This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
The year is 1798. Daniel Dickenson, the father of five children is a Quaker living in Pennsylvania. His wife has just died a few months after giving birth to his youngest son. He has taken on a young woman, Ruth Boyd, an orphan and a Methodist, on a bond of indenture to help with the family during this time. Rather than return her to the almshouse as the Elders insist he feels obligated to keep her. This results in him being banished.
He packs up his family along with Ruth Boyd whom he marries and undertakes a journey to Virginia to start a new life.
The story that unfolds in The Purchase by Linda Spalding is an authentic depiction of what life was like as a pioneer in early America and embraces religion, family, morality and slavery. It is a story of hypocrisy as well as humanity.
The title, refers to the protagonist’s inadvertent purchase of a young boy as a slave. Dickenson, being a Quaker, is an abolitionist, and struggles with this moral dilemma throughout the story. He acts like a slave owner, albeit an enlightened one and he benefits from slave labour, yet considers himself against slavery. This ambivalence is endemic in his character and impacts on his relationships with his family and his community.
Spalding has a population of characters and yet this reader was able to discern each one and while their motivations were complex they all were believable.
This book is seamlessly plotted and powerfully written with sparse yet elegant prose and though it works on many levels they’re all expertly woven together in an intricate mosaic.
Though a remarkable accomplishment it fell short of five stars for me because I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. The time, the society, the circumstances were just too unfamiliar.