BATH — A former Andover resident has published a fictional account of the life of Molly Ockett, an Abenaki healing woman born in the 18th century.

Karen Johnson, who now resides in Bath, published her first novel, “Singing Bird: Molly Ockett, A Maine Legend,” on May 19 at local bookstores and Amazon, and describes it as an “action-packed, young-adult novel with authentic historical detail and richly drawn characters.”

Though the novel was published as fiction, Johnson said that she did a lot of research to ensure that the story of Molly Ockett’s life was portrayed accurately.

She added that she wanted to tell Ockett’s story because “there wasn’t really much solid information” about her.

“There’s a few anecdotes here and there, and some dry genealogical information,” Johnson said. “The more I researched, the more conflicting accounts I found.”

Johnson said that she wants her novel to showcase what Molly Ockett was really like, compared to the way she is portrayed in other stories or history books.

“Molly seems, to me, to be an iconic personality,” Johnson explained. “The women who wrote about her in their journals knew her to be a healer and a craftsperson who was also often funny and sometimes explosive. It’s sort of like playing the game ‘Telephone.’ Once you get a handle on a story, it grows over time.”

“I want readers to see Molly as ‘Malaigat,’ a native woman who was able to survive in a white world because of her conviction that we are all kin on this Earth,” Johnson continued. “I tried to emphasize the personal qualities that I think most of us wish were more prevalent in our culture. Molly was kind, generous, clever, intelligent, ruggedly and fiercely independent and true to the path she felt she was destined to follow.”

On her website, Johnson said that Molly Ockett had “been the subject of greatly embellished fireside storytelling, of school pageants and of popular magazine articles,” and that she wished to tell a more accurate story with her novel.

Johnson said that “Singing Bird” is her first published novel.

“Most of what I have previously written was for professional reasons,” Johnson explained. “This is my first work of fiction.”

Johnson previously taught grades 3, 5 and 7, and also taught undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Maine at Orono. She served as a principal and a consultant, taught adult education and workplace literacy and worked with the developmentally disabled.

She taught writing through the Outward Bound program and at the Maine Youth Center.

“There’s probably more, but I can’t remember right off,” Johnson added.

Johnson said that the book can be found on Amazon, as well as at local bookstores and the Bethel Historical Society. It is also available for Kindle. 

“I’ll also have copies of the book at MollyOckett Days in Bethel and during the Andover Old Home Days,” Johnson said.

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