The book makes a bit more sense to me if I think of it as a woman's story, with men who exist only to construct the oppression within which children, wives and Negros navigate their lives. I could make no sense of many of the choices, and some of the Quaker historical details are inaccurate Quakers used guns to hunt. I would have liked an afterword in which the author described what facts she had to work with. Jan 23, Harry Maier rated it it was ok. Ok, so what didn't I get about this book?
I opened it with great anticipation and was rewarded with a story that got off to a good start. I wanted to like this story, especially after hearing it discussed on CBC. But from a promising beginning its seems to devolve into a loosely knit series of episodes and it is not always easy to see how all of them hold together.
The basic premise that however principled we may be, life is complicated and requires us to work through our ethics in often comprom Ok, so what didn't I get about this book? The basic premise that however principled we may be, life is complicated and requires us to work through our ethics in often compromising social situations is a classic motif, of course. In the end I was far more interested in Daniel and his Quaker ideals than the other characters.
I wanted to know more about the world he had to leave behind and how his principles there forced him into comprises he wouldn't have otherwise wanted to make. But as the plot unfolds, we leave that story somewhat jarringly behind and turn to a series of other episodes that revolve around Daniel's children and his second wife.
The narrator moves back and forth between Daniel and the other characters as these episodes unfold. This was confusing to me, and made the plot overwrought and at times unbelievable. So, for example, at one point we are wrestling with how an abolitionist Quaker lives in a world where through a series of accidents he ends up owning a slave.
But then later we have his daughter and a slave woman who practices traditional medicine up in the mountains helping out a dying mother and her starving family, with the dad, who has gone to get help, arriving at the end of the scene, to save the situation.
What is this doing in this story? The end seems forced since not enough time has gone into developing and refining the narrative. This book feels like it wants to be an epic, but is too short to pull it off.
Dec 03, Kyle rated it liked it. While I recognize that this is a well written book, I simply did not find the story to be compelling. Spalding clearly has a strong command of language and she tells the story clearly and befittingly to the period she is exploring; the tone and atmosphere are well described and I don't think there is any sense questioning the talent that this writer possesses.
She knows how to write well. The thing is, I feel that I have read this story a dozen times already. Its conventional approach to explorin While I recognize that this is a well written book, I simply did not find the story to be compelling. Its conventional approach to exploring themes of freedom and religion, through a story of Quakers and slaves in turn of the century 's Virginia, felt tired and predictable. How many times has a similar story to this one been offered up to the public, and how many times will it be told using these same characters and situations?
I question the relevance of this novel. If Spalding had experimented a bit with structure or style, maybe I would have enjoyed this book more. But it is a typical, beginning-middle-end, point A to point B, approach to storytelling, and it tells a story that we are all familiar with by now.
There is nothing remarkable about this book. But it is good, nonetheless. My other qualm with this book is that it won the GG in , and there is zero Canadian content in this novel. That is two years in a row now that the winner of the GG has been almost completely devoid of a Canadian identity. And there were strong contenders for the GG in , most notably "The Headmaster's Wager", which, I feel, when held up against this novel, dwarfs it in scope, execution, and significance. It kind of baffles me as to why this book took away the award this year.
Mar 10, Eric rated it did not like it Shelves: I was hoping to enjoy this prize winning novel. Why the quick marriage to the young wife not of his faith? Why did he lie down on the ground and just stay there until dark? The questions go on and on. There were so many foolish things left unexplained in this book that I could not enj I was hoping to enjoy this prize winning novel.
There were so many foolish things left unexplained in this book that I could not enjoy it. The main character being Quaker also filled the book full of foolish religious notions of the time most of which continue today and this took more away from my enjoyment of the novel.
The plight of the slaves and their search for freedom was only one of many different directions the book took. Overall a big thumbs down. Jan 30, Ellie rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's one of "those" books that you cannot put down, are thinking about it when you aren't reading it and yu never want it to end.
REally hoping that Linda Spalding gives us a sequel.. I'd love for Mary and Bett's story to end up in Canada and read more about that part of our time in history I won't re-tell it here You will want to shake and hug characters by times. The purchase is everything that a wonderful, time-enduring book should be.
Sep 14, Penny Bedborough rated it it was amazing. I just finished this journey. I received this free through GoodReads giveaways.
