BOOKING IT: A LITERARY SPOTLIGHT Fire and Forgiveness: A Nun’s Truce with General Sherman written by Martha Dunsky
by Rebecca Sontag
“You have this gift of faith, and at any age, you can take that gift and make something of it.” — Martha Dunsky
But what to do with this gift of faith and how to share it? How do we pass it on? That is something we all must figure out. For Martha Caprarotta (pen name, Dunsky), the answer meant cutting retirement short, teaming up with her artsy sister, Monica Wyrick, and delving headlong into the creation of the children’s book, Fire and Forgiveness: A Nun’s Truce with General Sherman.
It was June of 2014 when Wyrick excitedly phoned Dunsky to tell her all about her job interview at St. Paul Church in Columbia, SC. Dunsky was not expecting harrowing accounts of fire, confrontations with General Sherman, an Ursuline nun named Sister Baptista, children hiding in graveyards, and handwritten historical accounts, but that’s what she got. Wyrick gifted her sister, Dunsky, a story that demanded to be told. “The message is why I do it.”
Yet the story that Dunsky was drawn to tell wasn’t purely a historical account, a rundown of atrocities, and harrowing descriptions of war. More than that, it is a story of two girls, Jane and Clara, forgiving one another and making peace. It’s the story of a general and a nun who share a common understanding of right and proper even when everything else in the world seems so very wrong. It is a message of peace and reconciliation. Who better to tell this story than two sisters, one living up north and the other down south?
More than five years of writing and research later, and that scrap of history has been transformed into a rich recounting of bravery and friendship. Set within actual historical events, the story is now available to the children of South Carolina learning local and national history. Brown County residents in Ohio now have an accounting of one of their most notable Ursuline sisters, Sister Baptista. Within the pages of Fire and Forgiveness we find role models of brave friends who learn that relationships take work and care.
These are lessons for any age. “I’m a storyteller like my father.”
Martha lives in the suburban outskirts of Dayton with her husband and her five cats. She visits schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and beyond, giving talks to youth about publishing, the Civil War and being a peacemaker. She designs thoughtful and informative presentations for her young readers and is a loving and generous person. She shares greatly of her talents and resources with those near and far.
Dunsky is many wonderful things but a parent, she is not. Neither was Mother Baptista who shepherded all of those young girls to safety that night over 150 years ago. Yet both women have excelled at passing on their faith far beyond their closed familial circles.
Dunsky’s book gives us the opportunity to do just that. Buy a copy for someone in your life, a school library in your neighborhood or your own child or grandchild. The Lord is our inheritance. Martha Dunsky has shared her gift of faith with us, and we can share it with others.