Contact the Author | marylinmartin@mlode.com

About the Book

The tale begins in 1863 at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. This historic saga covers four generations of women, beginning with the author’s great grandmother, Minerva, who was Cherokee Native American.

Minerva warned her daughter, “Jennie, they put my people on a reservation, took away their pride, and left them with no way to defend themselves. Don’t you ever let anyone hurt you or your children.”

Jennie, Minerva’s daughter, was a determined woman. Her friendship with a slave created tension within her husband’s family.

Thedis moral presence was a blessing to the sick, and when death won, she readied them for burial. She was destined to suffer heartbreaks too horrific to imagine.

Robbie was Thedis’s second-born child. Daily she was reminded of a tragic event, the shotgun blast, her screams, and the smell of fresh blood.

Born with a proud Native American heritage, these women endured hardships beyond modern comprehension, but still found joy and happiness.

Truly, this tale is a literary beacon of inspiration which will walk you through some of the most difficult times in American history, from the Civil War, the Great Depression and two World Wars. Learn the unique stories of these women and marvel at the amount of courage and endurance that took them far in life, despite the grueling times that surround them.

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Title: Common Thread – Uncommon Women

Author: Marylin Hayes-Martin

Treatment By:  J Tosh

Mission Statement:

 Common Thread – Uncommon Women is an historic saga that follows the lives of four generations of Native women who are ancestors from the author’s Cherokee bloodlines. Spanning American history—including the Civil War, the Great Depression, and two World Wars—the story tells of the women’s quiet dignity as they face hardships, including poverty, abuse, and the loss of children and husbands. Rooted in what it was to be a Native American woman in rural America, the novel explores how strength and perseverance help the women thrive.

All books undergo changes when adapted to the visual medium of film. While books are about what people think—often shared through description that tells how the characters are feeling—films are about how they interact. Even in television, which includes more dialogue to move the story forward, the screen version is told as much as possible through action.

Common Thread – Uncommon Women includes many episodes from the author’s archives, which have great film potential. The treatment below selects those scenes that best explore the premise of how the women stay strong in the face of adversity. Although Robbie’s story and the suicide death of her husband are important to the novel, the screen story ends with the death of Minerva to bring the work full circle and to best follow film structure, with its relentless momentum and strong build.

The purpose of the treatment is to entice financiers, producers, and talent to invest in the material and bring it fully to life. A completed screenplay—whether it is for a film or television miniseries—would include further details to flesh out the main storyline and might also develop more interaction with society outside the home to show the struggles the Native women faced in a White community.

 

Logline:

Four generations of Native American women find happiness and joy while facing personal hardships during turbulent times in American history.

 

Treatment:

Rose Bud, Arkansas, 1863. At the hammer of horses’ hooves, MINERVA COOPER (late 20s, Cherokee) grabs her son TERRILL (9) and hides him under the floor boards before the arrival of UNION SERGEANT ROBERT HARPER and his PRIVATE. Her arms around the BABY JENNIE, Minerva greets them as the men stomp their way inside, demanding food and water for their horses as well as themselves. Robert asks where Minerva’s husband is. She doesn’t dare tell him that he’s fighting for the Confederacy, so Minerva claims that he’s gone into town.

After the meal, Robert sends his private and the family dog REX outside. When Robert grabs her breasts, Minerva fights, until fear for her children makes her relax and submit to the rape, her eyes landing on a purple mark on his backside as Robert pulls himself free and turns from her. Hours later, Minerva releases Terrill from his hiding place. When he questions her about what happened, Minerva tells Terrill that he slept the whole time and couldn’t possibly remember anything.

A few days later, a letter comes from Minerva’s Irish husband JEREMIAH. He’s erased Minerva’s last letter to him to write her back, but traces of her words are there on the page. Jeremiah reports that the war is difficult, but his job shoeing horses has kept him off the battlefield. Minerva swallows her tears as she tucks the letter away.

Weeks later while she is out hunting in the woods, Minerva and Rex run into a filthy VAGRANT. Terrified, she shoots him dead and runs for the house. A wolf stops Minerva and Rex in their tracks. Minerva stares the wolf down. He scents the ground and slips away. Later, Minerva deposits the body in the stream. It turns in the churning foam, and Minerva realizes that it is the Union Sergeant who raped her.

