Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk by Tracy Groot

Deb’s Dozen: A war, a girl, a yacht, a day of prayer – Dunkirk Rescue

England, 1940. Clare Childs unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright, a two-masted, fifty-two foot yacht, sixteen feet at the beam. When Clare signed the transfer papers “she knew something sacred had been turned into her keeping—as if a spray of oath-taking fairy dust had erupted at the last scratch of the pen.”

Clare felt the sacredness of the bequest—the trust the previous owner had for her—why, she didn’t know—she hardly knew him. But she was determined to honor the gift—and the Maggie Bright. Clare decided to turn the yacht into a bed and breakfast and even had her first guest, the outspoken Mrs. Shrewsbury.

One of the first nights onboard, the women are startled at the break in by what turned out to be an American vicar searching for something. Mrs. Shrewsbury is certain he is a German spy. Clare doesn’t believe so, but can’t keep Mrs. Shrewsbury from contemplating the atrocities he might have committed if she hadn’t whacked him with the teapot.

Captain John, their neighbor, appears with the address of the gaol where the vicar is being held. Despite Mrs. Shrewsbury’s protestations, Clare decides to go see their burglar to see what it is he was looking for onboard. After visiting the vicar and finding out that he was searching for documents hidden there that could shed light on some of Hitler’s darkest and most dastardly schemes. Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation of a German spy in the area who is also on the hunt for the documents.

At the same time, Hitler’s Blitzkreig across the channel has the entire British army in retreat. They are all headed toward the shallow beaches of Dunkirk—though they have little hope of rescue. The King of England calls for a day of prayer—and Churchill calls for all civilian watercraft to join in the rescue, including the Maggie Bright.IMG_20150704_0001

Tracy has crafted an odd but believable lot of characters: from the somewhat ditzy Clare, the overbearing but kindly Mrs. Shrewsbury, Captain John whose son, Jamie, fights on the Continent with the army, a Scotland Yard detective seeking to uncover the truth, to an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and has secrets of his own.

I chuckled my way through the first chapters of the book greatly amused by the antics of Mrs. Shrew, as Clare calls her, and Clare herself as she tries to find out more about the ship, the documents, and herself. Then the tone of the book turns to the seriousness of the war and the conditions the Brits faced at home and abroad. I knew about Dunkirk and the rescue that had taken place there, but I’d never properly visualized the enormity of the effort until I read Maggie Bright. You will be captivated by the characters, entranced by the writing, and heart sore at what took place as the army struggles, individual by individual, toward Dunkirk. Tracy well-deserves the Christy Awards she has won for her writing—five stars!

To purchase Maggie Bright, click the link: Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk

I interviewed Tracy Groot at ICRS in late June and asked her why this topic. She told me her research goes way back. She had written Flame of Resistance about the French resistance in World War II. Steven Ambrose, the historian who wrote Band of Brothers, was the bridge from her previous novel to Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk. What she read about Dunkirk floored her. Churchill called the flotilla of boats of all sizes the Mosquito Armada.

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Tracy was impressed with the heroism of the civilians and the power of prayer—she learned the beautiful simplicity and power of prayer when believers gather together to pray in one accord. On May 23, 1940, King George VI called for a day of prayer to be held on May 26, 1940. All of England gathered in their churches and cathedrals to pray for the deliverance of the army. Winston Churchill remarked about that day that when believers gather, more angels are there—that he could see a glow in the cathedral.

Tracy grew up in Wyoming, MI, as small town near Grand Rapids. She has an older sister and a younger brother. She has always loved to write, but when she became a Christian at age sixteen, she thought she had to swap her writing for her new life in Christ. Not until her late twenties did she understand that God had given her the gift.

When I interviewed her, Tracy had won two Christy Awards—one for Madman: A Novel
and one for Flame of Resistance.

Later in the evening of the interview, Tracy won her third Christy—for The Sentinels of Andersonville

She told me later that she was absolutely floored to have won given the competition.

For her research for writing about Jonah, she actually jumped into the Mediterranean Sea at night to simulate drowning—the crew of the ship she’d chartered actually used the jump for a training video of rescue at night. She needed to talk to the sailors to get their views of the sea and asked the captain how to get them to talk with her. He told her to take them out for a beverage which they did. They wouldn’t talk until she “bottomed up” her glass—so she did! And then, slightly tipsy, continued the interview.

Note from Deb: Inexplicably, on the brink of the total annihilation of the British Army, Hitler stopped the Blitzkreig for three days—from the day the king announced the day of prayer to the actual day of prayer itself—May 23-26, 1940. “Two events immediately followed. Firstly, a violent storm arose over the Dunkirk region grounding the Luftwaffe which had been killing thousands on the beaches. And then secondly, a great calm descended on the Channel, the like of which hadn’t been seen for a generation, which allowed hundreds of tiny boats to sail across and rescue 335,000 soldiers, rather than the estimated 20-30,000.” (See more at: National Day of Prayer)


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