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“The Whisper of the Palms”

by Harriet E. Michael

A novel based on the lives of my parents—two people from very different backgrounds but with the same calling to foreign missions.


Fiction based on fact.

Tell us a little about the book

Ali Blackwell dreamed of going places she had only seen in books and magazines, but the prospects of ever leaving her little North Carolina town appeared unlikely. Her family barely scraped by on the sale of produce grown by her dad and brothers and the supplemental income they earned working at the nearby textile mill.

Kyle Edmonds lived in a larger house in South Carolina. He possessed things Ali only dreamed of. They could not have been more different. However, both heard God calling them to foreign missions. How will their paths cross? What will their future hold?

Why did you want to write this particular book?

This book is based on the lives of my parents. Theirs is quite a story, from the wide differences growing up because of their different socio-economic backgrounds to their love, marriage, and life in Africa as missionaries.

My parents’ generation, and others before it, were part of a great worldwide evangelical and mission movement. They had open doors to foreign mission fields and many answered the call. Many braved danger, discomfort, disease, and great obstacles to share the gospel to the peoples of the world who had never heard of the Savior’s love or sacrifice for them. I wrote this book, in part, to depict, in some small way, this time in the history of Christendom.

In addition, I wrote the book to retell some of my family history so that my children and their children after them can know who their grandparents or great-grandparents, as the case may be, were. Keith and Alice’s story is precious and worth retelling. As it says in Psalms 102:18, “This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” (NKJV)

Who might enjoy this?

All fiction-loving Christians would enjoy the book. I have had very positive feedback from both men and women, but it is more likely to be read by women. It contains a strong Christian message.

What do we need to know about the characters?

The book’s two main characters are Ali and Kyle. Ali is most readers favorite character. She comes from a very poor background. She lives with her father, step-mother, two older brothers and a younger sister. Her mother, whom she barely remembers, passed away when she was a preschooler. Her father is a farmer with only a 3rd grade education and she becomes the first in her family to ever graduate from high school. Ali compassionate and kind but she is also quite spirited and determined. Her inner strength and determination push her on to pursue her calling to foreign missions in spite of her poverty.

Kyle is the son and grandson of doctors and as the story unfolds, he too gets accepted into medical school. But Kyle’s life is not all easy, as readers will discover. He encounters some difficult things in his life. Kyle is fun-loving but also gentle and accepting. He does not consider Ali’s lower status as a reason to pass over her and in fact, one of his strengths is his intelligence. Not only book smart, Kyle has enough sense to recognize a good thing when he sees it; and that good thing’s name is Ali.

Eck is Ali’s father. He’s tall, strong, and hard-working but a bit ashamed of his lack of an education and his inability to provide luxuries for his family.

Hannah is Kyle’s mother. The book puts it well when it says that she “grew love the way she grows flowers—full, abundant, and everywhere.”

Tilda—Ali’s younger sister and best friend.

Rochelle—a woman who chases Kyle and tries to interfere with his and Ali’s relationship.


Twenty (partial chapter)

Saturday Night Fellowship

“I believe love at first sight is possible.

Centuries of literature and art and beauty has been dedicated to that idea,

so who am I to argue …”

—Maggie Grace

The room buzzed as the sound of happy chatter mixed with the rich voice of Patti Page singing “The Tennessee Waltz” coming from the record player on the table in the corner. Delicious smells of freshly baked brownies and hot apple cider wafted towards Kyle as he walked into the church’s fellowship hall for the college and career fellowship the next Saturday night—alone. He had told Rochelle he would likely not be able to make the weekly church function. And, at the time, he had spoken the truth.

It wasn’t his fault his plans had changed. He didn’t owe Rochelle an explanation as to the changes, or give her an accounting of his schedule, and he certainly didn’t owe her an invitation to this function, once he was able to make it, after all. They had only gone out on a few dates. He had made no commitments to her in any way. Kyle adjusted his collar as he thought of Rochelle. He squirmed in place just a little. Why did thoughts of her even pop into his mind right now, much less elicit this response? He was his own man. He did not need to explain himself to anyone, especially not her.

Kyle paused at the door he’d just walked through, trying to convince himself of the truth of his thoughts. He shook his head picturing Rochelle’s reaction when she found him here, and he hung his jacket up on a wall peg near the door. He looked around sheepishly. No Rochelle. Thank goodness. But there at the table next to the brownies was Ali! She stood with her back turned towards him.

He hadn’t been able to talk to her after church the other day so he had not told her about these socials. But here she was anyway. What great luck! Maybe this was going to be a good night after all. He grinned and made swift tracks to the snack table.

