Discovering Nantucket Dreams

Learn about this popular New England island, the setting for the new Guideposts Christian fiction series.

By Jon Woodhams, Memphis, Tennessee

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Some of my very favorite vacations have taken place at the seaside, on both the West and East Coasts. There is nothing like the sound of waves or the tangy sea air to soothe the soul and put life in its proper perspective.

This is exactly what the Marris sisters, the main characters of Guideposts Books newest Christian fiction series, Nantucket Dreams, discover when they arrive on the island—and it changes their lives forever.

What is it about Nantucket that so captivates our imagination? Perhaps it’s the name itself, which means either “place of peace” or “faraway island.”

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Perhaps it’s the island’s history. Nantucket was a whaling center from the 1700s till the mid-1800s. Fueled in part by whale oil, the Great Fire destroyed many of the buildings on the island in 1846. Because of the conflagration and the whaling industry’s severe decline, the island’s population dwindled.

Partially due to the decreased population and Nantucket’s isolation, its pre-Civil War buildings were preserved. In the 1950s, developers “discovered” the island and began buying up land with plans of reimagining Nantucket as a vacation wonderland.

They were successful insofar as the year-round population of about 10,000 mushrooms to as many as 56,000 people during the height of the tourist season. Thanks to its colonial architecture and ancient cobblestone streets, the entire island was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Perhaps what captivates our imaginations are Nantucket’s three lighthouses. Brant Point Light is the second oldest lighthouse in America, first constructed in 1746. Great Point Light is located on the northeast tip of the island. Sankaty Head Light, built in 1850, had to be moved about four hundred feet in October, 2007, to prevent it from succumbing to the erosion of the bluff where it was originally built.

Then there’s the feisty Nantucket spirit. Although cars were forbidden on the island until 1918, one postmaster was known to have his car towed by a team of horses to circumvent this ordinance.  And prompted by a change in the Massachusetts constitution that reduced their representation in the Massachusetts General Court, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard attempted (albeit unsuccessfully) to secede from Massachusetts in 1977.

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Whatever the reasons, Nantucket, in both fact and fiction, is a fascinating, inviting place, and Nantucket Dreams has been a delight and a challenge to create.

As I worked on the wonderful stories of the three-book set, I was often reminded that no story can be born without the efforts of a talented author, and I’ve been blessed to work with four of Guideposts’ finest to bring you this series. Patti Berg, Barbara Andrews & Pam Hanson, and Camy Tang brought a spirit of joy and enthusiastic collaboration to the project as they worked together to bring the main characters—Caroline, Gracie, and Sam—to life.

A unique element to the series’ creative process is that Barbara and Pam are a mother-daughter writing team.  “Writing can be a lonely process,” says Pam, “so collaborating like this is a real treat. My mom and I both enjoy writing because we get to do it together.”

I have so enjoyed working with them to create the compelling story lines and intriguing historical mystery that surround the Marris sisters and the stately, charming Misty Harbor Inn. I had a great time getting to know Caroline, Gracie, Sam, Jamie, Shirley, Bill, and the other lively characters, who populate our vision of Nantucket, and it’s my sincerest hope that you will too.

Jon Woodhams is associate editor, Guideposts Books.