I hate to think that I may not have come acroos it without this site. Its funny how the things we need most always find us, thats how I feel about this book, I was meant to read this book. This story was enlightening in many ways. I can say with all honesty that this will be a book that I will come back to over the years. There are so many lessons in this story it would be wrong to speak of only one.
I recommend this I just finished this journey. I recommend this book to anyone that is open to seeing life for what it is The best we can hope for is to hope we learn what we need to before it is too late.
Mar 02, Jen rated it liked it. I can see why there were conflicting reviews for this novel. A great storyline - 's Quaker family moving on without a mother and the struggles they encounter as abolitionists. There could have been much more character development - great potential to do so. Overall, I would rate it as a 3.
Jan 20, Vincent Lam rated it it was amazing. I can hear Linda's beautiful reading voice in every page of this poetic, powerful book. The command of the vernacular in the American South is truly fluid, convincing, and wonderful! This book is a fictionalized account of the actual life of a Quaker shunned from Brandywine, Pennsylvania in around , who then moves to the lawless, slavery dominated frontier of the western tip of Virginia near the Cumblerand Gap.
He is originally shunned for marrying a year-old orphan, who had been a servant in his home, after his wife dies just after giving birth to their fifth child. The Quakers had prohibitions against underage marriage as well as exploitation of servants. Most ma This book is a fictionalized account of the actual life of a Quaker shunned from Brandywine, Pennsylvania in around , who then moves to the lawless, slavery dominated frontier of the western tip of Virginia near the Cumblerand Gap.
Most marriages of colonial era Quakers were between men and women in their mids. Later in Virginia, he breaks even more Quaker principles, including prohibitions against slave ownership, and the story traces what happens to him and his family as a result. The book is written in very spare, almost arid language, that evokes a particular Quaker style. It won the Governor General's literary prize in Canada. Words describing or conveying emotion are not used much, and not at all by any of the characters none of them says "I was angry," or "I am so happy", for example.
Despite their significant role in the founding of the U. They get overshadowed by the Southern slavery and the New England Puritanism. Women of Colonial Philadelphia" by Karin Wulf do a great job of bringing this history to light. The thing I suspect may be most challenging about this book is Daniel Dickinson's appallingly bad record at maintaining the Quaker principles.
The author shows us why, but doesn't hit us over the head with it, and it may not be as obvious to some readers not familiar with Quakers. The beginning and the end of the book refer to Daniel's father saying to him: It is true that paternity was not provable, but calling the children your "orphans" seems a bit of a stretch and even to reflect a latent aggression.
This is particularly inapposite to Quaker views of men having personal responsibility for their children. It appears to be a form of dissociation passed down from father to son, likely because of that absence of nurturing from the father, and it reflects a lack of emotional availability, which creates men who have a stated, often pompous, fealty to these principles but who have difficulty understanding their meaning or processing how to apply them in practical situations. Daniel's obliviousness to the reason the Quakers shunned him, i.
It makes him a "bad dad" as well, placing all the pressure on Ruth Boyd to tend his children the Quakers considered it the responsibility of both parents to meet the needs of children. Also, many Quaker women took economic responsibility for themselves; this was not always easy to do, given the laws of coverture and other prohibitions.
In marrying a teenager, who in addition to her immaturity had not been raised with the Quaker psychological support required to do this, he left himself without an equal partner.
Ruth eventually does make a good contribution to the family income, but nothing like what would be accomplished by a Betsy Ross-style Quaker. It is likely he was this way his entire life, and his first wife, Rebecca Grube, may have been this way as well. The Quakers were believers in family planning and by the mid s were managing family size such that the Grube-Dickinson action of risking her and their children's lives by having so many children seems anomalous and may have been another act where the Quakers values lacked meaning to them and tragedy resulted.
Or they may even have been rebelling against the hypocrisy of their own Quaker parents including statements like the one Daniel's father may have made to him, labeling his children "orphans".
The central message of the book seems to me to be that even a very humanistic type of religion like the Society of Friends is inadequate to support human development and ethical conduct and to protect human rights. The Friends regarded both men and women, and people of all races, to have the same fundamental rights and responsibilities, and their meeting style of worship which had no preacher was designed to allow individuals space for expression, contemplation, and individual action in contrast to requiring conformity to one true means, such as the Catholic Church requires, or establishing privilege in one sex, again as the Catholic Church requires, or one race, as some other religions do.
