Mitchell's Latest Book Set in Guatemala
“Prince of Peace: Zulma’s Story,” Marie Mitchell’s latest novel for middle and high school readers, marks several firsts for the Richmond author.
Mitchell, who teaches public speaking at Eastern Kentucky University, has written six Kentucky-based books with either her husband, Mason Smith, a senior lecturer in EKU’s Department of English, or her sister, Rebecca Mitchell Turney, a freelance writer in northern Kentucky.
“This is my first solo effort and it’s set in Guatemala, a completely different country and culture than I’m used to writing about,” Mitchell said.
The book follows three sisters growing up poor in Guatemala, who, through tragic circumstances, are sent to live at Prince of Peace, a home for up to 65 abused, neglected and/or orphaned girls. The middle sister, Zulma, 14, is the responsible one, trying to hold the family together even though Lupita, at 16, rebels against the rules, and 7-year-old Reyna starts spending more time with the other girls at the home.
“Woven into the story are issues of girls being vulnerable to abuse in Guatemala, men not being held accountable for fathering children, parents who simply can’t afford to raise their children let alone educate them, international adoption and searching for a God who answers prayers,” Mitchell said.
The setting is no coincidence. Mitchell has visited an actual Prince of Peace outside Guatemala City the past three summers.
“It’s an amazing place where girls can recover from whatever problems they’ve faced in the past. And for many, it might be the first chance they’ve had to go to school.”
Despite everything they’ve been through, Mitchell said the girls are “loving and resilient.”
Mitchell has had a close connection with Guatemala for years. Two of her four children were adopted from the Latin American country when they were babies. As they grew older (now 17 and 11), Mitchell began searching for ways to link them with their original culture.
That’s when she learned about the mission trips Eastside Community Church in Richmond sponsors to Prince of Peace. In July, 2012, Mitchell and her adopted daughter, Ingrid, then nine, visited the home for the first time.
“Ingrid fit right in and made fifty-five fast and forever friends in one week,” Mitchell said. “It was incredibly hard to leave, not knowing if and when we’d be back.”
After returning home, Mitchell’s family began sponsoring one of the girls with a monthly donation. But she wanted to do more to raise money for the home.
“The Prince of Peace logo has three girls in colorful Guatemalan dresses, holding hands and walking somewhere together. It’s really touching. I kept thinking about the relationship of those girls, what brought them to the home and where they were headed. And I realized I could create a novel about them and use the book as a fundraising tool.”
A grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women funded a second trip to Prince of Peace to do research. “The girls were so open about talking to me about their pasts and I incorporated many of the details into the lives of my fictional characters,” Mitchell said. “Team members who have made numerous trips to the home also shared their experiences, which was tremendously helpful.”
A year and 148 pages later, the book is finished and now available on Amazon and Kindle.
“All profits from those sales go directly to Prince of Peace,” Mitchell said.
She’s looking forward to showcasing “Zulma’s Story” at this year’s Kentucky Book Fair, Nov. 15, at the Frankfort Convention Center.
You can learn more about “Prince of Peace: Zulma’s Story,” on Facebook at Mitchell-Smith Books. Anyone interested in sponsoring a girl at Prince of Peace should visit princeofpeacegt.com.
Published on September 02, 2014