The Story Behind the Story: A World Turned Upside Down

On May 19, 1780, during America's War for Independence, New England experienced what has become known as the Dark Day. The sky turned dark by noon and stayed that way until the stars returned around midnight. What had caused the darkness? Theories ran rampant. Some said it was divine punishment. Others said it was an eclipse. No one knew for sure.  Finally, in 2008, the mystery was solved. Historians and scientists determined that the darkness had been caused by smoke from a massive wildfire in southern Ontario, Canada.

I ran across the story of the Dark Day in 2008, when I saw an article about the mystery being solved. I knew then I wanted to write a story set on that day.

Six years later, I got around to writing it. I found the surname Fayreweather on a list of Mayflower passengers. (Could a name be more perfect for a story?) Through further research, I learned what a butter churn sounds like, how farm animals behave at night, that the nicknames "Ma" and "Pa" didn't come into common use until the 1800s, and how the sky changed color as it grew darker on that Dark Day. I remembered the story of Korach from the Torah portion I read at my Bat Mitzvah. The New Testament references I had to look up.

Prudence came to life quickly: a young girl whose nature was at odds with her family's and society's expectations of her. While she never told me what happened to her after this Dark Day, I'm fairly certain she grew up and joined the women's rights movement. It wouldn't surprise me if she signed the Seneca Falls Declaration. The seeds of that future are, I hope, clearly planted in this day-in-the-life story.

The title of the story comes from an account of the British surrender after the Battle of Yorktown. The surrender marked the end of the fighting in the War for Independence. During the surrender ceremony, the British military band played a song called "The World Turned Upside Down." To the British, the American Revolution had turned the world upside down. Years earlier, on May 19, 1780, the Dark Day did the same thing for the people of New England.


Click here to read "A World Turned Upside Down."