These values show up in the U. Constitution, including in its being drafted around rights of Person, not rights of Man, as other contemporaneous Enlightenment Era documents, such as the French Constitution did. One of my favorite scenes in the book is Ruth Boyd's coming into her own at the funeral held late in the book. Her authentic personal speech is characteristic of one of the best qualities of the Quakers, which was how they allowed women space to be their own people, even if sometimes in this arid thinking, but not feeling, style.
They did not believe in "original sin" or "Adam's Rib" and saw men and women as separate people, even in marriage they saw marriage as being about being "help-meets for each other". For this reason, many of the leading women of United States history, from Susan B. Anthony to Alice Paul, to Rosa Parks, right on through to Hillary Clinton who seems to me likely to have some of this Quaker background as well, particularly in her vision of children's rights as being based on presumed competence of the child , came out of this Quaker background.
The unfortunate irony and distortion is that they needed the Quaker religion to develop this, as the political economy remained almost entirely dominated by men for many years, and, even today, we have Supreme Court Justices such as Scalia who try to redefine the word "Person" he says it means only heterosexual adult male, male fetus or corporation or association. Because the Quakers were a minority of the population, particularly after large influxes of immigrants with other belief systems, including not just other Protestant belief systems, but those of Catholicism, Judaism, Eastern religions, Islam, warrior cultures, slaveholding cultures, etc.
They have also been at odds with some legal systems in United States history, such as sanction of slavery and the laws of coverture a marriage law that "the two shall be one and that one shall be the man"; the coverture laws have been repealed but we still have vestiges of the coverture system in place.
I am one of the other descendants of this man, along with the author, through the boy John Carter Dickinson, who is born to Daniel and Ruth Boyd, so I know a bit of the subsequent story if it is interesting to readers. John Carter Dickinson later moved to Kansas during Bleeding Kansas days; his grandson, William Boyd Dickinson, in about married a woman who became the first woman elected to a Board of Education in the state of Missouri.
Her name was Alice Hillman and she was the daughter of a family with Quaker roots in colonial New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Daniel Dickinson's colonial ancestors; her family did not have this troubled history that the Daniel Dickinson family did. One of their sons, this author Linda Spalding's father, Jacob Alan Dickinson, a desgregationist, was then elected in by the people of Topeka to be President of the Board of Education when they decided to integrate, peacably, their elementary schools of their own initiative while Brown v.
Board of Education was pending. Another nexus of this family with U. Nixon's family history took a different path, including strains of Midwestern and Southern California evangelical Quakerism, including a fundamentalist group that took the Bible literally, and "programmed meetings" with preachers, in contrast to more science-interested "original" Quakers and their unprogrammed, "priesthood of all believers", original Quaker meeting style. Not all Quakers may have been as emotionally impoverished and hypocritical in behavior as Daniel Dickinson or Richard Nixon, but certainly the religion seems not to have recognized or supported individual emotional experience in the way it needed to in order to make its values more readily accomplished in the practical world.
Also, as the book illustrates, laws of slavery and of coverture that other cultures and populations imported to the United States made this even more challenging. And the fact paternity was not provable until may have presented a challenge to the Quaker's "truth-seeking" and emphasis on men and women having the same rights and responsibilities. Nonetheless the Quaker belief system was innovative for its day, a huge advance on other Enlightenment Era philosophies.
Knowing the Quakers and their values sheds a lot of light on why our Constitution says what it does, as well as in what needs to be done and "not put down the plow until you've finished the row" as Alice Paul would say , in realizing in practical terms the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the United States.
Mar 30, Melissa Dean rated it liked it. At first I really enjoyed the book. The beginning had me wondering what would happen next this feeling doesn't go away. As the book progressed I found myself getting mad. Getting mad at the characters in the book and feeling helpless for other characters.
This book brought about a lot of different feelings but for the most part I was angry. I was angry that our world was like that at one point in time. I was angry that people still treat people in the same manner from time to time. I was angry At first I really enjoyed the book.
I was angry that people stood by and let it happen. But oh I was grateful. I was grateful for the ones that did something. The ones that were just as angry by the things I found revolting. The writing was well done. The book itself as far as plot and story go does have the power to make you feel things or think about things in ways you didn't before.
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