Author of Enough, Emmy in Harding, After His Heart, Banff Springs Abbey, Suspiciously Reserved: A Twist on Jane Austen's Emma, Expectations: A Continuation of Pride and Prejudice, and Subgirl. This blog is dedicated to all things reading and writing.
Caution: Spoilers This book is the story of a long, slow suicide. Main character, Mary Dyer, begins as a young girl in England
who falls in love with a glove maker in the 1600s. After they are married, they become uneasy with politics and violence against Puritan believers and so move to America. Here, they find church leadership is even more violent and intolerant and so move from place to place, hoping to live the life they believe in.
In the midst of religious power plays and other insanity, Mary begins a descent in to postpartum depression from whence she cannot resurface. Fortunately, her maid and close friend, Sinnie, is more than willing to take care of Mary's children and home making duties while Mary considers suicide. When she cannot bear to drown herself in the ocean, she turns her goals instead to returning to England. Her long-suffering husband eventually agrees to let her return to care for an ailing family member, but after Aunt Urith dies, Mary searches for other ways to avoid returning to her family and America. She finds her answer in joining the Quakers.
While I had some compassion for Mary in the beginning, she became stranger and stranger throughout the book. I could not relate to her inability to love her children or to accept her husband's patient devotion. I enjoyed learning the history of New England and many historic uses for plants, but the end could not come soon enough. A character who longs to die for half the book just doesn't keep my turning pages. I'm not sure I would have finished the book if it weren't on my book club reading list! However, I appreciate that this was based on historic fact. Powning offered good insight into the beliefs and mores of the time and wrote with skill and poetry.