What if religion sparked a second Civil War in the United States? And what if, this time, there was no reconciliation?
That’s the premise underpinning my debut novel, Tiny Tin House.
As a Christian, I watched with growing horror as right-wing extremists spent decades infiltrating churches across the United States, bringing politics to the pulpit, twisting Bible verses to suit their narrative, and warping established theological underpinnings. During the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, I wondered: If the United States divided and one half went full-on into an authoritarian theocracy, how could that affect future generations of women who maybe didn’t agree with the dogma they were raised with, but literally had no way of expressing it or getting away from it? And how far would a theocratic government go to suppress and silence these women?
After I’d had a nightmare in which a young American woman found herself living in a warren of tiny shacks in a future dystopian U.S., I decided to set the whole thing down on paper, just to get it out of my head.
What I thought would be a fairly short story turned into a 380,000-word novel.
In the interests of marketability, I chopped the manuscript into three books. The first, Tiny Tin House, published in August 2022. I’m currently editing the second book. In the Christian States of America, where religion rules, a woman’s place is with a man. No exceptions. Although she’s legally an adult, eighteen-year-old Meryn Flint must live at home until her stepfather, Ray, finds her a husband. That’s the law. But when Ray kills her mother and Meryn must flee for her own safety, she quickly discovers there’s no safe place in the CSA for a woman on the run. Unless she’s willing to marry her former boyfriend—a man who’s already demonstrated his capacity for violence—she’ll be forced to live on the street. And that’s a dangerous option for a woman alone.
As time runs out, Meryn is offered a third path: build herself a tiny house, a safe place to call home. Even though it’s a violation of her Family Duty as well as every moral law on the books, Meryn seizes the chance. But even a tiny tin house might not be enough to save her.
The truth is, I hate books “with a purpose.”
Which is ironic because that’s essentially what I’ve written: a (hopefully entertaining) warning. A potential future, if this country doesn’t remember its foundations. A polemic against the rapidly crumbling wall of separation between church and state. My target audience is anyone interested in the quixotic, contradictory, often brutal mashup of politics and religion, but more specifically, I’m hoping feminist Christians will find it a good read. Women like me will relate to this story, because we know all too well the bloodstained, patriarchal empires of history and see too clearly what the future could bring. What I hope we gain from it is . . . hope. The knowledge that no matter how oppressive and evil a theocracy gets—and can’t nobody do evil like those who think they’re doing good in the name of God—hope survives. I’d like to think conservative Christians will see (and heed) the warning in its pages, but I’ve talked to enough of them to realize that a large percentage truly believe they’re being divinely guided to take over the country. So I might be fooling myself
It’s the rest of us who have to put on the brakes. Today. Right now. And pray we do it in time.
L Maristatter holds a BA in journalism and an MA in communication. Her short story, “Crying in the Sun,” was published in The Saturday Evening Post online, and the web journal Defunct published her poem, “Child.” Maristatter is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the Chicago Writers Association, the Author’s Guild, and Realm Makers. She lives in the snowy Midwest, where she tries to stay warm, reads terrific fiction, and eats way too much chocolate. She’s on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter regularly, and TikTok and Instagram when she’s feeling brave.