Trying to forget, Minerva focuses on teaching Terrill her family legends and showing him how to care for a new foal. She pulls the special bowl from the shelf to make them both biscuits, telling Terrill how it has passed from mother to daughter for generations.

When the pantry is out of flour, oats, and sugar, Minerva and Terrill visit the store in town. The proprietor, MR. BILES, asks if Minerva has seen any soldiers and adds that a dead Union soldier was found in the river. Minerva reports that she’s seen no one, but Terrill mentions the soldiers who stopped at their farm. Minerva shoos him outside with the baby and tells Mr. Biles that Terrill is certainly missing his daddy.

A few days later, Jeremiah arrives home. Minerva is shocked at the open sores and gauntness of his figure, but she helps Jeremiah rid himself of lice and prepares him a meal. Jeremiah reveals that he has deserted for fear that Minerva and the children would starve without him. He thanks the Lord that he never had to kill anyone. Sick to her stomach, Minerva listens quietly.

In bed a week later, Minerva’s heart hammers as Jeremiah reaches for her, but then Minerva’s body erupts with passion. Jeremiah whispers words of love as they fall asleep after making love.

At breakfast, Terrill chats on about the time that his father was gone. He mentions the soldiers. Minerva reprimands him, and Terrill stomps outside, still angry that he had to spend so much time under the floorboards. Jeremiah realizes that something bad may have happened to his wife. Worried, he follows Terrill outside.

Months later, Minerva hangs the wash, slowed by her heavy pregnancy. She waves as Jeremiah leaves to visit his brother, but she makes Terrill stay home to tend the fire under the wash pot. Terrill pouts but is happy to throw a stick for Rex when he isn’t adding another log.

A short time later, a gentleman named RONALD HENSON and his sister VICTORIA HARPER pull up in a carriage. The pair is looking for Victoria’s husband Robert, who didn’t return after the war. Terrill starts to speak, but Minerva silences him with a glare. Victoria hisses at Minerva, revealing that Robert’s private told her all about Minerva, the cabin, and her wretched dog. Tears in her eyes, Victoria asks if Minerva carries Robert’s child. Minerva orders them to leave and returns to her washing. Once they are gone, Minerva threatens to beat Terrill if he ever mentions the soldiers again. Later, when Jeremiah returns, Minerva’s labor pains begin.

Minerva struggles with the birth of WILBUR but is relieved at his red hair and small size. Looking closer, she spies the same purple birthmark on his buttocks that marked the man who raped her. Tears stream down Minerva’s face as she runs her finger over it.

Rose Bud, Arkansas, 1879. No longer a baby, Jennie watches Minerva spread icing on the cake for her sixteenth birthday. Terrill teases her about never being kissed, even though he claims to have seen Jennie sparking with ADAM RAE behind the church. Jennie gives Terrill the smallest piece of cake, saving larger portions for Wilbur and their young sister TERESA.

At seventeen, Jennie marries Adam and moves into his family’s aging Georgian mansion with his parents, MR. and MRS. RAE. One evening Jennie asks why OLD THOMAS doesn’t eat at the table. Mrs. Rae informs Jennie that she mustn’t get too friendly with the darkies. Disgusted, Jennie leaves the table, followed quickly by Mr. Rae, who is angry at his wife’s words. Later, Adam holds Jennie close and tells her that they’ll find a place of their own soon.

In the months that follow, Jennie picks cotton in the field with Old Thomas, despite the protests of her mother-in-law. She even sneaks him a piece of pie.

Jennie and Adam ride out to see Minerva, who’s thrilled to hear that Jennie is pregnant. While Adam chops logs outside, Jennie asks about her Native blood, which she has never revealed to her mother-in-law. Minerva advises Jennie to keep her counsel; that worrying about things she can’t change will steal her strength. With shame in her eyes, Minerva shares that Jennie’s father traded mules and a wagon for her, and she would never want her daughter bought the same way, like a slave. Jennie must remain silent, or she may find herself and her children on a reservation. On their way home, Jennie spots a falling star and catches her breath at the bad portent.

