Wisewomen and Trauma

A secret writer from a pragmatic blue-collar neighborhood, Marie White Small brings her skills as a florist, waitress, antiquarian bookseller, bookbinder, cook, and pie-baker to the page.


open book2My novel Stony Kill tells the story of a complicated family, opening with the revelation of a family secret—the tragic story of a long ago shooting. The protagonist Joss Ryckman, a thirty-something Brooklyn baker, copes with the mystery of this shooting— was it accidental or not? This revelation soon follows the sudden death of her mother, and Joss retreats to the upstate family farm to sort out her world. There is much to be remembered from her personal history: joyous childhood play, her wise and wonderful nanny named Miss Euphrates, and traumas she must reconcile.

shutterstock_211654111Joss does what many people do when confronted with shocking circumstances; they deny and push back upsetting memories. It is only when her mother dies quite unexpectedly that the past comes roaring back. She responds by withdrawing and becomes mired in confusion and inertia—behaviors that upset those around her. Readers may wonder what is going on with this character, or why I wrote her the way I did. Is she depressed, or maybe mentally ill? The answers lie in human reactions to trauma.

Like Joss, and many others, I have experienced significant trauma, and wanted to write about loss in a non-clinical way; to illuminate the experience. In my view, writing or reading should enhance our lives, inform or charm us in some way that opens our minds to other possibilities. And so I write . . .

shutterstock_284183555Seventy percent of American experience trauma in their lives—an auto accident, the  death of a parent, coming home to a ransacked and burglarized home, physical or sexual assault, war, and so on. How any one individual deals with the aftermath of trauma is not predictable. A young person involved in a traffic accident may be reticent to get back behind the wheel, even it the incident