September 27, 2012
Polson author publishes historic novel
Former Char-Koosta News reporter Maggie Plummer's novel "Spirited Away" is set during the little-known Irish slave trade during the 1600s.Plummer says her book has been years in the making. (courtesy photos)
POLSON — Local writer Maggie Plummer has published her first novel, Spirited Away - A Novel of the Stolen Irish.
Set in the 1600s, the novel’s protagonist is young Frederica (Freddy) O’Brennan. When she and her sister Aileen trust a stranger on an empty beach in western Ireland, they inadvertently place themselves in the crosshairs of Cromwell’s notorious Reign of Terror. Freddy awakens in the crammed hold of a slave ship bound for Barbados. She and Aileen endure the gruesome voyage only to be wrenched apart when purchased at auction by plantation owners from different islands. Freddy is left alone to face the brutal realities of life as a female Irish slave on a seventeenth century Barbados sugar plantation. As she struggles to survive, Freddy’s harrowing experiences paint an intimate, compelling portrait of 1650s Irish slavery in the Caribbean.
Playing a critical role in the novel is an inspiring Native American woman named Birdie Moss, from the Monacan tribe of Virginia’s Piedmont region.
Plummer began researching Irish slavery after reading that during Oliver Cromwell’s Reign of Terror in the 1650s, a majority of Ireland’s Catholic population was slaughtered, exiled to the west, or sold into slavery in the Caribbean. “My jaw dropped and I did a triple-take, amazed,” she says. “How could it be that I’d never heard of that? Others hadn’t either. The more I read about Cromwell’s Reign of Terror, the hotter my Irish-American blood boiled. I knew I had to write something about this obscure yet pivotal period of Irish history.”
An estimated 100,000 Irish people, mostly women and children, were sold to sugar plantation owners and literally worked to death, the author writes in her book’s preface. “Some were flogged to death,” she says. “They suffered horrific conditions, disease, starvation, and torture. Many of them died in the Barbados sugar cane fields, and their bodies were often thrown into swamps like garbage.”
The bitterness caused by what took place during the 1650s has been a powerful source of Irish nationalism for more than 350 years. “Irish slavery was an atrocity that should not be forgotten,” Plummer asserts. “I find it outrageous that so few know about it. My hope is that this novel will help bring it to light.”
The author grew up in Detroit, Michigan but has extensive family roots in western Montana. In Polson, where she has lived since 1984, Plummer has worked as a journalist, freelance editor, and freelance writer. She is also the author of Passing It On: Voices from the Flathead Indian Reservation, published in 2008 by Salish Kootenai College Press. Passing It On is a collection of profiles Plummer wrote about tribal elders and other tribal members when she wrote for the Char-Koosta News.
Spirited Away - A Novel of the Stolen Irish was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and is available on Amazon.com in trade paperback and Kindle editions. The book is also being sold in Polson at Super One Foods, Treasure State Mercantile, and Dawn’s Flowers and Gifts. The novel will soon be sold in Missoula and Kalispell bookstores as well.