Months later, Jennie is back at her parents’ for the birth of her first child. Jennie grunts and moans, fearful because the baby hasn’t moved in some time. She’s also angry that Adam left her to go back to his parents’ farm during the birthing. Minerva reminds Jennie that Mr. Rae has a broken leg, but Jennie is inconsolable.

At dawn, Jennie’s son is born stillborn. Minerva pushes back tears, worried that this is retribution for her murder of the Union soldier. Adam returns and punches a wall when he learns that his son has died. Jennie offers the baby to him, but Adam refuses to hold him. He swears that he’ll never put Jennie through this again. They name the baby JAMES after President Garfield, who also died that day.

Back at home and grieving for her baby, Jennie invites Old Thomas inside to see the house when he brings her a bucket of vegetables. Old Thomas refuses, but Jennie insists, proud of the home Adam has made for them. She shows him her new kitchen and the table Adam built for their bedroom. Jennie tears up when Old Thomas mentions the baby. Just then, Mrs. Rae enters the house and spots the pair together, her eyes narrowing. Old Thomas scurries away, as Mrs. Rae screeches at Jennie. Jennie orders her mother-in-law out of her house.

That night, Adam apologizes for his mother’s behavior but then cautions Jennie that she should never invite a black man into their home, especially into their bedroom. Jennie tells Adam that they should ask Old Thomas to stay with them if he ever reaches the point where he can’t work. Adam admits that his mother would die if he did that. Jennie recalls Old Thomas saying that one day haunts would come up from a deep, dark hole and drag Mrs. Rae back to the devil. She turns her face from Adam to hide her dark thoughts.

A few nights later, a storm blackens the sky, punctuated by loud cracks of thunder and streaks of lightning. As dinner simmers on the stove, Jennie hurries out to the barn to find Adam. She discovers his burnt body near the barn door—a victim of a lightning strike.

As the gathered at the gravesite sing Adam’s favorite hymn, Jennie watches her husband laid in the ground. The others a blur to her, Jennie only notices the nod Old Thomas gives her as he watches from some distance away. In the morning, Minerva helps Jennie gather her things to return to her parents’ home. Jennie asks why she saw a falling star before the death of her baby but not before the death of her husband. Minerva claims that it’s because Adam was not of their blood.

Months later, Jennie rides to the cemetery. She walks among the graves in the “Coloreds Only” section and stops when she finds the one for Old Thomas. Jennie tends the grave and then passes the cemetery for “Natives Only” when she moves to the graves for her baby and husband. Jennie tells Adam that she will keep her heritage a secret as long as it will allow her to be buried beside him and their son.

At a Fourth of July picnic, Jennie and her friend DORA ride a Flying Jenny. Jennie spots a HANDSOME STRANGER watching them. Her hat flies off, and she searches, only to find her hat in the stranger’s hand. Swallowing her embarrassment, Jennie walks over to retrieve it. She learns the man’s name is WILLIS “WID” BENTON. He asks if she’d like some watermelon, but Jennie worries that she’s been married before. She says nothing before she hurries away, turning sharp when Dora exclaims that Wid is from a good family. Later, Jennie spots Wid under a tree with a PRETTY WOMAN. She’s surprised at the pang of jealousy that she feels.

At church, Jennie sits with Dora and is surprised to find Wid among the congregation. After using the outside privy, Jennie notices Wid waiting outside. He reveals that someone told him which church Jennie attends. Flustered, Jennie reveals that she is a widow. She tingles as she watches him tip his hat to her. On impulse, Jennie invites Wid to visit her that afternoon at Dora’s house.

During dinner, Jennie can’t keep her eyes off Wid. She drops her utensils and spills her tea. Finally, Wid asks if Jennie would like to go for a walk. As they stroll, Jennie and Wid share personal details. Jennie doesn’t mention that she’s from Native blood.

After a month of courtship, Wid asks Jennie to marry him. She turns him down, but Wid kisses her anyway, declaring that he’s set his cap for her and that’s that.

