Who is Martha McRae?
Martha McRae is the narrator in the Solo Ladies Bible Study series. Her stories begin soon after she turned 42.
She was a widow with a boarding house and weekly newspaper in tiny Solo, Mississippi. She grew up reading Nancy Drew novels and dreamed of becoming a crime reporter some day. At 42 that dream dropped in her lap when her church’s rector was found slumped over his food at a diner in Greenlee, thirty miles north of Solo.
She was born Martha Hicks, in Solo, Mississippi, in her mother’s own bed. She had emerald green eyes and an inquisitive smirk. She was 5′-7″, 132 pounds. Her brown hair usually included a barrette. She never wore make-up.
She cherished her friends, in spite of their faults. (And she had some of her own.)
“Daddy” Hicks was a quiet, thinking man, lacking in affection. It was Mama Hicks’ love of life and witty sense of humor that Martha inherited and set her apart.
She left her English education at Ole Miss to marry Shorty McRae, and became his reporter for The Bethel County Gazette. She loved to write.
Twenty years later she was a devastated widow.
Shorty did leave her with some life insurance money–and she had the Gazette and their two-story house, which she converted into a boarding house in 1952 for extra income. Most boarders were prison officials from Salem (the capital city of Mississippi), in Solo to do business with the nearby notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary.
She always had one steady renter—the church’s rector. She loved her church, Calvary Episcopal, and her God, rarely missing a Sunday service.
A quick mind, the gift of discernment, with a wisdom rarely known in those parts, Martha’s friends knew her as genuine and dedicated to the task, yet wickedly funny. She was a natural sleuth–not an educated one. Her instincts were golden, but not infallible. She could jump to conclusions prematurely and end up down a rabbit hole. That’s when she’d take to her kitchen table, for coffee and some thinking.
A decanter of sherry was always available in the parlor after 5 o’clock–for her and her house guests.
The sherry settled her nerves. But never her feisty spirit.