Rhode Island is a parochial little state because, in many ways it is its own parish. I grew up in Pawtucket, one of the larger cities which abuts Providence, the state capital. When we were young and would meet someone new, one of the first questions we’d ask was, “What parish are you from?” You see, each neighborhood, each village, each town in our small state has its own flavor. Every one of the five counties with its 31 townships, has a unique personality and is, in a sense, its own little parish.
More often than not, our conversations have a way of turning to the people and places we all have in common and it would seem we are interconnected not just by 6 degrees of separation, but usually by only 1 or 2 degrees. We all know somebody who knows somebody who’s related to somebody who knows somebody we know. That’s just the way it is in Rhode Island.
In 2015, I published my first book, A Berkshire Tale. I’d set the ten stories about a little kitten named ZuZu in the picturesque Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. My husband and I visit there often and we’ve learned to love the area.
ZuZu’s adventures take her to Tanglewood to hear Mozart played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She learns about the history of the Hancock Shaker Village and the many innovative ideas the Shaker Sect infused into the American Society. At the Red Lion Inn, she meets a black and white tuxedo cat named Simon, the Lobby Ambassador. He introduces her to Santa so she can make a very special Christmas Wish during the Annual Norman Rockwell Weekend held on Main Street in Stockbridge. And at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, ZuZu and her friend Nick discover they can help to save Monarch Butterflies by planting a milkweed garden of their own.
I cherish those stories and enjoy book signings both in the Berkshires and in Rhode Island. But around here, the question invariably is posed, “Well, you wrote a book about the Berkshires, do you have any books about Rhode Island?”
I soon realized I had to do something to remedy the fact I had authored no books about our own beloved state.
And so, I created a little book in verse about a carnivorous plant at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens. Adonis, the baby pitcher plant, aweakens one morning and at the coaxing of a fly, which has fallen into his digestive juices, the little plant decides he wants to be a vegetarian – much to his mother’s distress.
I entitled it Carnivore Conundrum.
After that, I decided to get serious and write an adult murder mystery in my own neighborhood of South Kingstown.
I’d attended the University of Rhode Island back in the late 60’s and came to truly appreciate the allure of the southermost part of our state. I eventually bought a home here and settled in. The brick walks lining the Village of Kingston lead into the URI campus. Kingston was once called Little Rest. General George Washington stopped here on his way to Newport in 1781 to rest for the night in the home of Elisha Reynolds in what is now the Tavern Hall Club which is just across the street from Upper College Road.
My mystery, Last Train to Kingston, revolves around the murder of a woman, Dorathea Lorimar. On a dark November night, under a black sky filled with meteor showers, she arrives at Kingston Station and is soon making her last wish on one of those falling stars. Who is she? What brought her to South County on that fateful night? And of course, who had reason to kill her? All questions needing answers that Detective Kara Langley of the South Kingstown Police must search out.
In addition to Thea’s story, there are many familiar settings and landmarks people will recognize if they’ve spent any time in Southern Rhode Island. I’ve sprinkled photos of them throughout the book, because we all know even grown-ups love picture books.
The old Washington County Court House, now the Courthouse Center for the Arts, where concerts, plays, and events are scheduled throughout the year.
The Kingston Free Library which served as the first County Courthouse from 1776-1891 and where the General Assembly met from 1776-1791.
In 1820, Fayerweather House was the home of the village blacksmith, George Fayerweather, descendent of a freed slave. It has been restored and is now a center where local crafters give workshops and sell their arts and crafts.
The Kingston Congregational Church was built in 1820 but dates back to the 1600’s when missionaries began to preach at Tower Hill.
There’s so much history in this part of the state. I was recently at the South County Museum in Narragansett. It was founded in 1933 and in 1984, it was moved to the beautiful Canonchet Farm property in Narragansett. This living history museum contains artifacts dating from the 17th Century to modern times. Docents are on site to help guide visitors throught the many interesting stories surrounding our past here in the Ocean State. And just a short distance down the road is the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Beach where you can sit on the sea wall and watch the waves roll in.
Stop by when you’re in the area and if I’m there, we can chat. I’ll bet I know somebody who knows somebody you know. I’m a Rhode Islander born and bred!
Claremary Sweeney is an author living in South Kingstown with her husband Charley and their two cats, Roxie and ZuZu. She’s published two childrens’s books, A Berkshire Tale and The Pacas Are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias. She optimistically expects A Carnivore Conundrum and Last Train to Kingston to be published in the very near future. You can find her on her blog Around ZuZu’s Barn, Conversations With Kindred Spirits http://aroundzuzusbarn.wordpress.com or email her at email@example.com to purchase signed copies of her books
As Thanks for Stopping Over, Claremary Sweeney offers a prize of cards of scenes of Rhode Island included in this post. Comment here for your chance to win. Leave your contact info and thanks for enjoying the sights of Rhode Island.