“The brownies smell delicious, don’t they?” Kyle nudged Ali as he spoke.

She turned around to face him, standing up from the table that she had been leaning over. He had not realized she was that tall. Wow! She was almost as tall as he. Maybe an inch shorter, or two at the most. And she was wearing flat shoes! Kyle smiled. He had always found tall women appealing.

“They are delicious! A friend of mine made them. Hi. I’m Ali Blackwell,” she said, extending her hand.

“Kyle Edmonds. Nice to make your acquaintance.”

“Where’s your girlfriend?” Ali asked rather bluntly, looking around the room as she spoke.

“You mean Rochelle? She’s not my girlfriend.” Kyle tried not to let his voice sound too curt.

“Yeah, Rochelle. She’s not your girlfriend? My mistake. I thought you two were an item.”

“That’s because Rochelle tries to pretend we are an item, but believe me, we are not. We dated a few times, that’s all. But, I don’t think we’re a good fit.”

“Oh?” Ali leaned back a little as if to take it all in, an inquisitive but perplexed look crossing her face. “Why aren’t you a good fit? From what I hear it looks like she seems to think you are.”

Kyle studied Ali a minute. How open should he be with this woman, a virtual stranger to him? Then, blowing out a breath, he proceeded in a matter-of-fact tone that matched hers.

“We are not a good fit because we do not want the same things in life. I feel called to medical missions, most likely on a foreign field. Rochelle does not seem to me like the kind of girl who would be happy in some remote foreign country where the standard of living is lower than what she is used to. Maybe even a lot lower. Don’t you agree?” Kyle’s eyes widened as if to emphasize those last words.

“Well, I don’t really know her very well …” Ali responded, shaking her head as she spoke.

“Well, I do know her,” Kyle continued. “She wants to catch a young doctor who will buy her the quintessential house on the hill in some sleepy little southern town, and I don’t mean southern hemisphere. I mean the American south! And at the moment she thinks that doctor is me, even though I’ve tried to let her know that it is not me.”

Kyle paused, waiting for a response from Ali, but no response came, so he continued, “I mean … can you see her living in South America, or Japan, or Africa, or some place like that? You know; a place where she couldn’t buy fingernail polish, or lipstick, or where her high heels might get stuck in the muddy dirt—which might just be in her own front yard?”

This brought a response from Ali—a soft snicker chortled up from her mouth. And her azure eyes danced in apparent amusement as she pulled her hand up to cover her mouth. But she seemed amused at more then just his words. What was she looking at? Her eyes seemed to be looking past him to the front door. He turned his head just in time to see Rochelle walking through the front threshold and heading right for them.

“Heeey, Kyle!” Rochelle exclaimed from across the room. She waved broadly and approached him. All eyes turned her way. She wore a soft pastel striped and pleated skirt, tight pink sweater and a wide alligator belt at her waist. Her thick auburn hair was pulled back in a pony tail and tied with a pink ribbon. It bobbed back and forth as she sashayed in Kyle’s direction.

“It was real nice meeting you, Kyle.” Ali said with the twinkle of amusement still in her eyes. Leaning in, and lowering her voice, she whispered, “Looks like you’ve got a little more convincing to do. Good luck with that.”
Kyle’s shoulders fell into a slump. He shook his head and rolled his eyes as Ali chuckled and walked away to talk with some of the others who had come to the social.

About the Author

Harriet E. Michael was born in the jungles of West Africa to missionary parents. The year she was born, her family was stationed at a small remote jungle hospital in the village of Joinkrama, in the Niger River Delta area of Nigeria. Monkeys swung from the trees, crocodiles filled the river, and elephants really roamed in the village of her birth. However, two years later, the family moved to the larger city of Ogbomoso where she spent her childhood and formed most of her childhood memories. Her family moved back to the USA when Harriet turned ten years old, in part because of the Nigerian-Biafran war that had gripped the country of Nigeria.

She spent her middle and high school years in Bluefield, WV. Thus, she claims two hometowns—Bluefield, and Ogbomoso.

In 1979, she married John R. Michael. They currently have four children and two grandchildren.

God has done so much in her life and she has a lot to write about, which she does as a primarily nonfiction writer. She has penned hundreds of nonfiction pieces—articles, devotions, and other books. “The Whisper of the Palms” published by Olivia Kimbrell Press is her debut novel. In it Harriet tells a fictionalized version of her parent’s story.

Her other books can be found on her author page.

The first book she ever wrote, and still her best-seller, is Prayer: It’s Not About You an in-depth study of prayer throughout the Bible. This was published by Pix-N-Pens in 2016 and is often used in group Bible study settings.

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