Tragedy, pandemic spark Ransom woman's 1st novel

Randy Gonzales, Special to The Hays Daily News
Ransom author Barbara McLain holds a copy of her new book, Fractured Images.

Barbara McLain has a message of hope this Easter Sunday for those who have dealt with the loss of loved ones.

McLain, a retired pastor in the United Methodist Church, lives in the tiny Ness County town of Ransom with her husband, Allen. They suffered losses five months apart, in 2016 and 2017. Their 19-year-old daughter, Kara, died in a car accident on Oct. 14, 2016, then on March 6, 2017, the couple’s home on the west edge of town was destroyed by a wildfire.

McLain’s message to parents who have lost a child is one of "you are not alone." She started a Facebook page for parents to share their stories. It started out small at first, but McLain said the group now has members from all over the world.

“Resurrection is so powerful,” McLain said. “Jesus is resurrected, but he still has the scars. We can resurrect from whatever life gives us, even though we have the scars, the reminders.”

McLain said she has always liked to write. When she served as a pastor, she wrote into her sermons stories from a fictional town. Those tales would work their way into her message.

“I discovered early on that to keep the congregation’s attention I had to tell a story,” McLain said. “I created this little make-believe town of Walberg, Kansas. People loved it.”

Like others, McLain had to deal with the enforced isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago. She decided to put her time to good use and write her first novel, about a subject that had been swirling around in her mind for a few years. That book, “Fractured Images,” went on sale March 23 on McLain said it is a story about justice, and how it is best served.

“The feedback I’ve gotten has been quite positive,” McLain said. “Most people say, ‘Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down.’ Oh good, that’s what I was hoping for.”

McLain said her daughter’s death and her home being burned down aided her in writing the novel.

“I think that has helped me to express certain emotions — grief, total loss, that sort of thing — where before I had to kind of imagine what that would be like,” McLain said. “In this book, one of the characters has basically lost everything.”

Now that McLain has had her first novel published in her mid-60s, she is mulling over ideas for another.

“I’m working on the next one, just for pure enjoyment,” McLain said. “I don’t have any grandiose plans of becoming the next New York Times best-selling author.”

McLain’s message of hope resonates today.

“There is a power greater than myself that can get me through this,” McLain said. “There is life after tragedy.”