Salvation by Avery Caswell

Title: Salvation
Author: Avery Caswell
Genre: Women’s/Sibling Fiction
Release Date: September 15, 2021


“Based on the harrowing true story of two young girls abducted by a traveling preacher in 1971, this is a novel about delusion and determination, faith and grit, good and evil. Meticulously researched and masterfully written. A stunning debut by an important talent.”
– Abigail DeWitt, author of News of Our Loved Ones
“With gentle humor and a profound appreciation for the marginalized lives of her characters, Avery Caswell illuminates the America that’s alongside us, and which many of us rarely acknowledge.” 
– Arthur J. Magida, author of Code Name Madeleine
“Deep respect and gratitude to Earthell Latta who mindfully decided to untether the festering shame, pain, scars, and cleanse the wound that was whispering to be opened. In the spirit of generosity, celebration, healing, and redemption, Avery Caswell, chosen spiritual creative midwife triumphantly and expertly guides Salvation forward.” 
—Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina Poet Laureate


No one ever talks about what happened …

Summer 1971, Del Munro, a single mother of four, is struggling to make ends meet when Mother Franklin, a traveling evangelist, offers to take her daughters to the beach in Savannah.

For nine-year-old Willie June and seven-year-old Glory, restless at the end of a long, hot summer in Charlotte, it’s a dream come true. To their beleaguered mother, it’s a much-needed reprieve.

But what seemed like a blessing soon turns into a nightmare when the girls are pressed into service by the morbidly obese Mother Franklin whose needs are as outsized as her ambitions.

When the girls fail to return, Del, evasive about the details of her arrangement with Mother Franklin, panics. People begin to wonder if instead of sending her daughters on vacation, she sold them to the evangelist.

Based on a true story, Salvation is an evocative and unforgettable saga about stolen innocence that explores the tragic mistakes made by desperate people and the false prophets who exploit their vulnerabilities.



“Two dollars, Lute Jackson,” she hollered, “and not a drop more!” Mother Franklin, sixty-six years old and measuring about that many inches around, stepped out of the car. She seemed an improbable mother. But the breadth of her stance, the strength of her gaze, and her righteous discovery of a handkerchief from within her square black pocketbook lent partial credence to the title which was given to her years ago when she might have had children, but had chosen not to. Instead she mothered flocks of children, God’s children.

         She drew attention standing there in her sateen purple dress that looked more like a choir robe than regular street clothes. Even pleated like it was, the dress strained at every seam. Everything about her was big — her feet, her neck, even her elbows. Her very breath was big and heavy. She stood there as if she needed a tugboat to get moving.

         Mother Franklin fanned her face and kept an eye on the gas pump while Luther walked around to the front of the saggy gray station wagon and raised the hood. Luther was as skinny as she was fat. They looked like a black Jack Spratt and his wife, except no one would think they were married — mother and son, maybe. He was at once dutiful and threatening. Seeing them together on the street, people might wonder, would he be nice and offer his arm, or push her from behind?

         “This ol’ heap’d do better if we just filled the tank all the way every once and again,” he said.

         “You ain’t no trained mechanic, Luther.”

         “There’s gone be some serious trouble here soon enough,” he said and slammed the hood shut. “How you be able to keep a driver if your car ain’t even runnin’?” 

         “You just pokin’ around under there trying to put the fear in me.” Mother Franklin was tired of his dire predictions, all his complaining. He’d been pestering her for a little cash in his pocket, too, but she was smarter than that. Even here at this filling station she kept the money in her pocketbook, not handing it over until he was done pumping. “Brother Pomeroy, he be a good man. He fix us up once we get to Charlotte.”

         “Charlotte? That’s another week. I ain’t waiting that long.”

         She was tired of his threatening to quit, too. He ought to be more grateful. He was lucky she’d hired him as her driver. Without her, he’d be starving on the side of the road. All she had to do was say, My driver. A plate for my driver, and didn’t the church ladies provide? That wasn’t begging, no matter what Luther said. She didn’t beg; she just knew how to ask.

         She pulled two one-dollar bills from her purse. “Go on and pay now,” she said knowing Luther was in a hurry to be on his way. Lute Jackson liked staying on the move. He liked not knowing where he’d be from week to week because if he didn’t know, then no one else did either.


Avery Caswell was born just north of Chicago, Illinois. From a young age she was always scribbling, filling stenographer notebooks with observations (like Harriet, the Spy) and drawing scenes from Camelot (Franco Nero!). She grew up in various small towns across the Midwest and lived briefly in upstate New York before making the Carolinas home. An interest in the blurred edges between religion and magic, and a love of history inspire much of her writing. Caswell attended Kent State and Purdue Universities, the University of Baltimore, and Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She holds MFAs in theatre and creative writing.



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