Jackie Lewis

Author of Tessa’s Heart: A Texas Story

. . .compelling, unpredictable, and poignant. . .

– Kirkus Reviews



It’s 1952, and in the small town of Yoakum, Texas, Tessa Louise Carter – a quirky, sassy, back-talking nine-year-old – finds herself torn between her deeply religious but foul-mouthed grandmother, and her beautiful bed-hopping mother.

Tessa doesn’t have many friends and takes solace from talking with the ghosts of her dead great-grandmother and great-aunt – which doesn’t sit well with her mother or grandmother.

What Tessa wants – and needs – more than anything, is a father figure, but the men her mother brings home are either mean and cruel, or are totally uninterested in the musings of a nine-year-old. When the mother becomes pregnant by the local pastor, he flees, and out of convenience she marries yet another of her men friends. Tessa is miserable and is sent back to live with her grandmother.

When Tessa finds a human skeleton, half-buried in the mud outside her grandmother’s home, the family’s ghastly dark secret is revealed. Tessa becomes haunted by the spirit of her great-grandfather, which won’t leave her alone – but her nightmare is only just beginning…

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Tessa’s Heart is a coming of age story about a young girl trying to find her place in the world.

Front Cover of Tessa's Heart book
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My childhood

My Texas roots are deep in the land, rivers, and trees. As a child I spent my summers on a ranch, just outside Junction, Texas, about 115 miles west of San Antonio. In the late 1950’s, Junction was small, with wizened old timers sitting on the walkways outside the few stores on the main street.

Nestled in rocky hill country, the ranch had been a dude ranch for boys run by my aunt and uncle. The ranch was situated up against rocky hills with gnarled cedar trees pushing up between the rocks.

The property had a main ranch house, bunk houses, and a big stone building used for activities. It also had a large mess hall with restaurant-sized stoves and refrigerators.

I rode horses with my two cousins on a path alongside the Llano river and on ones that went high up into the hills. We often saw wild turkeys and pheasants.

We swam in and floated on inner tubes on the river. There was a wooden diving board out over the river. On the riverbank, were metal stairs secured in concrete that allowed us to exit the river. Standing in the water by the bank, I felt the cool moss on the rocks under my feet.

Early in the mornings, I went fishing with my grandmother and we caught freshwater bass, which we fried for breakfast.

One of my favorite things were the horned toad lizards, which were everywhere silently sunning themselves on the rocks.

I look back fondly on those days remembering the expanse of the land, the quiet, and a timeless quality of life.