Was Anne Hutchinson's heresy, then, overstepping the bounds of a housekeeper (""She hath lost her wits by giving herself to reading and writing""), even of a wife (""She, contrary to Scripture, rules the Roost"")? The suggestion of sexual politics is only one of the tantalizing strands to emerge from the obscurely, extraordinarily interlinked lives of two martyrs to religious freedom, Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, the ""Grande Dame of Gravesend"" (per Peter Stuyvesant's accolade) Lady Deborah Moody, and that champion progenitor Penelope Stout, ""and she as good as dead"" on arrival. As bustling, colorful and crammed with particulars as a notions shop, this is nonetheless controlled -- the separate stories resume when they have a reason to -- and vigorously intellectual: in 17th century England everything ""was debated in the name of religion""; in Puritan Boston, freedom of conscience would lead to democracy -- ""something out of the ancient Greek or pagan ways""; and when Mary Dyer, warned to doff Quaker dress, responded that ""she was only a Quaker sympathizer, for their simple, quiet ways,"" Anne laughed that here 'no shadings of opinion were allowed.' (Anne would learn, harshly, and Mary would become a convinced, defiant Quaker.) Cut from a different, equally firm sort of cloth are Penelope Stout, the young Dutch widow scalped, healed and held to tutor her captor in English (with the privilege of turning down three braves only), who escaped during the torture of Mohawk enemies; and her benefactor Lady Deborah, the first woman in America granted lands to establish a town. Anne Hutchinson stopped there, and disregarded the warning of restive Indians; and despite its destruction by Indians, Gravesend recovered, annexed Coney Island (Lady Deborah's name for the beach where she and Penelope went wading), and, always under her leadership, adopted ""complete social, political and religious freedom."" (""We, the People"" said the 1640's Charter.) Some speculation, inescapably, and some possibility of error in so ambitious an enterprise, but unquestionably an exciting book.