Linda Spalding's brilliant (and award winning) novel, The Purchase, released last year in Canada. I absolutely loved it - you can read my review here. It's now available in the US and is definitely recommended.
"In this provocative and starkly beautiful historical novel, a Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested.
In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed and shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant girl to help with his five small children, moves his shaken family down the Wilderness Road to the Virginia/Kentucky border. Although determined to hold on to his Quaker ways, and despite his most dearly held belief that slavery is a sin, Daniel becomes the owner of a young boy named Onesimus, setting in motion a twisted chain of events that will lead to tragedy and murder, forever changing his children’s lives and driving the book to an unexpected conclusion.
A powerful novel of sacrifice and redemption set in a tiny community on the edge of the frontier, this spellbinding narrative unfolds around Daniel’s struggle to maintain his faith; his young wife, Ruth, who must find her own way; and Mary, the eldest child, who is bound to a runaway slave by a terrible secret. Darkly evocative, The Purchase is as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life. Its memorable characters, drawn with compassion and depth, are compellingly human, with lives that bring light to matters of loyalty and conscience. Winner of Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction."
Linda was kind enough to stop by for a guest post today and share the personal connection to her novel.....
"I’d like to introduce you to some people I know quite well. One of them, Daniel Dickinson, was my grandfather’s grandfather and he survives today in a book I wrote – a novel – about something terrible that happened to him. Or, you might say, something terrible that he did. Daniel’s wife had died in childbirth in 1798, leaving a new baby and four young children. They were a Quaker family living in Pennsylvania and Daniel, desperate for help, married a young girl, who happened to be a Methodist. (She had come to work in his house while his wife was confined to childbed.) But the marriage outraged the Quaker community of Brandywine because Daniel had married outside the faith. The elders then voted to disown him – a combination of shunning and excommunication that left him without resource. Poor Daniel felt he had no choice but to leave his little town - his friends, his home, his children’s school, his work - and he set off for the wilderness of far away southwest Virginia, where land was almost free. His new wife was not much older than his eldest daughter, Mary, and the two girls disliked each other from the start. Who can blame them? Mary was well brought up, full of family pride and a sense of her own self-worth. She was used to nice clothes and books and needlework while Ruth was uneducated, illiterate and unmannerly, having been raised as a orphan in a poorhouse.
Daniel, Mary, Ruth. These three characters are central to the first half of the story. Later the younger siblings grow into their own troubled stories, their own rebellions and searches that grow out of Daniel’s terrible mistake. Daniel, who is a strict abolitionist, has betrayed his own beliefs and purchased a young slave boy named Simus.
Daniel must live with what he has done, falling deeper and deeper into a lifestyle he cannot condone or sustain, and his children are also corrupted. I once thought of calling the book The Sins of the Fathers, but of course there are childish sins as well. Daughter Mary becomes the best friend and protector of Bett, a runaway slave girl, until their relationship is frayed by Mary’s exploitation of Bett. (The two young slaves, Bett and Simus, are not merely victims. They are fully formed characters with their own complex stories and points of view.)
Daniel’s sons turn against him and the youngest daughter, lovely Jemima, brings shame to the family and suffers for it.
Did I mention murder? Oh, but that is part of the plot, so I won’t go into it here. It is the people of the story who live on in the pages of The Purchase - my ancestors, my inventions, my dearly beloveds - fixed in time but still working through each and every circumstance and tragedy of their lives." Read an excerpt of The Purchase.
"Linda Spalding was born in Kansas and lived in Mexico and Hawaii before immigrating to Canada in 1982. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Daughters of Captain Cook, The Paper Wife, and (with her daughter Esta) Mere. Her nonfiction includes The Follow (Canadian title, short-listed for the Trillium Book Award and the Pearson Writers’ Trust Prize, and published in the US as A Dark Place in the Jungle), Riska: Memories of a Dayak Girlhood (shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize), and Who Named the Knife. She has been awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her contribution to the Canadian literary community. The Purchase received Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award and its Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Spalding lives in Toronto, where she is the editor of Brick magazine."
Thanks for stopping by Linda! And if you'd like to read this wonderful book, I've a copy to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered! Open to US only, closes Dec 21/13.