About the book:
Knowledge is a dangerous commodity in the Home commune, the last beacon of civilization against the fallen outside world. As Suzannah Commons begins to secretly read forbidden books, she jeopardizes her future for the forbidden love of the boy who supplies her new, dangerous habit, Silas Maars, and his family. Will her new-found knowledge be her destruction?
Suzannah is in training with the rest of the unmarried teenage girls in the Handmaiden House and Home’s laundry to become a bride when she accidentally comes upon a naked boy in one of the family quarters, Silas Maars. To see a naked man before marriage is an unforgivable sin in Home and a challenge to her precious status as a virgin, her only aspect of worth. This compromise to her purity would earn her an automatic exile in the Hard Labor Camp, a death sentence until the commune leader, Parson, sentences her to the punishment of serving Silas and his unusual family as a housekeeper. As she works for the Maars family and is isolated from the rest of the commune’s population, she discovers the frightening, threatening outside world is not as dangerous as she has been led to believe. The Maars family reveals to her that Deacon controls the population of Home by keeping them all ignorant, denying them education and books so he can teach his own twisted, corrupt, self-serving version of religion from the pulpit. As she learns the truth and begins to fall into a star-crossed love with Silas, her fate as a child bride to one of the lecherous Elders or a worker in the hard labor camp is drawing nigh.
The next night after dinner, I went to the Maars’ quarters to clean Silas’s room. “I got it,” Silas said.
“You got what-“ I saw a book in his lap. It was a giant book, covered in pictures. I had seen pictures before, but they were in school. They were rare, we didn’t have the technology to make photographs anymore. The book said LIFE in large white letters. “Silas!” I cried. “What are you doing with that? You know you’ll get in trouble if they find out you have it!”
“No, I won’t,” he said. “They don’t even notice if we keep it hidden.”
“Books are rare!”
“No, they’re not,” he chuckled. “They’ve got a whole room full of books in the Elder’s wing. On shelves and stacked on top of each other in giant piles.”
“A whole room?” I repeated, trying to imagine it. “Is that where you got these?”
“Yeah,” he said, flipping through the book. “There’s thousands of books. Tens of thousands. Maybe even a hundred thousand!”
“You’re making that up,” I said.
He showed me a beautiful printed page. It had yellowed a bit, the edges were dog-eared. I felt a chill; I never was allowed to handle something as precious as a book before. I had learned to read by a chalkboard and it helped when there were directions painted on the walls of the laundry and the directions on the cooking cards. This was special and sacred, and Silas was letting me handle it like the bag of laundry I picked up every night. I looked at the page on the book: in the middle, a picture was in black and white of a group of women dressed in pantsuits, like the mechanics in our commune, standing by some large metal thing. They were grinning, proud, brandishing tools, not ashamed to be forced into wearing pants like the hard labor whores were forced to, their hair under colorful red patterned bandanas.
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)
I blinked. “Real women in the militia?” I asked.
“Yeah. They used to have a militia with an entire department where they flew airplanes.”
“Airplanes are made-up.”
“They used to drop bombs on the enemies during wars. They’d blow up entire cities. And shoot each other down in air fights.”
“Men can’t fly,” I snorted.
“You’re making that up, you have not. It’s impossible!”
“They used to know how,” he said. “Papa says that there are people that still know. People go to places to get onto planes called aeroports. And the pilots would drive them across the world. You’ve never read a book, have you?”
About the author:
Eleni McKnight is a Murfreesboro, Tennessee native and graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a degree in Theatre with an emphasis in Literature. This left her with a wild passion for creating costumes and doing make-up in her freetime, along with her intense passion for reading from her childhood. She started writing at age eight when she had read all the Baby-Sitter’s Club books she had brought along for a road trip at age nine, and wanted something new to read. It’s never quite left her over the years.
These days, you can usually find her working backstage or costuming in local community theatres, reading a book, walking/exercising, at a concert, drinking a craft beer with friends, knitting, embroidering, or taking a dance class.