She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright; the orchard on the slope below the house was in a bridal flush of pinky-white bloom, hummed over by a myriad of bees. Thomas Lynde—a meek little man whom Avonlea people called “Rachel Lynde’s husband”—was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn; and Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his on the big red brook field away over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel knew that he ought because she had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair’s store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.
And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly driving over the hollow and up the hill; moreover, he wore a white collar and his best suit of clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea; and he had the buggy and the sorrel mare, which betokened that he was going a considerable distance. Now, where was Matthew Cuthbert going and why was he going there?
Had it been any other man in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel, deftly putting this and that together, might have given a pretty good guess as to both questions. But Matthew so rarely went from home that it must be something pressing and unusual which was taking him; he was the shyest man alive and hated to have to go among strangers or to any place where he might have to talk. Matthew, dressed up with a white collar and driving in a buggy, was something that didn’t happen often. Mrs. Rachel, ponder as she might, could make nothing of it and her afternoon’s enjoyment was spoiled.
Fossil illustration by Emil Hochdanz. CC0
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 Ruth. James 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.