Fiction Fest: A passage or two from Carla Kelly’s ‘Safe Passage’

Safe Passage_2x3It’s 1912, the beginning of the Mexican Revolution—and the Mormon colonists must flee to the United States. When his estranged wife is mistakenly left behind, Ammon Hancock goes back to rescue her. But when he finds her, he must coax her to follow him to safety… and maybe even love him again. This revolution could be the very thing that ends their war of hearts.

There you have it, Carla Kelly’s “Safe Passage” in a nutshell. But don’t let that synopsis trick you into thinking that that is all the book has to offer! Kelly’s novels are meant to be enjoyed in their entirety in order to fully experience the charm and wit the author injects to each of her stories.

“Safe Passage” is available in bookstores and on,, and


Two years before the story begins, Addie Hancock had a miscarriage while her husband, Ammon, was freighting logs in the Sierra Madres, near the colony of Garcia where they lived. He had an accident, and wasn’t able to get to Addie. Indeed, he had no knowledge of her ordeal until he returned on crutches. Thinking her father had earlier telegraphed the sad news to Ammon, Addie wass beside herself and out of control when her husband returned. Sharp words and recriminations followed and she threw her wedding ring at him. Now he has returned to Mexico to find her, when she didn’t come out with the other women and children. They are on the run from guerillas, and have found a momentary safe haven with the Salinas family. They’ve declared a wary truce; now this is also a good time to talk.

Ammon had expected the mattress to be noisy corn husks, but he sank and sank into feathers. “My goodness, Addie, this is magnificent. I would never have guessed.”

He straightened out his arm and she came close, resting her head on his chest. The sun went behind clouds, darkening the room. He wanted it to rain again and thought he heard thunder. He raised up on one elbow, alert. It was artillery, not thunder.

Addie, bless her, pressed her hand against his chest and he lay down again. “There’s nothing we can do about what is going on out there,” she said, her voice as serene as he remembered from their best days together. “I believe we have to leave this in God’s hands, too.”

He nodded and closed his eyes, worn out and ragged, but he had to talk. “Addie, what would you have named our baby?”

He said it softly, not knowing what she would say, so uncertain, even though he had wondered. She as silent a long while, and then he felt his arm grow damp where her head rested. He pulled her closer. When she spoke, her voice was almost too soft to hear.

“I would have wanted you to name our baby, if it were a boy. Maybe after our fathers.”

“I thought about that,” he told her. “David Thomas or Thomas David?”

She nodded, silent. “I wanted Betsy for a daughter. Just Betsy.”

“Do we know any Betsys?”

“Do we need to?”

He chuckled. “Nope. I would have liked Betsy, too. Betsy Hancock. That’s good, because when she married, she wouldn’t have too many names…” What was he saying? “Addie, I am so sorry.”

She nodded again. “All I wanted was for you to be with me, and you weren’t. I went a little crazy.”

She was baring her heart, exposing so much pain that she shuddered with it. He held her closer, both arms around her now.

“I was freighting logs in the Sierra Madres,” he began. “You know the contract, because I remember that before I left, you said it would make our fortune. The loggers were shorthanded, so I was helping. Some help! One of the logs rolled on my leg. You could hear the crack all over camp.”

She said something inarticulate, which he took as consent to continue. “I…I don’t remember anything after that. The doctor told me later that two days passed before he got there. The bone was sticking out. He didn’t know why infection didn’t set in.”

“Heavens,” she murmured.

“He actually had some chloroform, so he put me out so he could set it and stitch me up. I started home as soon as I could, but it was two weeks.”

No need for her to know how he cried from the pain, wailing out loud to the empty forest as he gave his horses their head and let them take him home to Garcia. “All I wanted to do was get home to you, because I knew you would make it better,” he concluded simply. “Addie, as God is my witness, I had no idea.”

“I know you didn’t,” she said finally. “Papa told me he sent a telegram, but since the war began, telegraph service is so poor.”

No need for you to know that your father forgot, he told himself. I can leave that one alone.

“That’s quite a scar on your calf. I…I noticed it at the river.”

He smiled, relieved. He knew that tone of voice. “Ah-ha. So you were admiring my manly physique!”

“Guilty as charged,” she said, amused. She sighed then, and it turned into a barely masked sob. “Too guilty.”

“Guilty of what? Being human? Feeling sad?”

“I wanted to call you back. I wasn’t brave enough. Too proud, too upset – I can’t explain it.”

“I should have tried harder,” he said remembering all the letters he had sent. Any fool could put a stamp on a letter. “I should have planted myself on Grandma Sada’s side porch and stayed there until you felt like seeing me.”

“You had a business to run.”

Heaven above, she was excusing him. “You should have been more important to me.”