Nearly 100 years ago, a 7-year-old girl named Pearl was celebrating July 4 when a sparkler caught her dress on fire the day of her baptism.
She survived three days, singing songs from Sunday school before succumbing to her injuries.
Pocono Mountain West English teacher — and newly published author — Barbara J. Taylor heard the story of her great-aunt Pearl throughout her childhood. Taylor’s own grandmother was only a toddler when her sister died but always said she “pined for her” and stopped walking for a year after Pearl’s death.
The tragic family history forms the basis of Taylor’s first published novel, “Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night,” a work of historical fiction set in the 1910s. The book also weaves in threads of Scranton history, from coal mining, to Hillary Clinton’s great-uncle “Doc Rodham” who tended to Pearl’s injuries and evangelist Billy Sunday who was famously snowed in overnight with thousands while preaching in Scranton.
Taylor, who grew up and continues to live in Scranton, said she thought of Pearl’s story while in the Wilkes University creative writing program.
“It just always haunted me,” she said. She also wanted to incorporate the “Billy Sunday Snowstorm” story.