A week later, Jennie anxiously attends a birthday party for Wid’s mother RACHEL. First, Wid introduces Jennie to his father JOHN. She’s surprised to find tension between the two men, but Wid’s mother glows with kindness. On the ride back to her parents’ house, Wid reveals that his mother is Cherokee.

A few weeks later, Wid and Jennie drive away from their wedding. Jennie looks back at her mother, a frown of worry on her face. She looks down in her lap at the bowl Minerva has given her—something to pass down through the years. That night, Jennie submits to Wid’s coarse lovemaking, but her thoughts are on Adam. Later, tears slip down her cheeks as Wid snores beside her.

Years later, Jennie works outside with their seven children, including THEDIS. All of them try to ignore the foul mood that has overtaken Wid. Jennie tells him that they need a well and uses a diving rod to choose a likely spot. Although he’s skeptical, Wid digs. Eight feet down the water begins to flow. Wid twirls Jennie in the air.

Months later, Jennie has twins, WILLIS and MYRTLE. Myrtle doesn’t thrive, so Jennie takes her to a DOCTOR and then to Minerva. Jennie explains that Willis is suckling, but Myrtle won’t. Minerva tells Jennie of a way to see if Myrtle will thrive: put her in the cold stream; and, if she cries, she’ll be well, if she turns blue, Jennie should let her go. Appalled that Minerva would suggest that she drown her baby, Jennie has Wid get a wet nurse, a black woman named OPHELIA. Myrtle suckles for a few days and then refuses to eat once more. Days later, Jennie holds her baby girl as she dies. After assigning Jennie’s chores to the children, Wid goes out in the barn and stabs a pitchfork into the wall.

A black man comes to the door, and Jennie feeds him. Suddenly, she recognizes him by his chipped front teeth. It’s Old Thomas’ son, LITTLE THOMAS. After the meal, Little Thomas has a heart attack and dies. Wid brings the CONSTABLE home, who sneers at Jennie’s colored friend. Jennie demands some respect, but the constable shoots a stream of chewing tobacco while eyeing her bosom. Later, Jennie and Wid bury Little Thomas next to his father. Jennie spots a grey wolf on the hill and wonders at this omen.

A few days later, the Constable stops by to interrogate Jennie about some homemade liquor that she sold to a nephew. After the nephew got drunk, he broke some windows in town. To avoid jail and the Constable’s lurid glances, Jennie pays the fine but doesn’t tell Wid.

After Jeremiah wounds his leg on chicken wire, Jennie helps her parents pack to move to a smaller place near Rose Bud. On the day of the move, Jennie rides with Minerva, who tries to swallow her sadness at leaving the farm, while Jeremiah rests in the back. Suddenly, Jennie spots the wolf pack barreling down on them. With Minerva driving the team, they race forward as Jeremiah aims his rifle. The LEAD WOLF bites his injured leg before Jeremiah can get off a shot. He beats the animal back with his rifle and then shoots, scattering the wolves. As they ride on, Minerva bandages Jeremiah’s leg, praying that it wasn’t a rabid wolf that bit him.

A few weeks later, Terrill appears at Jennie’s door. At the look on his face, tears spring to Jennie’s eyes as she realizes that Jeremiah has died. Terrill wonders what they will do with Minerva, but Jennie declares that their mother must come to live with her and Wid. A few weeks later, Jennie’s sons are called to duty for WWI, emptying the nest sooner than she expected.

As the remaining kids hoe cotton in the field, Wid notices that Thedis isn’t with the others. He stomps into the house and finds her snapping beans. Wid drags her outside, and then grabs the lines off the wagon and brings them down on her back. On the fourth blow, Jennie stops Wid with a rifle in his face. She takes her wounded daughter back inside the house and asks if the cramps still trouble her. Thedis shakes her head, but Jennie can see that she’s wounded inside and out.

Rose Bud, 1918. Thedis, Now 14, walks up the steps of Rose Bud School but is stopped by LONNIE LEACH (16), who flirts outrageously until Thedis agrees to let him walk her home. On the way, Thedis blushes to the roots of her hair when Lonnie stops to relieve himself in an orchard and then brings her a shiny red apple while buttoning his pants. Despite herself, Thedis realizes that she’s smitten.

