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*Adown* - the story behind the story :)

April 16, 2012
Posted at 1:28 pm

This week I'm beginning a new non-Carpenter book (though as y'all will remember they still take place in the Carpenter universe). The name is Adown, for reasons which the story itself will make clear.

This is the beginning of what was supposed to be a single novel but grew into a series, which then stalled. I still want, someday, to finish the story, but right now I'm barely writing anything, and have no idea when or if I'll pick up the story of the Hudsons again.

This is, like all the non-Carpenter stories, explicitly Christian. In addition, this one draws from actual history - it retells, here in Albuquerque, the story of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. You can find plenty of information about Charles (and considerably less about Susannah) in any number of places, but here are some basic facts.

Charles Spurgeon, who was born in 1834 and died in 1892, became famous as the "prince of preachers" while serving as a pastor in London. He was still in his teens when he became the pastor of the New Park Street Chapel, an old and honored Baptist congregation. The church grew rapidly, and after a remodel of the building left the people will still insufficient space the church built a brand new meeting house, the Metropolitan Tabernacle (the church took that name as well). During his ministry this church was the largest single congregation in the world, and people were so eager to hear Spurgeon preach that occasionally he'd instruct the members to stay home one Sunday, whereupon non-members would pack the building.

Spurgeon's published sermons run to over 60 volumes, and publication ceased in 1917 because of a paper shortage - there are still plenty of sermons which have never seen print. In addition he wrote many other books. Most if not all of his output is available through Pilgrim Publications of Pasadena, TX.

Susannah was a member of the church and thought poorly of Spurgeon when he first came to be the pastor. But before long she came to love him, and he to love her, and they got married. They were devoted to each other till his death. After the birth of her twins, their only children, she was largely an invalid for the rest of her life, enduring long separations later in the marriage when Spurgeon's health required him to spend the winter in southern France. Finally, in 1892, she was able to travel with him, and so was there when, after falling down a stairway, he died.

There is little information out there about Susannah Spurgeon, who surely was one of the toughest and wisest women of Christian history. She had to have been both in order to endure what she did, and be a good wife to her famous husband. Though Adown shows both POVs, in a real sense it's about Cassie Hudson, Cassie Hudson that was (in the southern phrase), who represents Susannah Spurgeon. I admire Susannah, and wish I knew more about her. By taking some liberties with history, I was able to sort of satisfy that desire in writing this book.