• Things Past Telling

  • A Novel
  • By: Sheila Williams
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (88 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The author of The Secret Woman tells the story of a brave and enduring woman as indomitable as Ernest Gaines’ legendary Miss Jane Pittman, in a breathtaking novel that combines the epic romance and adventure of Outlander, the sweeping drama of Roots, and the haunting historical power of Barracoon.

Things Past Telling is a remarkable historical epic that charts one unforgettable woman’s journey across an ocean of years as vast as the Atlantic that will forever separate her from her homeland. 

Born in West Africa in the mid-18th century, Maryam Prescilla Grace - a.k.a “Momma Grace” - will live a long, wondrous life marked by hardship, oppression, opportunity, and love. Though she will be “gifted” various names, her birth name is known to her alone. Over the course of 100-plus years, she survives capture, enslavement by several property owners, the Atlantic crossing when she is only 11 years of age, and a brief stint as a pirate’s ward, acting as both a spy and a translator. 

Maryam learns midwifery from a Caribbean-born wise woman, whose “craft” combines curated techniques and medicines from African, Indigenous, and European women. Those midwifery skills allow her to sometimes transcend the racial and class barriers of her enslavement, as she walks the razor’s edge trying to balance the lives and health of her own people with the cruel economic mandates of the slave holders, who view infants born in bondage not as flesh-and-blood children but as investment property. 

Throughout her triumphant and tumultuous life, Maryam gains and loses her homeland, her family, her culture, her husband, her lovers, and her children. Yet as the decades pass, this tenacious woman never loses her sense of self.  

Inspired by a 112-year-old woman the author discovered in an 1870 US Federal census report for Ohio, loosely based on the author’s real-life female ancestors, spanning more than a hundred years, from the mid-18th century to the end of America’s Civil War, and spanning across the globe, from what is now southern Nigeria to the islands of the Caribbean to North America and the land bordering the Ohio River, Things Past Telling is a breathtaking story of a past that lives on in all of us, and a life that encompasses the best - and worst - of our humanity.

©2022 Sheila Williams (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Things Past Telling

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  • Overall
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Fulfilled

I absolutely loved this novel. The author was able to captivate you and bring you along this journey of a slave from a child to an elderly woman. We all know the stories of slaves being beaten and killed. However, this novel shows the story of a slave with a craft and how it made room for her. The narrator was outstanding. I would highly recommend this listen!

11 people found this helpful

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Wonderful Listen

A sad part of history told with truth and dignity. I enjoyed the narration. One of the best narrations I have ever heard! Story was told with unexpected phrases that were sing song and graceful that just pulled you into the story but also spoke of terrible cruelty of the time. Wonderful book.

9 people found this helpful

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I couldn't stop listening!

This story was mesmerizing and I would recommend it to everyone interested in learning about thing they don't teach you in history books.

6 people found this helpful

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Not my kind of book

this book did not keep my interest. I got about half way through and had to stop.

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Excellent!

This book held my attention at most every turn. It's very well written and the narration is superb.

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difficult to listen to.

the story is boring . There is not much happening. It is slow and painful. I couldn't finish it.

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Fantastic!

The story and narration of this book had me mesmerized. I didn’t want it to end. What a beautifully written story!

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Excellent narration

I must admit the beginning of the story I almost gave up on but very glad I stayed with it Robin knocked the accents out of the park.

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Excellent! You won't regret this purchase

Excellent! Full of good, bad, heartache and triumph. A look into a past that is closer than we want to think.

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What is this?

A biography? A Historical Fiction? Either accord would not diminish the beauty of this story. It’s an incredible moving tale of resilience. There are thousands of lost truthful stories I wish we could know from the personal histories of this part of the American experience.
The way the author has written this piece wakes up something within us to want to seek and learn more about the people brought here in chains. Who were they? Where were they all from? How did it happen that they were captured, trapped and sold?Who were their people? What was their life before?
If ALL American children are taught these histories told in the way this author has written this story, It would bring a depth of understanding sadly needed to grasp the tragedy and rare triumphs of the people enslaved in that part of our American history.
The Jewish people have done this for the generations that came after the holocaust. Why not the same for the generations that came after the tragedy of slavery? Is it too late and the stories too rare and lost to history?
I am grateful to this author for telling this story in the manner it has been.

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