Two years later, Thedis and Lonnie ride on the back of Midnight, who gallops into her yard. Wid watches, his dislike for Thedis’ beau evident. During a picnic after berry picking, Lonnie reveals that his mother has Cherokee blood. Thedis shares about her own family. Lonnie says their blood ought to mix well. Thedis blushes. At home, Thedis watches Lonnie ride away. Wid tells her that she’ll probably starve to death if she marries that Leach boy.

At a church social, Thedis is mesmerized by Lonnie’s dancing, noting that other GIRLS are as well. Lonnie tells her that she’d better marry him soon. Thedis says that he’ll need to get permission from her father, and she needs time to make a wedding dress. Lonnie remarks that he’ll try to wait for the dress, but that they’ll never outwait her father.

In secret, Thedis sews her dress in preparation for eloping with Lonnie. One night while readying herself for her secret wedding, she puts the dress on as a thunderstorm brews outside. At a loud crack of thunder and torrential rain, Thedis returns the dress to its box. A short time later, Thedis and Lonnie sit in a wagon while a PREACHER marries them. A gust of wind blows his lantern out as they say the final vows. Lonnie kisses Thedis and tells her that the quickie ceremony has saved him enough to get her a ring someday. Thedis has tears in her eyes as Lonnie takes her back home, their marriage to remain a secret.

At a taffy pulling party, Lonnie gets in a fight with ZACK PETERS, who tries to kiss Thedis. Lonnie tells Zack if he ever gets near his wife again, he’ll stomp him. Willis overhears, and his eyes go wide.

In the deepening snow, Thedis and Lonnie ride home. Thedis begs Lonnie to come in until the storm stops. Inside, they find two pieces of berry cobbler on the counter. As they dig in, Wid comes out from the back and tells the pair that Willis told him that they are married. He warns Lonnie that he better treat Thedis well, or he’ll have to answer to him.

At a sharecropper plot on Beckett Mountain, Thedis and Lonnie move into a ramshackle house. Nervous on their first night together, Thedis joins Lonnie on the feather mattress. As he removes her nightdress, passion erupts and they make love, washing Thedis’ fears away.

On Christmas, Thedis and Lonnie visit his parents, MATT and SALLY, who have never met their son’s new wife. Lonnie’s brother WILBURN and his wife STELLA arrive. After Lonnie and Matt talk in the barn, Thedis asks Lonnie if he’s been drinking, causing a pall to descend over the holiday table. At the privy, Stella warns Thedis that Matt runs the family with an iron fist, and it’s best not to question or cross him. Stella throws in a few stories of Lonnie’s wild past, including a trip he took to a whorehouse. Thedis says that Lonnie better behave himself now.

During a hard first winter, Lonnie drinks more and more in town. Thedis questions him once, but sees the look of Matt on her husband’s face and backs down.

As the stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins, Thedis and Lonnie have three children: ARVELLA, ROBBIE, and DEWAYNE. Boll weevils devour all the cotton on Beckett Mountain. Thedis receives a letter from Jennie, who writes that Wid lost all their money from the sale of their farm when the bank closed its doors. Just then, Lonnie arrives home and says that he has news.

Worried about her mother, Thedis visits home. She, Jennie, and Minerva enjoy cool tea as she explains that Lonnie wants to move the family to Arizona so he can find work on a ranch. Jennie gives Thedis the bowl that Minerva gave her. Thedis waits for Wid to come from town to tell him the news, but finally she has to leave without seeing him. All three women wipe tears from their eyes as Thedis rides away.

A few days later, Thedis and Stella pack Wilburn’s car for the road trip to Arizona. When the men join them, Lonnie teases Wilburn for bringing his guitar. At Matt and Sally’s, Arvella hands over the family dog, tears in her eyes. She tells her grandma that they won’t ever be coming back before she turns for the car.

A few days into the drive and broke, the Leach families stop in New Mexico. Wilburn gets a job playing guitar at a dance, where Lonnie gets in a fight with some LOUD-MOUTHED LOCALS. Wilburn gets an offer to stay another night for more pay, but Lonnie’s fighting means that they have to drive on.

