In High Cotton and Magnolias, the protagonist, Addie Engel, continues her life journey as a nurse-in-training at Atlanta’s Sacred Heart Hospital School of Nursing, where she finds that hope, faith, love, and change are the only constants. Throughout High Cotton and Magnolias, Addie must discover her true grit as Atlanta undergoes an economic and social upheaval that will change the world.
But while toiling over textbooks and patients and fighting to overcome the rising tensions of a country almost at war, Addie finds her eyes opened to disappointment, deception, and deceit . . . as well as the true colors of those closest to her. Yearning to find the familiar in the aftermath of all this stress — on top of a near-death experience — Addie can’t help but struggle with matters of the heart. Who does she truly love: Garrett, the boy-next-door she’s known all her life, or Randall, the dashing doctor who promises a brighter future?
Despite daily disasters, a growing web of dark schemes, a deadly pandemic, and the biggest war the world has ever seen, Sacred Heart Medical Center and her medical staff all rise to the challenge. Whether they emerge triumphantly is another matter entirely.
Set in the maze of mounting social strain and growing pains that is early 20th century Atlanta, High Cotton and Magnolias is an immensely satisfying finale to Aspirations of the Heart and Hope Never Rests, novels that have received a place of honor in Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion Library.
GC: Who or what inspired you to write the Sacred Heart series?
KS: “The Sacred Heart series – Aspirations of the Heart, Hope Never Rests, and High Cotton and Magnolias – was inspired by my grandma, ‘Gigi,’ a strong-willed woman who defied her father’s orders to stay on the family farm in southern Indiana, marry, and have children. She wanted to pursue a college education so she secretly applied to nursing school at Methodist Episcopal Hospital in Indianapolis and was accepted. She and her mom sewed her uniform during the day and hid it away in her hope chest at night. Until one day when he came home off the fields, she was gone, having left for the big city. As a result, he disowned her. Gigi knew that education was the key to breaking the chains of poverty. She wanted to become a registered nurse, serve others, travel the world, and experience a life well-lived. By being brave enough to follow her heart, Gigi forever changed our families’ trajectory.”
“I took my grandma’s inspirational story and transplanted it into a city that I know and love dearly – Atlanta. Growing up, my dad was the organist for the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church, downtown. The priests shared rich stories and tantalizing tales of the old South, how the church served as a hospital during the Civil War and wasn’t burned by Sherman during his march to the sea, about the architecture, and city’s historical landmarks. The experience sparked my creative imagination. After reading the Sacred Heart series, I invite readers to revisit Atlanta with new eyes, because the buildings and places I write about, many still are in existence today.”
GC: Tell us about your inspiration for Sacred Heart Hospital.
KS: “As a registered nurse, I pulled on the history and my different experiences either visiting or clinical experiences at the various hospitals in Atlanta. The best part of building Sacred Heart hospital was the ability to construct it in such a fashion that was authentic for the time when it came to developing the various wards and departments, to include my favorite parts of any hospital which are underground tunnels. Today, tunnels connect the main hospital to outpatient buildings and parking decks. Tunnels allow for the medical staff and/or patients to walk between facilities, especially during bad weather. I love hearing feedback from book clubs that tell me that they think that the hospital itself is its own character in the book because it is also evolving and changing just like the characters do over time.”
GC: How did you weave in factual details into the historical fiction novels?
KS: “I developed timelines for social issues, medical discoveries, political figures (local and national), origins of medical colleges and nursing schools, new food products, local and federal laws, and landmark events with the Great War and drew an intersection in time, allowing me the ability to weave in historical facts into the fictional storyline.” “Ideal for book club discussions, High Cotton and Magnolias contains rich topics about events that were occurring over 100 years ago that could be ripped from today’s headlines that include immigration, social settlements, healthcare for the indigent, pay to play press, mental illness, and a foreign government’s interference with the U.S. economy.
“Readers tell me how they would love to see the series turned into a movie or produced for television because the subject matter is so relevant, the female characters buck society's expectations, and while the story takes place in Georgia, there are national and international touchpoints.”
An accomplished author for twenty-five years, Katie Hart Smith has an expansive body of work ranging from medical, academic, children’s poetry, to memoir and historical fiction. A sought-out speaker on a local and national level, Katie Hart Smith has been invited again to moderate the historical fiction panel at the 2019 AJC Decatur Book Festival.
The book launch/signing party was held at Truth’s Community Clinic, 250 Langley Dr., Suite #1316 in Lawrenceville on Sunday, June 30, 2019, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.
Excited about new projects on the horizon, Katie Hart Smith looks forward to participating in future literary and philanthropic endeavors. “As a mentor and leader in my community, I feel that giving back is important. Two years ago, our family created the History of Nursing display at Georgia Gwinnett College/School of Nursing, donating my grandma’s cape, and her textbooks, memorabilia, medical instruments, report cards, vintage photos, and diploma and license. The display even has my nursing cap. We share my grandma’s story as a first-generation graduate with the students to inspire and light the way for the next generation of nursing students. In addition to volunteering in activities that support literacy or provide healthcare to those in need, I donate a portion of my book proceeds to support the nursing program at Georgia Gwinnett College or to Truth’s Community Clinic.”
High Cotton and Magnolias is available via Deeds Publishing, major online book retailers, independent book stores, and libraries. For a complete listing of Smith’s publications or to learn about upcoming speaking and book signing events, visit: http://www.katiehartsmith.com.