Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their neighbor’s business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting “cotton warp” quilts—she had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices—and keeping a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

Gemstone illustration by Emil Hochdanz. CC0

about jacinda


Jacinda Townsend grew up in Southcentral Kentucky and left for Harvard at the age of sixteen. It was there that she took her first creative writing classes; while at Duke Law School, she cross-registered in the English department, where she took her next few formative writing workshops. After four years of being first a broadcast journalist and then an antitrust lawyer in New York City, Jacinda went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received her MFA before going on to spend a year as a Fulbright fellow to Côte d’Ivoire.

During her Fulbright year, on a layover in Morocco, Jacinda discovered the city of Marrakech and fell in love. Later that same year, on a trip to Northern Mali, she also first witnessed modern-day slavery: that incident inspired the research that eventually took her to Mauritania, where she met with escaped slaves and anti-slavery activists and began the work that would become her forthcoming novel, Mother Country.  Mother Country is told in the voices of an American woman struggling with infertility who kidnaps a young Moroccan girl, and the young mother, escaped from Mauritanian slavery, who loses her. Mother Country will be published by Graywolf Press in May, 2022.

Jacinda is also the author of Saint Monkey (Norton, 2014), which is set in 1950’s Eastern Kentucky and is a love letter to a Black community that has all but disappeared. Saint Monkey won the 2015 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best fiction written by a woman and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for that year’s best historical fiction. Saint Monkey was also the 2015 Honor Book of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Jacinda recently finished work on a third novel, James Loves RuthJames Loves Ruth is told in the voices of Ruth Hurley, who changed her identity and moved across the country after her father was killed by police in the late eighties, and James Hurley, her soon-to-be-ex-husband, who spends the novel uncovering the truth about his wife. Excerpts from the novel have appeared in Auburn Avenue, Copper Nickel, and Transition.

Jacinda has taught in MFA programs across the country, and is mom to two magnificent children who amaze her daily.

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