After settling in Arizona, the men find work on the Tyson ranch and toss a coin for who will live in the larger of the two houses that they are offered. Wilburn wins, so Thedis and the children move their things into the smaller home. Arvella tells Thedis that she doesn’t like this dry place. Lonnie overhears and whips Arvella. Thedis intervenes, but she worries about what life will be like for her family now.

The following morning, Lonnie goes to work. Thedis answers the door to JESSLYN TYSON, who provides kitchen supplies and fabric for curtains. That night, Thedis watches a star streak across the sky and worries that Minerva has died.

After handling a black cat that she finds in the barn, Arvella becomes very sick. Thedis and Lonnie rush her to the hospital. They operate for appendicitis, but Arvella’s appendix is fine. That night, Arvella grips her mother’s hand tightly and then dies. Sobbing, Thedis holds her little girl’s body to her chest and wails.

Back at home, Thedis and Dewayne burn with fever. After Lonnie goes to work, Thedis tries to tend her sick child, but soon Dewayne is dead, too. She feels Robbie’s forehead, but Robbie seems free of the illness. Back at home, Lonnie discovers a dead kitten in the well and realizes this is what is killing his family. Thedis gets better, but it’s now only her, Lonnie, and Robbie left.

A few months later, Lonnie learns that his mother is doing poorly. After he visits Arkansas, he tells Thedis that they can return to the farm, especially now that President Roosevelt is making changes. Thedis declares that she can never leave the graves of her two children; they don’t even have headstones.

Days later, Thedis wanders the house, hearing Arvella’s and Dewayne’s voices and picturing them coloring at the table. She visits their graves and takes a small flat stone as a remembrance. That night, Thedis tells Lonnie that she’s pregnant again and that she’s ready to go home.

Back on her porch on Beckett Mountain, Thedis scrubs the house from top to bottom. She learns that Minerva has broken her shoulder and goes to visit her. At Minerva’s bedside, she gives Thedis her silver thimble. That night, Thedis sees a star streak across the sky.

Jennie and Thedis take turns sitting at Minerva’s side. Minerva asks that they put an eagle feather in her coffin and to continue passing on the bowl. She reminds them both to stay strong, that worrying about things they can’t change will steal their strength. As Minerva takes her last breath, Jennie and Thedis take her hands: three generations of strong Native American women who have found grace in life.

 

KIRKUS Reviews

TITLE INFORMATION

COMMON THREAD-UNCOMMON WOMEN

Hayes-Martin, Marylin

Authorhouse (278 pp.)

$28.00 hardcover, $19.95 paperback, $3.99 e-book

ISBN: 978-1481705608:

 

BOOK REVIEW

Four generations of Native American women navigate life in a patriarchal American society in this debut historical novel.

 

Martin tells the story of the female linage of her real-life family from the Civil War era to World War II. The story begins with Martin’s great grandmother Minerva, a Native American woman married to a white Confederate soldier. While her husband fights in the Civil War, she defends herself and her children at home and although she draws strength and pride from Cherokee heritage, she finds that she must assimilate into 19th century white American culture for her own protection. She instills in her daughter Jennie some of empathy for other victims of discrimination, which she passes onto her own daughter. Thedis. The novel’s dialogue and internal monologues can sometimes feel a bit clichéd, but, overall, Martin’s prose is consistently clear and polished. The storyline is easy to follow, and provides a fast, engaging read. At times, it seems overly idealistic in its portrayal of the women’s unwavering strength, and the characters might have felt more fully realized if Martin had addressed their internal struggles more often. However, the author conveys their actions in a manner that feels historically accurate for their time periods. The women’s victories aren’t sweeping or adventurous but are instead rooted in their abilities to handle adversity with quiet dignity. They may often be subject to their husband’s unilateral decisions, but they still advocate for themselves and their children the best they can. Each generation suffers the loss of family members, but each woman copes and remains a source of support for their families. They are inextricably linked by their parallel experiences and the lessons they pass down, and these bonds provide readers with hope and emotional relief.

An absorbing, warmly written historical tale.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd. Austin, TX 78744

indie@kirkusreviews.com