it and give it as gifts. It appeals to fans of Southern/Mississippi history, women’s studies, culinary arts and even mystery … it really is quite a book.
Hamilton was born in 1867 and at age 18 married an upper-class Englishman who had migrated to the southern U.S. to seek fortune in the timber industry. The narrative begins in Arkansas in the early 1880s, where Hamilton quickly finds herself living in impermanent tents, make-shift homes and boarding houses not only raising (and also burying) children but also facing long periods of loneliness and toil as her husband was away on business – or drinking. At the same time she was also responsible for tending to the needs of and cooking for large numbers of lumberjacks working in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta.
southern pioneer woman
Hamilton’s story is a rich yet simple narrative. The strength of her determination is echoed in the strength of her writing, which provides a unique glimpse into the life of a true Southern pioneer woman.
“Trials of the Earth” is more than just a fascinating memoir of one of, if not the first, white female settlers in the Mississippi Delta,” said award-winning Mississippi author Martha Hall Foose. “And it’s so much more than just an incredible story. It includes mystery and mysticism, triumph and failure, hope and despair. Throughout it all, Hamilton perseveres – while also cooking for over 100 hungry loggers at any given time. It is for certain an inspirational story.”
This 20th anniversary edition not only celebrates the return of “Trials of the Earth” to the reading public but also Mary Mann Hamilton’s heirs’ efforts to return the ownership of the work back to the family (which, by the way, includes one of Mary’s great-grandsons, former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove).
The original Postscript was penned by the late Mississippi author Ellen Douglas. The new introduction is by Morgan Freeman, whose production company, Revelations Entertainment, has optioned a screenplay of “Trials of the Earth.” Freeman has long championed the book as one of the most important memoirs in the Southern canon.
The new publisher is Mary Mann Hamilton, LLC, and the book is being distributed by Neil White and his team at Nautilus Publishing in Taylor.
The book retails for $24.95.