“Good ol’ Saint Maggie, offending the populace with the truth again.” Maggie’s husband, Eli Smith, says this in tribute to his wife, Maggie Blaine Smith, as America careens toward civil war. Never your ordinary churchgoer, Maggie married her first husband despite their families’ opposition. After his death, she takes in boarders to support herself and her two daughters. She then marries a free-thinking abolitionist newspaperman, although even the worst gossips don’t suspect Maggie and Eli are part of the Underground Railroad.
Independent Maggie rises above snide remarks to practice mercy and love. She applies these balms to the fractured relationship with her brother Samuel. She extends them to her newest boarders, Samuel’s daughter Leah and the new Methodist minister, unhappily joined in a shotgun marriage. But are mercy and love sufficient to weather an attempt on her life and her husband’s or withstand the outrage her acts of forgiveness to Leah’s murderer trigger?
Saint Maggie is a delightful book that captures the pre-Civil War Northern ambivalence toward Abolition, and it also deals with more timeless themes, such as “who is my neighbor?” Never sanctimonious, never preachy, always true to her beliefs, Stafford’s Maggie is the kind of Christian one would like to see and to be.